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The Spoiler Returns

Will the Spoiler Help Reigning NASCAR Champion Jimmy Johnson?

First, the facts.

Jimmie Johnson finished ninth Monday at Martinsville Speedway in a pedestrian run for the No. 48 team.

In eight previous races at the .526-mile short track, Johnson had led at least 42 laps in each race and a total of 1,380 laps. He won five of those eight races.

How many laps did Johnson lead in the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 in Monday's rain-delayed race? Zero. Yes, he posted his 16th straight top-10 finish at Martinsville, but it was a day-long struggle.

What was the single most obvious variable that separated Monday's race from the previous eight? NASCAR's switch from a rear wing to a blade spoiler on the Sprint Cup car, of course. The change became permanent at Martinsville.

Now, the disclaimers.

It was the first race with the spoiler, on a track where aerodynamics play only a minor role. Johnson said after the race that his lack of speed resulted from experimental changes to his car, as crew chief Chad Knaus tried—as he invariably does—to stay ahead of the performance curve.

With three victories in the first five races of the 2010 season, Johnson and Knaus felt they could afford to deviate from setups that had produced dominating efforts in the past.

"We were trying some stuff through the company, especially on the 48 car today," Johnson explained after the race. "We thought we would get it sorted out in practice and just came up a little short—didn't get enough time with our new ideas.

"(We got) good race experience with it (Monday), and we know what we were trying here will help us at other tracks down the road. In some respects, you wish you could just come back with the same stuff all the time and have it work, but this garage area doesn't sit still.

"With the fast start we've had, we wanted to be smart and try some things out. Ninth today was about it for us."

The bottom line is that the spoiler might have had nothing at all to do with the very ordinary performance of the No. 48 team.

On the other hand, Martin Truex Jr. said before the race that his car felt comfortable with the spoiler during recent testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Truex finished fifth Monday, his best effort of the season so far.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville
Third-fastest in final practice, Jimmie Johnson drives the No. 48 Lowe`s Chevrolet as he prepares for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday in Talladega, Ala. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished ninth and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Great Stuff Chevrolet SS, finished 28th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and his team celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Doublemint Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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