Johnson wins at Martinsville again

Jimmie Johnson claimed his and Chevrolet's first win of the season in the Goody's Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday

Johnson wins at Martinsville again

The reigning champion commemorated the 25th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports' maiden Sprint Cup win with his sixth victory at NASCAR's shortest track, also the fifth for him in the last six races at the venue.

Johnson didn't start the race as a contender for victory but systematically climbed his way through the field to take the lead in the pits during the ninth caution of the day.

From then on he was involved in a close fight for victory with Denny Hamlin, which he was able to resolve in his favour in typical Martinsville style.

With 16 laps remaining, Johnson dived on the inside of Hamlin's Toyota entering turn three, as the Gibbs racer tried to squeeze him between his car and the inside kerb.

The right front corner of Johnson's Chevy made contact with the left rear of Hamlin's car turning Hamlin a little sideways, enough for Johnson to steal the lead away from him.

Johnson built a safe cushion in the end to claim his first win of the season, giving team owner Rick Hendrick his 176th Sprint Cup series victory.

"I just took my time," Johnson said. "I felt like I was a little better than [Hamlin] on the long haul and I was able to stay with him and get closer and closer, went into turn three and then got in the side of him. It was just hard racing.

"I think he was trying not to give me a lot of room, which is what you do, and before I knew it I was up on the kerb and we hade made contact and turned him sideways. Sure it wasn't something intentional. I was just trying to get in there and get the win."

Hamlin led the most laps during the day and right after he lost the lead to Johnson in the pits he was able to get it back with an impressive restart. However he couldn't fend off the reigning champion's attack in the end, which he considered just normal short-track racing.

"We were fortunate to get back the position after I got a good restart there on Jimmie," Hamlin said. "But he just got us on pitroad and we had to battle back and that's short-track racing. That's all the fans can ask for right there.

"We tried to do our best to hold him off. You fight for every inch around this racetrack and he got the better of us today. If the roles were reversed I'd do the same thing and believe me I will if it ever comes back around."

Tony Stewart finished the race third, claiming his team's first ever top-five finish. Despite not leading a lap all day, he was always in contention at the front and eventually finished ahead of Jeff Gordon, who had looked to be en route to his first win of the season in the first half of the race.

The Hendrick driver led for the majority of the first half of the event until being overtaken by Hamlin on lap 156. He would reclaim the lead from the local later on but only for a few laps, eventually losing any chance of victory in the traffic.

"The track changed quite a bit and that's why we're frustrated," Gordon said. "We were so good in practice on Friday but it seemed like the tyres were going loose and the setup that we went to was so strong in practice that it was hard for us to get away from it. Now looking back, that little bit of practice only hurt us.

"We were the third-best car today and I was hoping that we could take advantage of that number one pitstall but on the long runs we lost the handle. We were great there on the short runs but just couldn't do anything on the outside there."

Clint Bowyer had a solid race once again finishing fifth after running in the top-five for most of the day. Behind him Ryan Newman had his best result of the season thus far with a great recovery to finish sixth, ahead of Hendrick team-mates Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr who both ran in the top-ten for most of the day as well.

AJ Allmendinger was ninth ahead of Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick and a charging Juan Pablo Montoya, who came back from being almost two laps down to finish 12th ahead of Marcos Ambrose. The Australian continued to impress, overcoming some brake issues that hampered him midway through the race.

Kyle Busch had a day to forget at his worst track of the calendar, finishing two laps down in 24th place. He was involved in an incident early on when he lost control of his car while trying to pass Scott Speed and then struggled for balance for most of the race.

The rookies had a tough day as well, despite Scott Speed leading his first laps of the season by staying out while most pitted during an early caution.

Gordon continues to lead the championship ahead of Bowyer, while Kurt Busch dropped down to third. Johnson was the biggest gainer in the standings moving up five places to fourth in the championship.

Pos Driver Make Laps 1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 500 2. Denny Hamlin Toyota 500 3. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 500 4. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 500 5. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 500 6. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 500 7. Mark Martin Chevrolet 500 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 500 9. A.J. Allmendinger Dodge 500 10. Jamie McMurray Ford 500 11. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 500 12. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 500 13. Michael Waltrip Toyota 500 14. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 500 15. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 500 16. Bobby Labonte Ford 500 17. Reed Sorenson Dodge 500 18. Kurt Busch Dodge 500 19. Kasey Kahne Dodge 500 20. David Reutimann Toyota 499 21. Casey Mears Chevrolet 499 22. David Stremme Dodge 499 23. Matt Kenseth Ford 499 24. Kyle Busch Toyota 498 25. Paul Menard Ford 498 26. Carl Edwards Ford 498 27. David Ragan Ford 498 28. Greg Biffle Ford 498 29. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 498 30. Scott Riggs Toyota 497 31. Elliott Sadler Dodge 497 32. Joey Logano Toyota 496 33. Brian Vickers Toyota 496 34. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 496 35. John Andretti Chevrolet 496 36. David Gilliland Chevrolet 492 37. Aric Almirola Chevrolet 490 38. Jeremy Mayfield Toyota 441 39. Scott Speed Toyota 424 40. Robby Gordon Toyota 349 41. Joe Nemechek Toyota 90 42. Dave Blaney Toyota 49 43. Todd Bodine Toyota 3 
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