NASCAR: Live from Martinsville

Too much time on his hands?

Jimmie Johnson already has seven Martinsville grandfather clocks to his name.

He is in position for No. 8.

The five-time Sprint Cup champion won the pole for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway, where the winner receives a full-sized grandfather clock, one of the most coveted trophies in NASCAR.

Johnson won the pole with a track-record lap of 98.4 mph, breaking the 2005 record set by Tony Stewart of 98.083 mph.

So what will Johnson do with another clock if he wins?

"My friends and even family members keep threatening to take one or the next one I win is theirs,'' Johnson said. "Six of them are in my warehouse, my man space that I have. One is at the office.''

And do they all go off at the same time?

"They don't work,'' Johnson said. "They don't all cling and clang at the same time. We turn them off. A little bit annoying.''

Even if he gets No. 8, Johnson is a long ways from all-time leader Richard Petty with 15.

-- David Newton





Feud over?

Tony Stewart and Joey Logano refused to toss fuel onto the feud that began two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Both said they are focused on Martinsville and on making their cars go fast. Neither said anything that would be considered inflammatory or would give the other reason to strike back on the track in Sunday's race.

They were almost too nice.

"No, he's not,'' Stewart said when asked if Logano was even a blip on his radar. "I've got three race cars and we are in Martinsville, Virginia, this week. I've got a lot of stuff to do other than worry about something that happened two weeks ago.

"I can't change it. I can't do anything about what happened two weeks ago.''

Two weeks ago, remember, Stewart was so mad that Logano blocked him on the final restart that after the race he went on a physical and verbal assault of the Penske Racing driver, the same driver who in 2009 replaced him in the No. 20 Home Depot car at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Maybe time really does heal.

"The game plan is not to be out in the middle of the drama, but at least they're talking about you,'' Logano said.

-- David Newton





Funny how life works II

Mark Martin found himself in the position of teaching then-rookie Denny Hamlin a few things about racing ethics at Martinsville after a 2006 incident that didn't make either driver happy.

Now he's replacing Hamlin and expects to learn something from the driver who has mastered the half-mile track.

"Denny tweeted he looked forward to learning something from me, and it's like the other way around here,'' Martin said. "He's one of the masters at this track.''

Hamlin, 32, has four career wins at the Virginia track and an average finish of 8.2. Martin has two wins and an average finish of 13.3 here.

The 54-year-old Martin said he and Hamlin have talked in detail about the way they get around the track.

"He was very forthcoming with how he approaches practice and how he approaches the race as far as lines he drives and whatnot,'' Martin said. "They are some things that I'm going to be looking for that I haven't as hard in the past that he suggested. And we will work together to try to get the best results we can.''

-- David Newton

Funny how life works

Seven years ago, Mark Martin said these words about then-15-year-old Joey Logano: "I am high on Joey Logano because I am absolutely, 100 percent positive, without a doubt, that he can be one of the greatest that ever raced in NASCAR. I'm positive. There's no doubt in mind."

Now Martin is a replacement driver for Hamlin, who is engulfed in a feud with the 22-year-old Penske Racing driver.

But Martin isn't as down on Logano as Hamlin is. Hamlin blames his former teammate for the wreck that resulted in his being sidelined.

"He came into the series with a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations, with tremendous history,'' Martin said of Logano. "I don't think he's been out there looking for trouble -- at all. He doesn't appear to be that kind of guy.

"But he's racing hard, and that's what's expected of him from the people that support him. He finds himself in a position to where the spotlight seems to be shining on him. Ask Darrell Waltrip. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Over a period of time, I believe that you earn the respect and you earn the reputation you have. Short time, that can get a little off. But over the long haul, that will find its water level.

"Right, now, it's hard to say. I'm not the judge of it. I'm just sitting here watching. I do know he's been caught in a lot of dustups lately, and one of the reasons is he's racing hard like the rest of us out there.''

-- David Newton

Vickers can relate to Hamlin

If anybody knows what Denny Hamlin will go through watching Mark Martin drive his car on Sunday, it's Brian Vickers, who will take over the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing car for the injured Hamlin next week at Texas.

Vickers missed the final 25 races of the 2010 season when he was diagnosed with blood clots.

"It's not going to be an easy thing for Denny, but he'll move past it,'' Vickers said. "The best thing for him right now is knowing that he's going to get back in the car. The first time I saw my car go around the racetrack, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to get back in it.

"So I'm sure his emotions are going to be a little different than mine.''

Hamlin is expected to miss five races recovering from a compression fracture suffered in his lower back during a last-lap crash with former JGR teammate Joey Logano at Auto Club Speedway.

The target date for his return is May 11 at Darlington, although he hopes to make it two weeks earlier at Richmond. He is expected to be on the pit box at Martinsville on Sunday.

"I've told him that it's not going to be easy and he's not going to like it, but at least you know it's temporary and we'll see you back soon," Vickers said.

-- David Newton

Days of Danica Patrick I

Yet another example that Danica Patrick is completely engaged in NASCAR, she quoted lines from "Days of Thunder'' on Friday when told of Dale Earnhardt Jr. hitting a pace car during his first visit to Martinsville Speedway.

"Hit the pace car! Hit the pace car!'' she yelled, making a direct reference to the line by the movie character Harry Hogge, the crew chief for Cole Trickle.

The Earnhardt line came up because this is Patrick's first trip to Martinsville -- and the first time a woman has competed in a Sprint Cup race here. As others have noted, the first trip doesn't always turn out pleasant.

"I don't know what to expect,'' Patrick said. "I might go out there and be successful and it might be a total disaster.''

Odds favor the latter. And because of that, Patrick may be more relaxed.

"I always feel like the more new a situation is, the less expectations there are and in general the less pressure and less nerves that go on,'' she said.

-- David Newton

Days of Patrick II

Regarding her trip to the White House Easter egg hunt on Monday, Patrick said it was cool to meet President Obama, his wife, kids and dog.

"It's neat to see all the kids playing around right in the White House's front yard,'' she said. "You could see the president's office, the back of his head [while he was] working.''

-- David Newton

The race against diabetes

Race sponsors often just represent dollars to the drivers and crew members.

But having the Novo Nordisk "Race with Insulin" paint scheme on Jamie McMurray's Sprint Cup car at Martinsville means a little more to at least one Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team member.

Randall Burnett, the lead engineer for McMurray teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, is a Type 1 diabetic. He fights the daily struggle of balancing his meals during the hectic lifestyle of the NASCAR schedule.

"Part of being a Type 1 diabetic, to be successful, you almost need a pretty set schedule where you eat the same amount of food and know what you're eating and doing it at the same time of the day," Burnett said. "It helps your body regulate.

"For me, it's really tough because I'm traveling three or four days a week, always eating odd hours and odd things. It's tough to manage that."

While McMurray carries the Race with Insulin banner at Martinsville, Charlie Kimball of Ganassi's IndyCar Series will have it at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

Kimball was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2007 and was forced to temporarily put aside his racing at midseason.

In addition, all the other Ganassi cars at Martinsville and Barber Motorsports Park will run blue tire rims to help launch the Race with Insulin Unites campaign.

"It's cool to have companies that make awareness of things like that," Burnett said.

-- David Newton



Let the fun begin

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Tempers usually run high leaving Martinsville Speedway, not arriving at it.

But here we are on a Friday with Tony Stewart still at odds with Joey Logano over blocking on the final restart at Auto Club Speedway and Denny Hamlin still saying he has issues with Logano over their last-lap crash that led to him being sidelined for six weeks.

And who knows what emotions will stir when Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are reminded over and over again about Clint Bowyer's last-lap dive bomb a year ago at this half-mile jewel that ignited a feud between Bowyer and Gordon.

Yes, March Madness has carried over into April, on the basketball court and the racetrack.

According to Hamlin, Logano will have a target on his car for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at this paper clip-shaped track, and perhaps for weeks to come.

But Hamlin won't be in the car to pull the trigger himself, and it's unlikely his replacement, Mark Martin, will go after the 22-year-old Penske Racing driver he once touted as a can't-miss star.

Stewart would be the next most likely candidate. The three-time champion was fired up when he shoved Logano on pit road at ACS and called Logano a spoiled rich kid who hasn't worked a day in his life.

But Stewart is 22nd in points. Can he really afford to get into an on-track feud and risk falling deeper in the standings?

Will another driver step forward and police the garage as Hamlin insists needs doing?

Maybe we'll learn more as the day unfolds.

Maybe we won't know anything until Sunday.

The good news is that the weather -- which at one point appeared a threat to wash out the day -- is moving out.

-- David Newton