Hendrick Motorsports looks to be in victory lane at Martinsville

Jimmie Johnson won in 2016, Chase Elliott cut short in 2017

RIDGEWAY, Va. – Just as race officials are optimistic about going green on Sunday, NASCAR fans are optimistic they'll see the 48 car return to victory lane in Martinsville, for the first time since 2016.

It's been a 28-race drought since Jimmie Johnson has taken home the checkered flag -- the Dover race back in June of 2017 to be exact. Since then, he has managed to have just seven top-10 finishes. But the 17-year veteran feels no pressure heading into Sunday, having already won nine grandfather clocks.

"I'm reminded every week of a streak that's not one that you want to be reminded of, but I'm not losing sleep over it," Johnson said.

"I know I'm going to win races, I know this team is going to win races and compete for championships. It's just [a matter of] getting all of our stuff right."

The entire Hendricks team can lean on Johnson for success at this track. Teammate Chase Elliott has done so and has started to hit another gear at the paperclip. He finished third in last year's spring race, and was in prime position to win in the fall before he and Hamlin made contact on the final lap. It's an incident that Elliott and Hamlin have moved on from. 

"There's a lot that was laying on that race, you know, it wasn't just a win it was a chance to get to race for the championship," said Elliott.

"That obviously had a lot of implications but, I mean, it doesn't matter, you know. It didn't happen and I can't turn back time. So we all kind of know the implications, the things that could have been but they weren't, so no point in really getting caught up in it too much."

When asked for his reaction on the incident that happened back in October, Denny Hamlin added, "You know it was so long ago that I already shifted my focus to this season and figuring it out. I can't go back, so I've got to go forward now."

Speaking of Hamlin, the Joe Gibbs Racing team is also in search of its first win this season. We'll see how it all unfolds in the STP 500 on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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