Johnson Survives Late Restarts for Martinsville Win

Johnson celebrates his Martinsville Victory
Photo – Getty Images

By Jason Schultz

A miraculous driving job by Jimmie Johnson allowed him and his No.48 team to celebrate in victory lane Sunday afternoon in Martinsville.

Jimmie Johnson drove  the dominant car of the day and some excellent pit road performance by his crew put Johnson out front at the end. Johnson held off Kyle Busch on the final few laps for the victory.

Besides winning the race, Johnson became the new points leader and now leads Brad Keselowski by two points in the championship standings.

Johnson’s amazing performance at Martinsville began with him leading the field to green and leading a good part of the first half of the race.

The first yellow-flag flew on lap 45 for David Stremme who had a tire go down in turn two. Championship contender Denny Hamlin received a speeding penalty during the caution, which proved to be the first of many misfortunes for Hamlin throughout the day.

Johnson’s teammate Jeff Gordon took his first lead of the day on lap 68.

The second caution of the day came out on lap 98 for David Gilliland who blew a tire and slapped the turn four wall. Johnson regained the lead during pit stops.

Travis Kvapil brought out the third caution of the day when he spun around in turn two. Jeff Gordon stayed out under the caution to take the lead once again.

Gordon lost the lead to Brian Vickers on lap 147.

The fourth yellow flag of the afternoon flew on lap 150 for Kyle Busch who spun around in turn three.

Hamlin bounced back from his speeding penalty and took the lead on lap 165, but lost the lead soon after when Hamlin was passed by Johnson on lap 173.

The lead changed hands once again ten laps later when Clint Bowyer passed Johnson.

The caution came out once again on lap 199 for Marcos Ambrose, who spun around in turn two. Jeff Gordon became the new leader on the restart.

Ambrose brought out the caution once again on lap 212 when he got into the frontstretch wall, cut down his tire and spun in turn two.

Clint Bowyer rocketed to the lead on lap 226, passing Jeff Gordon.

A classic Martinsville incident occurred between Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch on lap 228 when Harvick got into the back of Busch heading into turn three and Busch spun up the track and brought out the caution.

Johnson came back to the lead on lap 236 after he got around Bowyer.

With half the race completed on lap 250, Bowyer led followed by Gordon, Kahne, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr.

The only round of green flag pit stops during the race, began on lap 336. The leader coming into pit road was Clint Bowyer, but before exiting to the track, Bowyer stalled his car and lost valuable track position.

Denny Hamlin’s day began to go downhill on lap 371 when his car lost power. Hamlin’s car alternated on and off power for twenty laps before he brought out the next caution for stalling on the track. Hamlin then took his car behind the wall. The issue that may have cost Hamlin a shot at the championship, was a master power switch malfunction.

The tenth caution of the day came out, with 61 laps to go, for Juan Pablo Montoya who spun on the backstretch after slight contact with leader Jimmie Johnson.

Chaser Kevin Harvick ran into trouble when his engine expired with 26 laps to go.

This caution brought a mixed bag of strategy when Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr decided to stay on the track to gain track position, while the rest of the field pitted. On the restart and older tires, Keselowski could only hold the lead for a few laps, before Johnson returned to the lead.

The twelfth and final yellow flag of the day flew, with ten laps to go, when Dale Earnhardt Jr and Carl Edwards wrecked in turn one. Sam Hornish Jr got into the back of Edwards heading into turn two, causing Edwards to get into the back of Earnhardt Jr and turning both  cars.

The final restart left Jimmie Johnson leading and Kyle Busch trying to chase Johnson down. Busch got to the back of Johnson’s bumper in turn two on the final lap but he couldn’t move Johnson out of the way. Johnson held Busch off in the final turn to take the checker flag.

This is Johnson’s first Chase win and his first win since July at Indianapolis. After the race,  Johnson said that today was “no cake walk” and he earned this win.

Late in the race, Brad Keselowski made a risky move trying to salvage a good finish and his effort produced a sixth-place finish. Although Keselowski lost the points lead, he said, that he and his team are “Doing things to be in contention at Homestead.” Keselowski now trails Johnson by a mere two points in the standings.

Clint Bowyer continues to make progress on the leader and had a great run that ended up placing fifth at the checkered flag. Heading to the next Chase event, Bowyer currently trails Johnson by twenty-six points.

The rest of the Chasers finished as follows; Kahne third, Gordon seventh, Biffle tenth, Kenseth fifteenth, Earnhardt Jr twenty-first, Truex Jr twenty-third, Stewart twenty-seventh, Harvick thirty-second and Hamlin thirty-third.

A rough day for Denny Hamlin, just about cost him a shot at the championship. Hamlin will need to go all out in the final three races to regain his championship chances.

Martinsville left some drivers feeling great and some others feeling disappointed – a classic day at Martinsville to say the least.

Next week at Texas Motor Speedway, Chase drivers will plan their strategies to close in on Jimmie Johnson for the championship. The Sprint Cup championship race is coming down to the wire with Keselowski and Johnson within two points of each other – they will be going all out to beat one another next weekend in Texas.

Results and Point Standings via Nascar.com

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 48/2 500 Running
2 3 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M’s Halloween 42/0 500 Running
3 15 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 42/1 500 Running
4 10 43 Aric Almirola Ford Gwaltney 40/0 500 Running
5 8 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-Hour Energy Benefiting Avon Foundation for Women 40/1 500 Running
6 32 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 39/1 500 Running
7 11 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi Max 38/1 500 Running
8 2 55 Brian Vickers Toyota MyClassicGara
ge.com
37/1 500 Running
9 17 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Pine Sol 35/0 500 Running
10 30 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 34/0 500 Running
11 18 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Quicken Loans 33/0 500 Running
12 9 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Zecol / Menards 32/0 500 Running
13 27 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 0 500 Running
14 19 78 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 30/0 500 Running
15 6 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Ford EcoBoost 30/1 500 Running
16 14 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depo
t / redbeacon.com
28/0 500 Running
17 24 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald’s 27/0 500 Running
18 23 99 Carl Edwards Ford Geek Squad 26/0 500 Running
19 34 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 25/0 500 Running
20 25 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 24/0 500 Running
21 20 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard / AMP Energy 23/0 500 Running
22 4 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Odyssey / EnerSys 22/0 500 Running
23 12 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 21/0 500 Running
24 33 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Black & Decker 20/0 500 Running
25 22 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 19/0 500 Running
26 16 34 David Ragan Ford Where’s Waldo 19/1 500 Running
27 7 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 17/0 498 Running
28 26 51 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 16/0 498 Running
29 28 32 Ken Schrader Ford Southern Pride Trucking / U.S. Chrome 15/0 495 Running
30 36 38 David Gilliland Ford Long John Silver’s 14/0 494 Running
31 41 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 14/1 492 Running
32 13 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Rheem “Chasing the Cure” 12/0 473 Running
33 5 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 12/1 466 Running
34 42 33 Stephen Leicht * Chevrolet Little Joes A
utos.com
10/0 253 Running
35 37 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Mohawk Northeast / TMone Call Center 9/0 193 Running
36 29 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet @TMone Drive Sales Fast 8/0 185 Running
37 43 195 Scott Speed Ford Jordan Truck Sales 7/0 116 Running
38 31 26 Josh Wise * Ford MDS Transport 6/0 85 Running
39 21 98 Michael McDowell Ford Phil Parsons Racing 5/0 61 Running
40 40 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 4/0 46 Running
41 38 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 0 35 Running
42 35 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 2/0 22 Running
43 39 191 Reed Sorenson Toyota Plinker Tactical 0 19 Running

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