The fruits of Jimmie Johnson’s labors at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway were two-fold on Sunday. After starting from the pole in the Tums Fast Relief 500, he was back at the point in the end to claim the checkered flag, head to victory lane and celebrate moving into the championship points lead.
“Just a great race car,” Johnson gave as the reason for his seventh-career win at Martinsville.
Kyle Busch finished second, Kasey Kahne was third, Aric Almirola was fourth and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five after leading some 150 laps of the 500-lap event.
Bowyer moved from fourth to third in points, moving past Denny Hamlin in the standings. Hamlin fell to the back two different times during the race because of pit road speeding penalties. He was able to recover both times, but an electrical problem that sent him to the garage on lap 391 ended his quest for the race win and dropped him to fifth in points.
“It ended in disappointment,” Hamlin said. “We overcame the pit road penalties and had a great car.”
Kahne also passed Hamlin in the points standings, moving into the fourth spot.
Previous series points leader, Brad Keselowski finihsed sixth after making his way toward the front from a 32nd-place starting position. His finish just outside the top-five kept him within two points of new leader, Johnson.
“It just means you cant count this team out,” Keselowski said. “We’ll keep fighting the good fight.”
Jeff Gordon finished seventh, Brian Vickers was eighth, Bobby Labonte ninth and Greg Biffle 10th.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson and Gordon combined to dominate the first half of the race, each leading nearly 100 laps before Bowyer took over and began to dominate after getting the lead on a restart following a caution on lap 212
Johnson moved back to the front follwoing a caution on lap 391 and didn’t look back. He did give up the top spot to head down pit road during a caution with 25 laps to go when Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed out for track position to restart in the top-two spots.
“We’ve learned our lessons in the past, not pitting late,” Johnson said.”
Earnhardt fell back through the field quickly after the race returned to green, but Keselowski was able to remain up front for a few laps before losing the lead to Johnson with 14 laps to go. In the closing laps, Keselowski lost a few more spots to cars on fresher tires, falling back to sixth by the checkered flag.
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