Atlanta finish could make Martinsville race tougher on Jimmie Johnson

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A late charge by Clint Bowyer on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway could make Wednesday night’s race at Martinsville more difficult for Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson, who is in the midst of a 105-race winless streak, is the most prolific active Cup driver at Martinsville with nine wins

But his seventh-place finish Sunday at Atlanta – his fifth top-10 finish of the season – could come back to bite him Wednesday on the half-mile track.

That’s because Johnson is 13th in the owner points standings after Sunday’s race. That will impact where he starts at Martinsville.

This is how the starting lineup for Wednesday’s race (7 p.m. ET on FS1) will be determined.

  • Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points

Since Johnson is 13th in the owner points, he’ll be in the group that has a random draw for 13th-24th in the starting lineup at Martinsville. If Johnson starts deeper in the field, he could be more susceptible to being caught in an early incident.

Bowyer, who is 12th in the owner points, will be in the random draw for first to 12th in the starting order at Martinsville.

Here is how Bowyer’s late charge at Atlanta impacted Johnson and kept the seven-time champion from having a chance to possibly start on the pole at Martinsville.

There was a five-point swing in Bowyer’s favor in the final 11 laps Sunday. Bowyer ended the race three points ahead of Johnson in the owner points for that 12th spot.

Things began to change on Lap 312 when Bowyer had to pit for tires and fell to 26th. From Lap 314 – Lap 323, Bowyer went from 26th to 20th. With each position worth a point, every position Bowyer gained in those laps was another point in his favor.

Johnson, meanwhile, was passed by Kurt Busch for sixth on Lap 323. That cost Johnson a point.

The result was that Bowyer remained ahead of Johnson for 12th in the owner points based on those final laps.

Also, pit selection for Wednesday’s race at Martinsville will be based on the finishing order of Sunday’s race. That means race winner Kevin Harvick will have the best pit stall Wednesday night, the stall before the exit of pit road.

“The biggest thing at Martinsville is just having that clean (pit) out and having options, being able to not be blocked in and that kind of thing,” said Rodney Childers, Kevin Harvick’s crew chief. “So to be able to have that stall will be good for us.  Martinsville is the place that has kind of been up and down for us. We haven’t been able to get a victory there in the 4 car, and it seems like we try really hard but we’ve been getting a little bit better each time I would say, and hopefully we’ll have a good car on Wednesday night.”