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Maybe it's time to put a bounty on Jimmie Johnson

  Who can stop Jimmie Johnson? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

Will NASCAR's new rear spoiler change slow Jimmie Johnson's charge through the NASCAR tour?
   Don't bet on it.
   And don't bet against the four-time Sprint Cup tour champ taking the points lead here at Martinsville Speedway….or against him winning yet another Martinsville race.
   The guy owns Martinsville.
   The only two guys figured to have a decent shot at him this weekend are Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. And Gordon and Hamlin have both had a few problems lately.
   So Johnson is odds-on favorite to run his season streak to four wins in the year's first six race here.
   In fact Johnson is one of the favorites to win too at Phoenix the next time out.
   That new spoiler? After two days of testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway – and it was a rather uneventful two days, to stay the least – Johnson says "there's not big jumping out at us saying the spoiler is a lot different."
   Johnson won 21 of the 93 Cup events with the now defunct rear wing, almost twice as many as any other driver.

  The new spoiler....just like the old spoiler...before the ill-fated wing (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Now another Jimmie Johnson win would probably not set well with some fans who would like to see someone else winning every now and then. And Kurt Busch, who figures he doesn't have much chance here this weekend, was rather upset to lose Sunday's Bristol 500 after dominating.   
    But Johnson: "I'm having a blast."
    Drama? Maybe check out the PGA and lay something on Tiger Wood at the Masters…
    Johnson concedes "what we are doing is pretty amazing.
    "It just depends on how everybody wants to spin it.
    "What we're doing isn't easy."
    The new rear spoiler probably won't make much impact here at this flat half-mile, the slowest track on the NASCAR tour.
    But likely the new aerodynamic device will play right into Johnson's hands at Phoenix and Texas, the following tour stops, because the big teams, like Rick Hendricks' and Jack Roush's, tend to get off to a quicker start than smaller operations.
    "In the short-term I think there will be some opportunities, and I think our team should be able to find some things to take advantage of," Johnson says.
    With a wink?
    What might be nice would be a breakthrough win by Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. here. And Hendrick said he saw some good things out of Earnhardt's team at Bristol….though Earnhardt's own run of obscenities on the radio after he got caught speeding on pit road probably caught more attention.
    The best sign of where Earnhardt stands this spring, in the big picture, should be to look at Mark Martin, his teammate. "During the off-season there was a lot that went in behind the walls of the race shop to convert Dale Jr.'s stuff over to be identical to Mark's," Johnson says.
     "The last couple years I know the results (from Earnhardt) haven't been there…but he wants this.
    "He wants to do well, and he is applying himself."
    But then so are Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, and they are simply demoralizing the competition.
    Kurt Busch was visibly upset at losing Bristol.
    "To see him get out and throw stuff at his car and punch his car, it's comical," Johnson said, lightheartedly. "I'm glad we're doing this to these guys.
    "And it's good for our sport to see the emotion -- Kurt really wanted to win that race and was really frustrated at the end."
   And Johnson will likely dish out more frustration here.
   "Putting the spoiler on at Martinsville is a really safe move for NASCAR," Johnson says. "It won't play a role in the performance of the car….the entry speeds into the corners are around 115 (mph), and there's a long braking zone where you're going to take a lot of speed out of the car.
     "Downforce isn't as important. It's barely on the map."
    What is key here is survival.
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   Time for Greg Biffle to make something happen....Martinsville? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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