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Jimmie Johnson wins Martinsville, expands points lead

by Pete McCole
Sunday, October 19, 2008

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Jimmie Johnson leads Jeff Gordon during the TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The two Hendrick Motorsports teammates, who have won 12 Martinsville races between them, combined to lead 396 of the 500 laps.
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

Jimmie Johnson gained some breathing room in his bid for his third-straight Sprint Cup title with a dominating victory in Sunday’s Tums Quikpak 500 at Martinsville Raceway.

Leading seven times for 339 laps, Johnson took the lead for the final time after pushing past Matt Kenseth with 31 laps to go and then held off Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in a green-white-checkered finish to notch his sixth victory of the year and increase his lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by 149 points over Greg Biffle with four races left in the 2008 season.

Carl Edwards finished third, followed by Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin.

Johnson’s victory was his fourth win in his last five starts at Martinsville and the ninth win in the last 12 races for Hendrick Motorsports at the .526-mile oval.

“We were one of probably two or three cars that were really strong,” said Johnson. “We had a great pit stall and great pit stops. We kept track position on our side and I was really able to race for the lead and with the leaders and work on that situation there.

“There were times when I overworked the brakes and overworked the tires and we weren’t as strong as we wanted to be on the long haul, but the car was really good on the short haul and thankfully it ended up that way at the end and I could get away from those guys.”

Johnson held the top spot through the final 30 laps before a caution flag on lap 499 set up the overtime session.

With Junior on his tail looking for his first Martinsville win, Johnson took off on the restart and easily beat out Earnhardt, who had his hands full holding off Edwards.

“I didn’t have a good enough drive up off the corner to catch Jimmie, they had such an excellent race car, ” said Earnhardt. “We were good on a real, real long run, like 80 to 100 laps and it’s rare that you get one of those. I was just a little bit too loose early on, spinning the tires, so I was just having to do the best I could to protect my position.”

Edwards third-place showing allowed him to maintain his fourth-place position in the points, now 198 back from Johnson. It’s a big deficit to overcome, but Edwards is not giving up yet.

“He (Johnson) could have any sort of trouble at the next two races and be right back there with us with all these guys that are kind of bunched together,” said Edwards. “It looked like all of us were within 40-50 points second through fourth, maybe, so it could happen to anyone.  We saw what happened with Kyle (Busch) and his team.  Those guys seemed unbeatable, but they just had the bad luck - like what happened to us last week. 

“This isn't over until the last lap at Homestead, that's for sure.”

Jeff Burton came into Sunday’s race second in the points behind Johnson, but ran into trouble after being penalized for pitting outside his pit box and fell a lap down, winding up with a 17th-place finish.

Burton dropped to one spot in the standings to third behind Biffle, who rebounded from a lap down to finish 12th.

Although he’s 149 points out, Biffle isn’t about to give up on catching Johnson either.

“We're gonna come and get them,” said Biffle.  “We've got four more chances and we're going to some of our best places, so they better be on their A game.  I know they have been so far, but we're gonna bring the heat to Atlanta and all the rest of the places and see what we can do.

“I'm still confident we can catch him, for sure.”

As confident as Biffle and Edwards may be, Johnson may have a decided edge in the final four races.

Last season, Johnson won four of the final five races in the Chase - starting with Martinsville and winning the next three events – to catapult him to the top of the standings.

Of the four tracks coming up, Johnson already has top-two finishes at Phoenix and Texas and a 13th-place finish at Atlanta.

He’s never won at Homestead, but by then, it may be too late to catch Johnson.

“It's getting closer,” said Johnson is his quest for a third title. “As long as I can hold off and just worry about winning races the better and hopefully I can do that the next two or three races and then cruise on from there.

“We still can lose this points lead and we have to think that way and we have to keep our eye on the ball and make sure we’re swinging hard at it each time. Atlanta was tough on us at the start of the year, but we still got a top 15 finish. But when I say that, that was so long ago and we’ve learned so much since then, that I truthfully feel confident about all the tracks left on the schedule.”

Results

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 195/10 504 Running
2 10 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet AMP Energy / National Guard 170/0 504 Running
3 4 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 165/0 504 Running
4 8 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 165/5 504 Running
5 12 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 155/0 504 Running
6 23 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet Kellogg's / CARQUEST 150/0 504 Running
7 6 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 146/0 504 Running
8 11 17 Matt Kenseth Ford R+L Carriers 147/5 504 Running
9 18 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 138/0 504 Running
10 5 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 134/0 504 Running
11 17 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 130/0 504 Running
12 3 16 Greg Biffle Ford DISH Network Turbo HD 132/5 504 Running
13 13 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 124/0 504 Running
14 24 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Big Red Slim Pack 121/0 502 Running
15 39 10 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Tow Truck in a Box 118/0 502 Running
16 37 21 Bill Elliott Ford U.S. Air Force 115/0 502 Running
17 2 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 112/0 502 Running
18 31 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 109/0 502 Running
19 25 28 Travis Kvapil Ford All Sport 106/0 501 Running
20 15 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet U.S. Army 108/5 501 Running
21 32 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet Haas Automation 105/5 501 Running
22 33 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 97/0 501 Running
23 16 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Alltel 94/0 500 Running
24 26 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 91/0 500 Running
25 41 45 Chad McCumbee Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 88/0 500 Running
26 7 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 85/0 499 Running
27 27 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Super Clean / Menards 82/0 499 Running
28 40 96 Ken Schrader Toyota DLP HDTV 79/0 499 Running
29 9 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 76/0 496 Running
30 35 84 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 73/0 496 Running
31 43 70 Tony Raines Chevrolet Haas Automation 70/0 495 Running
32 28 38 David Gilliland Ford Digital TV Transition 67/0 483 Running
33 14 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 64/0 475 Running
34 36 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 61/0 472 Running
35 29 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 58/0 472 Running
36 19 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 55/0 469 Running
37 21 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 52/0 469 Running
38 20 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 54/5 465 Running
39 38 00 Mike Bliss Toyota Champion Mortgage 46/0 455 Running
40 34 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Menards 43/0 452 Running
41 22 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin 40/0 436 Running
42 30 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 37/0 416 Running
43 42 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row/ DenverMattress.com 34/0 115 Running

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