AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, one of the tiniest tracks the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series visits, is next. Johnson won the October race there last year, part of his four Chase wins to end the season. Even though Stewart has the Chase lead and the tiebreaker with five wins at the moment, it would have to be advantage Johnson for the championship. At the very least, it would have to be advantage Johnson for the race at Martinsville. Not only does Johnson have momentum, he has a better track record than Stewart at Martinsville. In fact, Johnson has a better history than any driver, save perhaps Rusty Wallace, in the Chase at Martinsville. “But it’s tough to carry momentum from a mile-and-a-half track to a half-mile track. It’s totally different,” Johnson said. “Luckily, for us, it’s a track that we’ve won at before. We know how to race there and what to do.” Stewart on the other hand probably wouldn’t mind if Martinsville Speedway burned to the ground. It used to be a track Stewart hated most, but over the years he has learned how to approach it differently. Stewart still holds the Chase lead – he has five wins to Johnson’s four this season – with five races to go. Six drivers are within 92 points of Stewart and Johnson. All 10 are within 142. Kurt Busch, the 10th-place driver in the Chase, was able to make up 82 points with his second-place finish at Lowe’s, combined with Stewart’s 25th-place finish. If that were to happen again, Busch would jump into seventh place. More importantly, though, if that were to happen again with Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin or Carl Edwards, there would be a new leader in the Chase. Now that the Indy Racing League has forever left the Los Angeles area (or has it?), let’s return our attention to the Chase. When we last left our friends at NASCAR, Tony Stewart was able to regain his lead in the Chase. But a resurfaced Lowe’s Motor Speedway in North Carolina awaited. The new surface took its toll on the stock car tires, claiming Stewart as one of its many victims, and Jimmie Johnson survived to catch Stewart atop the Chase standings. It was Johnson’s fourth win a row at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and the fifth of his career. But the latest win was no easy feat, given the track conditions and the Chase standings. “You learn how to protect the car,” said Stewart. “You learn how to not beat it up. You learn it’s a lot more fun racing when you use a lot more patience. Patience seems to be the biggest variable that can hold you up at a place like Martinsville. Needless to say, after going there a couple of times, I’ve learned how to be patient – out of necessity, basically.” Stewart has posted three straight finishes of 14th or worse at Martinsville. He finished 15th last year and 26th in April. To his credit, Stewart has one victory at Martinsville, but only six top-10s in 13 races. Biffle has not fared much better. In five races at Martinsville, he has never finished better than 17th. Newman is a little better, with at least a top-five finish at Martinsville in his past four starts. Only Wallace, the king of Martinsville with seven wins in his 43 starts there, has raced there more than Martin. Martin can claim two victories there, the latest coming in 2000. Edwards has the least amount of experience at Martinsville, with two races, neither of which was very impressive. He finished 24th and 38th. Looks like little will be decided after the Martinsville race. The way things have been going, all 10 Chase drivers could still have a shot at the championship. Still, history would indicate that Johnson has the advantage. “It is really anybody’s championship at this point,” Johnson said. “After five races I am shocked just like everyone else is how close the championship race is. I think over the next five races it is only going to be more interesting, more aggressive, more stress and pressure and go down to the very end I think.”— Staff Writer Tim Haddock covers auto racing for the Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]— NASCAR NEXTEL CUP Subway 500 Site: Martinsville, Va. Schedule: Friday, qualifying (Speed Channel, noon); Sunday, race (NBC, 9:30 a.m.). Track: Martinsville Speedway (oval, 0.526 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns). Race distance: 263 miles, 500 laps. Next race: Bass Pro Shops MBNA 400, Oct. 30, Hampton, Ga. On the Net: www.nascar.com NASCAR BUSCH SERIES Sam’s Town 250 Site: Memphis, Tenn. Schedule: Saturday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 9 a.m.); race (TNT, 12:30 p.m.). Track: Memphis Motorsports Park (oval, .75 miles, 11 degrees banking in turns). Race distance: 187.5 miles, 250 laps. Next race: O’Reilly Challenge, Nov. 5, Fort Worth, Texas. NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES Kroger 200 Site: Martinsville, Va. Schedule: Friday, qualifying, 1:45 p.m.; Saturday, race (Speed Channel, 10 a.m.). Track: Martinsville Speedway (oval, 0.526 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns). Race distance: 105.2 miles, 200 laps. Next race: Easy Care Vehicle 200, Oct. 29, Hampton, Ga. NHRA ACDelco Nationals Site: Las Vegas. Schedule: Friday, qualifying, noon; Saturday, qualifying, noon. (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m., tape); Sunday, eliminations, 11 a.m. (ESPN2, 5 p.m., tape). Track: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Next event: Automobile Club of Southern California Finals, Nov. 6, Pomona, Calif. On the Net: www.nhra.com CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES Indy 300 Site: Surfers Paradise, Australia. Schedule: Tonight, qualifying, 9:10 p.m., Friday, qualifying, 9:10 p.m., race, 8:25 p.m. (Sunday, Speed Channel, 1:30 p.m., tape). Track: Australian Street Circuit (temporary road course, 2.795 miles, 12 turns). Race distance: 159.315 miles, 57 laps. Next race: Grand Prix of Mexico, Nov. 6, Mexico City. 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