MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jimmie Johnson won the Goody’s 500 Sunday at Martinsville on the 25th anniversary of team owner Rick Hendrick’s first Cup victory. It was also Johnson’s fifth Martinsville win in the last six races.
“We didn’t have the best car at the start, but we opted to lose track position to work on the car,” said Johnson. “We tried several things that didn’t work. As the day went on Chad (crew chief Chad Knaus) kept adjusting tire pressure until he got it right.”
Fans were treated to beating, banging, fender rubbing, pushing and shoving. All together, the action on the track produced one of the year’s best and most exciting races.
Johnson stayed in the top five, but had not led a lap until a caution came out on lap 429. Johnson’s team gave him a super fast pit stop under a caution, and he was out of the pits ahead of the leader, Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin, who led the most laps (296), regained the lead from Johnson on a restart on lap 456.
Johnson remained on Hamlin’s tail and dogged him for 23 more laps. Finally, Johnson was able to set Hamlin up in order to make a pass. Going into turn four on lap 479, Johnson gave Hamlin’s rear bumper, ever so slight of a tap, causing him to push up. Johnson was then able to drive his No. 48 under Hamlin’s No. 11.
Hamlin tried to come down and close the door, but it was too late. By the time he gathered up his car, Johnson was way out front.
“I had a little bit better car than Denny on the long runs,” said Johnson. “I was patient. I set him up, set him up, and then got inside him. He tried to put the squeeze on me, but I was up on the curb sliding, and we got together. He did a heck of a job of saving it.
“I thought I was going around too, but fortunately we had enough distance between us that we both could save it.”
Johnson moved from ninth to fourth in points.
Hamlin was the defending Martinsville winner, but all he could do for the last 17 laps was look at Johnson’s rear bumper grow smaller with each lap.
“It was a great battle,” said Hamlin. “I’m honored to be on the same racetrack with guys like Jimmie,” said Hamlin. “That was just short track racing. I would have done the same to him, and if it comes back around I will do the same.
“That’s the way it is at Martinsville. I was trying to protect the spot and he was trying to get it. That’s the way it goes.”
Third-place finisher Tony Stewart had his best finish of the season with his new team, Stewart Haas Racing.
“We were right there when Denny and Jimmie were having their problems,” said Stewart. “We were ready. I’m just proud of this team, they all did a great job today.”
Stewart’s teammate, Ryan Newman, finished sixth.
Points leader Jeff Gordon finished fourth, followed by Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Jamie McMurray.
The four Hendrick teams finished first, fourth, seventh and eighth.
Jamie McMurray’s 10th-place was the best of any Roush Fenway team.
Top 12 Chase leaders after 6 of 36: 1. J. Gordon-959, 2. Bowyer-870, 3. Ku. Busch-827, 4. Johnson-817, 5. Hamlin-811, 6. Ky. Busch-800, 7. Stewart-798, 8. Edwards-750, 9. Kahne-745, 10. Harvick-714, 11. Reutimann-710, 12. Kenseth-704.
Weekend Racing Schedule
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams are at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The Camping Series Trucks are off until April 25.
Saturday, April 4
Nationwide Series O’Reilly 300, race 5 of 35; Starting time: 3 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.
Sunday, April 5
Sprint Cup Samsung 500, race 7 of 36; Starting time: 2 p.m. (EDT); TV: FOX.
Racing Trivia Question: Where is the Sprint All-Star race held each year?
Last Week’s Question: Which Cup team does Greg Biffle drive for?
Answer: The No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford.