Mr. Martinsville: Johnson Does It Again
MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jimmie Johnson nudged Denny Hamlin aside in the third and fourth turns with 15 laps to go and gave team owner Rick Hendrick a perfect place to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first victory in NASCAR's premier series: Victory Lane. Johnson, dubbed "Mr. Martinsville" by Jeff Gordon, lived up to his moniker in the Goody's Fast Relief 500, recording his sixth victory at the 0.526-mile oval, second only to Gordon's seven among active drivers. Hamlin, the defending race winner, never challenged Johnson after he slid high into the banking after the bump and pass. Hamlin finished second, followed by Tony Stewart, Gordon and Clint Bowyer.The victory was the 18th for Hendrick Motorsports at Martinsville, where a victory by Geoff Bodine 25 years ago gave the fledgling company a needed boost, and the 10th in the past 13 races. Johnson has won six of those, and Gordon has won four. Johnson's 41st career victory came after it looked like Hamlin had outfoxed him. The Virginia native ducked inside Johnson on a restart with 45 laps to go, gaining the position he needed to take the lead, and held it through three restarts before Johnson caught him on the backstretch on the 485th lap. From the outside, Hamlin tried to cut down in front of Johnson, bringing the contact that sent him sideways up the banking. Johnson gathered control and grabbed the lead, while Hamlin kept his car from hitting the wall and tried to give chase, but Johnson pulled away easily and coasted to victory. Gordon, who started on the pole for the eighth time at the track, ran in the top five most of the day but saw his winless streak extend to a career-high 47 races.