Martinsville NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson takes Chase lead with victory

Jimmie Johnson jumped back up to the lead of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with his fourth win of the season and his seventh at Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson takes Chase lead with victory

The victory puts Johnson two points ahead of Penske's Brad Keselowski with just three races to go.

Johnson got maximum points after a gruelling 500 laps. He led more laps than any of his rivals while battling some tough opposition headed by Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer and his Hendrick team-mate Jeff Gordon.

Five-time champion Johnson overtook Keselowski with 14 laps remaining after the former Chase leader elected to stay on the track when the penultimate caution waved with 25 laps to go. Johnson, who led the field at the time, pitted for new left side tyres, a move that most behind him followed.

With more grip at his disposal and in a car often the class of the field on Sunday, Johnson was the first of a number of drivers to dispose of Keselowski's #2 Dodge before the last caution was called for an incident involving Dale Earnhardt Jr and Carl Edwards.

Once the green waved for the final five laps, Johnson held off the charging Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch, who recovered from an early spin to be in contention but could not prevent Johnson from scoring his most valuable win of the year.

"We just had a great race car," said Johnson. "And I think we've also learned our lesson here in the past in not pitting late and that certainly came into play and we made the right decision there.

"I'm so torn with emotion right now with winning here; and I'm so happy to be in the point lead."

Keselowski fell back to sixth - still a good result from 32nd on the grid. With JGR's Denny Hamlin all but out of title contention after succumbing to electrical glitches, a two-horse race is now brewing between Johnson and Keselowski.

Bowyer came out on top from a clash with Gordon in the closing laps and moved up to third in the Chase with his fifth place finish behind Kasey Kahne's Hendrick Chevrolet and the impressive Aric Almirola in the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.

After running among the top 10, Earnhardt's late spin, caused by contact from Edwards, meant he finished as the last car on the lead lap on his return to Cup competition following a two-week absence with concussion.

Results - 500 laps:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                         Time/Gap
 1.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet           3h23m09.000s
 2.  Kyle Busch          Gibbs Toyota                     + 0.479s
 3.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet               + 0.596s
 4.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford                       + 0.862s
 5.  Clint Bowyer        Waltrip Toyota                   + 1.924s
 6.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Dodge                     + 2.201s
 7.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet               + 2.294s
 8.  Brian Vickers       Waltrip Toyota                   + 2.834s
 9.  Bobby Labonte       JTG Daugherty Toyota             + 3.053s
10.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford                + 3.233s
11.  Ryan Newman         Stewart-Haas Chevrolet           + 3.385s
12.  Paul Menard         Childress Chevrolet              + 3.615s
13.  Sam Hornish Jr      Penske Dodge                     + 3.892s
14.  Matt Kenseth        Roush Fenway Ford                + 4.120s
15.  Kurt Busch          Furniture Row Chevrolet          + 4.122s
16.  Joey Logano         Gibbs Toyota                     + 4.270s
17.  Jamie McMurray      Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet      + 4.545s
18.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford                + 4.771s
19.  Landon Cassill      BK Toyota                        + 4.908s
20.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet      + 5.876s
21.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet               + 8.241s
22.  Jeff Burton         Childress Chevrolet               + 1 lap
23.  Martin Truex Jr     Waltrip Toyota                    + 1 lap
24.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford                        + 1 lap
25.  Casey Mears         Germain Ford                      + 1 lap
26.  David Ragan         Front Row Ford                    + 1 lap
27.  Tony Stewart        Stewart-Haas Chevrolet           + 2 laps
28.  AJ Allmendinger     Phoenix Chevrolet                + 2 laps
29.  Ken Schrader        FAS Lane Ford                    + 5 laps
30.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford                   + 6 laps
31.  Travis Kvapil       BK Toyota                        + 8 laps

Retirements:

     Kevin Harvick       Childress Chevrolet              473 laps
     Denny Hamlin        Gibbs Toyota                    466 laps*
     Stephen Leicht      Circle Sport Chevrolet           253 laps
     Dave Blaney         Baldwin Chevrolet                193 laps
     David Reutimann     Baldwin Chevrolet                185 laps
     Scott Speed         Leavine Ford                     116 laps
     Josh Wise           Front Row Ford                    85 laps
     Michael McDowell    Parsons Ford                      61 laps
     David Stremme       Inception Toyota                  46 laps
     Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota                      35 laps
     Scott Riggs         R3 Chevrolet                      22 laps
     Reed Sorenson       Humphrey Smith Toyota             19 laps

* Running again at finish
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