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
|2||3||18||Kyle Busch||Toyota||M&M’s Halloween||42/0||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|
|9||17||47||Bobby Labonte||Toyota||Pine Sol||35/0||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
|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|
|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|
|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
|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|