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Johnson Wins Martinsville; Enters Final Four

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 30 2016
Jimmie Johnson's quest for a seventh Cup championship got a big boost on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Jimmie Johnson’s quest for a seventh Cup championship got a big boost on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson won Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway and in the process, solidly set himself up to earn a record-tying seventh title.

The win moves Johnson into the Chase playoff’s’ final Round of Four, which will be contested at sprint-logo-08Homestead-Miami Speedway in three weeks.

If Johnson finishes ahead of the other three finals drivers – who will be determined the next two weeks at Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway – at Homestead, he will join Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as seven-time champions.

“I’ve been trying to ignore this conversation about seven,” Johnson said, “but now I can’t. We’re locked in.”

At Martinsville, Johnson survived a fender-bashing run-in with Denny Hamlin, an emptying fuel cell during a mid-race caution and a frustratingly long late-race caution as NASCAR officials struggled to determine running order to get the win.

“A lot of moments,” Johnson said of his character-testing win. “But anything you want in life, you’ve got to work for it. It isn’t going to come easy and we know that.”

The Hendrick Motorsports driver took the lead on Lap 409 of 500 and stretched and held it from there to the end.

Brad Keselowski of Team Penske made a late-charge as Johnson ran into lapped traffic, but finished second. Hamlin finished third while Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch were fourth and fifth.

Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. led 147 of the first 182 laps of the race. On Lap 182 of the 500-lap race, he was passed by Kenseth. Kenseth would lead the next 176 laps.

The lead would remain Kenseth’s until green flag stops began about 150 laps remaining. At that point, with stops still in progress and Kenseth in the pits, Chase driver Carl Edwards slammed the wall to bring out a caution.

Kenseth dropped from the lead to eight place as a result. Taking over was Hamlin. Hamlin sat at the front of the pack with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Busch next to him while NASCAR officials fumbled with setting the restart order; which ended up taking 30 laps of yellow.

The field finally took the green with 114 laps to go.

With 99 laps to go, Johnson moved to Hamlin’s rear bumper. With 93 to go, Johnson pulled even and with 91 to go, he cleared Hamlin to take the lead.

Once out front, Johnson pulled away from the race for second place between JGR teammates Hamlin, Kenseth and Busch. With 50 laps to go, Johnson’s lead was 2.1 seconds over Hamlin.

Over the final 10 laps, Keselowski posted some quicker times but could not get close enough to threaten. He finished 1.2 seconds back.

So, it’s on to a potentially historic finish of the season for Johnson.

“It means it takes a lot of pressure off right now,” his team owner, Rick Hendrick said, “I tell you, just having the win, just like Charlotte, to advance into that round.  We’re really looking forward to Texas because that’s a really good track for Jimmie.  But to win here and know we’re locked into Homestead, it’s a great relief.  It’s a special race for us.”

Joey Logano was the only Chase driver other than Johnson and the JGR trio to finish on the lead lap.

(This story will be updated shortly)

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Goody’s Fast Relief 500

Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville, Virginia

Sunday, October 30, 2016

  1. (3) Jimmie Johnson (C), Chevrolet, 500.
  2. (19) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 500.
  3. (8) Denny Hamlin (C), Toyota, 500.
  4. (17) Matt Kenseth (C), Toyota, 500.
  5. (9) Kyle Busch (C), Toyota, 500.
  6. (10) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 500.
  7. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 500.
  8. (14) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 500.
  9. (2) Joey Logano (C), Ford, 500.
  10. (4) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 500.
  11. (22) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 499.
  12. (5) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 499.
  13. (25) Greg Biffle, Ford, 499.
  14. (11) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 499.
  15. (16) Aric Almirola, Ford, 499.
  16. (13) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 499.
  17. (32) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 499.
  18. (30) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 498.
  19. (15) * Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 498.
  20. (20) Kevin Harvick (C), Chevrolet, 498.
  21. (26) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 497.
  22. (23) Kurt Busch (C), Chevrolet, 497.
  23. (31) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 497.
  24. (24) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 497.
  25. (18) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 496.
  26. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 496.
  27. (29) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 495.
  28. (28) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 495.
  29. (33) Landon Cassill, Ford, 494.
  30. (21) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 494.
  31. (37) Dylan Lupton(i), Toyota, 490.
  32. (27) * Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 489.
  33. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Ford, 486.
  34. (35) Brian Scott #, Ford, 484.
  35. (40) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 479.
  36. (7) Carl Edwards (C), Toyota, 477.
  37. (12) David Ragan, Toyota, 424.
  38. (34) * Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 407.
  39. (36) * Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 360.
  40. (39) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, Accident, 21.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  78.54 mph.

Time of Race:  03 Hrs, 20 Mins, 55 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.291 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 54 laps.

Lead Changes:  15 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. Truex Jr 1-24; J. Logano (C) 25-45; M. Truex Jr 46-62; R. Smith 63-64; M. Truex Jr 65-73; K. Larson 74-79; M. Truex Jr 80-110; Kyle Busch (C) 111-113; M. Truex Jr 114-150; M. Kenseth (C) 151; M. Truex Jr 152-180; M. Kenseth (C) 181-355; D. Hamlin (C) 356; A. Allmendinger 357-361; D. Hamlin (C) 362-408; J. Johnson (C) 409-500.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  M. Kenseth (C) 2 times for 176 laps; M. Truex Jr 6 times for 147 laps; J. Johnson (C) 1 time for 92 laps; D. Hamlin (C) 2 times for 48 laps; J. Logano (C) 1 time for 21 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 6 laps; A. Allmendinger 1 time for 5 laps; Kyle Busch (C) 1 time for 3 laps; R. Smith 1 time for 2 laps.

Top 16 in Points: J. Johnson (C) – 4,044; D. Hamlin (C) – 4,039; M. Kenseth (C) – 4,039; Kyle Busch (C) – 4,037; J. Logano (C) – 4,033; K. Harvick (C) – 4,021; Kurt Busch (C) – 4,019; C. Edwards (C) – 4,005; M. Truex Jr – 2,226; B. Keselowski – 2,207; A. Dillon – 2,187; C. Elliott # – 2,185; K. Larson – 2,183; T. Stewart – 2,156; J. Mcmurray – 2,143; C. Buescher # – 2,123.

 

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 30 2016
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