Johnson's joyless win

Jimmie Johnson took his second victory in as many weekends in the Subway 500 at Martinsville but the result was marred by the news that a plane carrying members of the Hendrick team that he drives for, crashed en route to the circuit

Johnson's joyless win

NASCAR said no other details about who was on the plane, where it disappeared or what may have preceded the loss of contact were immediately available. All the Hendrick drivers were summoned to the team transporter after the race and Johnson was excused from the Victory Lane celebrations.

Newman and Penske team-mate Rusty Wallace also made contact in the final laps as the veteran went for broke to win his eighth race at Martinsville. Wallace wasn't amused and a post-race 'Days of Thunder' wheel-banging session took place on the slow-down lap.

The news of the Hendrick plane crash cut short Johnson's celebrations, after what had been an exciting and eventful race. Johnson brought his car to a stop on the pit lane and was greeted by crew chief Chad Knaus, father Gary, and other team officials.

All four of the Hendrick teams were excused from normal post-race formalities and were taken to the NASCAR office to await details.

Obviously, there were no comments from any of the Hendrick drivers and crews, including Johnson, Jeff Gordon, who finished sixth, Terry Labonte, who was 25th, and Brian Vickers, 27th. Hendrick Motorsports is considered one of the most powerful teams in NASCAR racing.

NASCAR VP of communications Jim Hunter informed the press that authorities had lost contact with the plane and that the NTSB and FAA were investigating, but he said he had no other details. He said NASCAR officials had made contact with Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, indicating Mr Hendrick was not on the plane.

Hunter said NASCAR officials learned of the plane's disappearance shortly after the race began and that Johnson and the others on the team were not informed until the race was over. The race was run under chilly, cloudy sky after morning rain.

What should have been a moment of great joy and achievement for Johnson and crew thus ended in sadness. Johnson, who had fallen to ninth in the season standings, gained back to fourth place with the victory Sunday. He stands officially 207 points behind leader Kurt Busch with four races to go.

Johnson started 18th and worked steadily into the top 10 after 150 of the 500 laps. Several pit strategies were in play among the various teams, and it never became quite clear until toward the end who would be in the right place at the right time. There were 17 cautions, four over the last 50 laps, after Johnson had taken the lead for good.

Johnson took over the lead from Jamie McMurray, who had gambled on a different pit cycle for track position and remained competitive. He passed McMurray on Lap 405 for the top spot, then yielded it when Sterling Marlin and Terry Labonte skipped the caution stops on lap 410. Johnson came out of the pits third.

Johnson moved to second place and closed on Marlin by lap 435, taking the lead on Lap 440. He was able to get away at each restart, with Ryan Newman and McMurray roughing each other up the final two laps for second.

There were several other tests of temper, with Tony Stewart, Ricky Rudd and Matt Kenseth tangling after the chequered flag. Robby Gordon hit about everyone on the track at one time or other.

Kurt Busch, the points leader, led the most laps (120) but seemed not to have the muscle at the finish. He finished fifth, however, putting more distance between himself and challengers Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gordon rallied for ninth with a pit gamble at the end, but Earnhardt was nowhere close all day, finally wreck out and finishing 33rd.

Busch now leads Gordon by 96 points and Earnhardt by 125 with four races left.

Newman smashes record

Previous article

Newman smashes record

Next article

Hendrick plane tragedy

Hendrick plane tragedy
Load comments
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Plus

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organisation - which underlines his enduring value

Aug 31, 2021
The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin Plus

The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin

A multiple F3000 race winner, Marc Goossens was on the precipice of making Formula 1 in the 1990s - but a lack of budget left him without a path to the promised land. Turning to an illustrious racing career in sportscars, Goossens left the endurance circuit to try his hand at racing stock cars - and now calls the NASCAR Euro Series home

Jul 1, 2021
Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR Plus

Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR

There has never been a full-time British driver in the NASCAR Cup. But Alex Sedgwick, who is rising through the stock car ranks, wants that to change and could be a trailblazer for European talents to reach the top echelons of the NASCAR ladder

Feb 28, 2021
How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport Plus

How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport

It's 20 years since legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr died at the Daytona 500, but the legacy of his crash continues today through the pioneering safety work done by NASCAR

Feb 18, 2021
The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021 Plus

The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season

Feb 12, 2021
How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career Plus

How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a shot at redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith

Feb 11, 2021
Autosport's top 5 NASCAR machines Plus

Autosport's top 5 NASCAR machines

The American stock car scene is more famous for its close racing and occasional punch-ups, but there have been some fantastic machines too. As part of Autosport's 70th anniversary celebrations in 2020, we picked out five of its best

Jan 3, 2021
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Plus

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future

Nov 17, 2020