Johnson takes win, points lead out of Martinsville

When Jimmie Johnson won the pole position on Friday, he wound up giving himself a gift that would keep on giving.

Even though Johnson has been dominant at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway for several years, track position proved to be one of the biggest keys to the race all day long.

While Johnson had a fast car, he didn’t have the fastest car at times. When it came down to the important time of the day, Johnson was able to use the No.1 pit stall, the stall that he won by being the fastest qualifier on Friday, would allow him to get off pit road first.

Even though Johnson was able to continually get out in front of the field in the latter part of the race, he still had to survive restarts to hold onto the win.

“I didn’t want to see the cautions at the end,” Johnson said to SPEED Channel after the race.

Each restart brought a different challenger for Johnson. The first time with just under 100 laps to go, Johnson had to survive attacks from the No. 15 Toyota of Clint Bowyer, who had led most of the day. Johnson’s car became battered, but he survived the attacks and started to pull away.

“They just beat me out of the pits and I never could regain the [the lead],” Bowyer said to ESPN after having the dominant car in the middle of the race.

Then a battle with Juan Pablo Montoya caused Johnson to get into the back of the the No. 42 Chevrolet and Montoya spun. At that time, Johnson would have to survive another restart, this time from his teammate, Jeff Gordon.

Johnson survived and held onto the lead, but when another caution came out Johnson would have to go from being chased to the chaser.

When Brad Keselowski stayed out on a late caution, Johnson had to not only chase him down for the lead in the race, but also for the points championship lead.

It was the first time all day that Keselowski had made an appearance in the top-five, after he had worked his way through the field after starting in 32nd.

“You just can’t count out good race teams,” Johnson said in victory lane to ESPN reporters.

Keselowski’s car wasn’t good enough to stay in front on old tires and he eventually fell to sixth in the finishing order but Keselowski said that moving his way through the field shows that his team is a real championship contender.

“It just means you can’t count this team out,” Keselowski said after the race to ESPN, reflecting on his day moving through the field. “This championship is going to come down to Homestead.”

After getting by Keselowski, Johnson took more than just the race lead, he also took the Championship points lead with him. There was one more restart that Johnson had to survive one more restart.

“Having more of a green track is what we had at the begging and the end of the race is when my car was the best,” Johnson said.

His car proved to be the best on the restart and Johnson pulled away from Kyle Busch over the last dozen laps. In then end Johnson led the most laps on the day, leading 193 of the 500 laps.

For Johnson it was a maximum points day and he will now go to Texas Motor Speedway next week with a two point lead over Keselowski. There are three races left in the season.

TUMS Fast Relief 500 results:

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Kasey Kahne
  4. Aric Almirola
  5. Clint Bowyer
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. Jeff Gordon
  8. Brian Vickers
  9. Bobby Labonte
  10. Greg Biffle
  11. Ryan Newman
  12. Paul Menard
  13. Sam Hornish Jr.
  14. Matt Kenseth
  15. Kurt Busch
  16. Joey Logano
  17. Jamie McMurray
  18. Carl Edwards
  19. Landon Cassill
  20. Juan Pablo Montoya
  21. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  22. Jeff Burton
  23. Martin Truex Jr.
  24. Marcos Ambrose
  25. Casey Mears
  26. David Ragan
  27. Tony Stewart
  28. A.J. Allmendinger
  29. Ken Schrader
  30. David Gilliland
  31. Travis Kvapil
  32. Kevin Harvick
  33. Denny Hamlin
  34. Stephen Leicht
  35. Dave Blaney
  36. David Reutimann
  37. Scott Speed
  38. Josh Wise
  39. Michael McDowell
  40. David Stremme
  41. Joe Nemechek
  42. Scott Riggs
  43. Reed Sorenson