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Sunday, March 29
Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR
Late Pass Gives Johnson Victory At Martinsville
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 29) —On the 25th anniversary of Rick Hendrick’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win as a car owner, it was more of the same for Hendrick and Jimmie Johnson.
An aggressive pass of Denny Hamlin on Lap 485 of the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 gave Johnson the lead Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, and he pulled away to beat Hamlin by .774 seconds. The victory was Johnson’s first of the season and the 41st of his career; he now has six wins at Martinsville—five in the past six races. It was Hendrick’s 18th win at the .526-mile track.
Tony Stewart ran third, followed by polesitter and series points leader Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer. Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top 10.
Hamlin, who led a race-high 296 laps, had wrested the lead from Johnson with a bold move to the inside on a Lap 456 restart. Johnson trailed Hamlin through two short green-flag runs and two cautions before Johnson saw his opportunity seven laps after a restart on Lap 478.
Entering Turn 3 on Lap 485, Johnson nosed beneath Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota. Hamlin squeezed Johnson to the inside and the No. 48 Chevy bounced off the inside curb. Johnson slid up the track, and contact between the two lead cars allowed Johnson to pass for the lead.
“I felt like I was a little bit better than the 11 on the long runs,” Johnson said. “I was able to stay with him and got closer and closer, and I went into Turn 3 and got inside of him. I think he was trying to not leave me a lot of room, which is what you do, and before I knew it, I was up on the curb and we had made contact and were sliding sideways.
“It certainly wasn’t something intentional. I was just trying to get in there and get the win. I was in there, and he was coming down and we made some contact. Fortunately, neither one of us spun out, and he was able to recover and finish second.”
Hamlin, who hasn’t won a race since his victory at Martinsville a year ago, was gracious in his assessment of Johnson’s move.
“It’s short-track racing—that’s all the fans could ask for right there,” Hamlin said. “We tried to do our best to hold him off. You fight for every inch around this racetrack, and he got the better of us today. If the roles were reversed, I’d do the same thing—and, believe me, I will if it ever comes back around.”
For more than 400 laps, it was a two-man show that didn’t involve Johnson. Gordon led 141 of the first 155 laps before Hamlin powered inside of Gordon off Turn 4 on Lap 156 and held the top spot for 187 laps until Gordon slipped past on Lap 343.
Six laps later, Hamlin regained the lead in traffic.
Quick work in the pits under caution got Johnson out first for a restart on Lap 434, and he retained the top spot until Hamlin’s dive to the inside on Lap 456—a move arranged with the help of teammate Kyle Busch, who was the first lapped car on the inside lane when the field took the green flag for the restart. Busch gave Hamlin enough room to drive to the inside of Johnson as the cars raced toward the first corner.
Notes: Six of the top eight positions went to Hendrick cars (Johnson, Gordon, Martin and Earnhardt) and Hendrick affiliates (Stewart and Newman of Stewart-Haas Racing). ... The Busch brothers’ streak of three straight race wins ended with a whimper. Kurt started second but faded as the race progressed, finishing 18th. A tire problem cost Kyle two laps in the early stages, dropping him to 24th at the finish. ... Gordon extended his lead in the points standings to 89 over second-place Bowyer and 132 over Kurt Busch. ... Geoff Bodine won the 1984 Sovran Bank 500 at Martinsville, the first Cup victory for Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson’s victory on Sunday was Hendrick’s 176th.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
NASCAR Newscast - Martinsville Review click here
Martinsville Photo Gallery click here
Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images
Joey Logano signs autographs while waiting out a rain delay to start final practice for Sunday's race - which was
TV Broadcast Times*
Practice: Friday March 27 at 1 p.m./SPEED
Qualifying Time Trials: Friday March 27 at 4:30 p.m./SPEED
Practice: Saturday March 28 at 11:30 a.m./SPEED
Final Practice: Saturday March 28 at 12:30 p.m./SPEED
RaceDay, Pre-Race Show: Sunday March 29 at 12:30 p.m./SPEED
FOX Pre-Race Show: Sunday March 29 at 2:30 p.m./FOX
Race: Sunday March 29 at 3:13 p.m./FOX
*Times shown are AT - one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500
The Place: Martinsville Speedway (.526-mile concrete oval)
The Date: Sunday, March 29
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 500 laps/263 miles
TV: FOX , 2:30 p.m. AT
Radio: MRN and Sirius Satellite.
2008 Polesitter: Jeff Gordon
2008 Winner: Denny Hamlin
Schedule: (All times local ET) Friday – Practice, 12-1:30 p.m., Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday – Practice, 10:30-11:15 a.m., 11:50 a.m.-12:50 p.m.
Year-To-Date Results & Point Standings click here
Qualifying Notes, Starting Lineup & More...
Rain falls in the garage at Martinsville Speedway, forcing the cancellation of qualifying for the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500...
Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images
Jeff Gordon (left) talks with crew chief Steve Letarte (right); Gordon's point lead will see him start
from the pole after rain forced the cancellation of Friday's qualifying time trials... Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images
Starting Lineup* click here
NASCAR Newscast - Martinsville Preview click here
NASCAR Beat Podcast - Martinsville Preview click here
*Does not reflect adjustments that may be made prior to the race start because of the cars that need to go
to the rear of the field due to engine and/or transmission changes or practice wrecks...
Virginia native Denny Hamlin posted fast time during Friday's one and only practice session...
Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Friday's Practice Session Speed Chart click here
Drivers that failed to qualify include: Sterling Marlin, Tony Raines, Dennis Setzer and Derrike Cope.
Kyle Busch is a hands on driver, working on his racecar during Friday's practice session. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images for NASCAR
- Gordon, Johnson Battle For “Mr. Martinsville”...Together, they own seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles, but for Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) only one matters this weekend:
Johnson, the reigning and three-time series champion, and Gordon, the four-time series champion, both excel at the famed .526-mile short track. But even the word “excel” may be too bland.
They ace the place.
As such, Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 could be a duel for dominance.
Gordon and Johnson have combined to win nine of the last 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup events at Martinsville — the highlight their bumper-banging, one-two finish (Johnson first, Gordon second) in the spring 2007 event.
Johnson has won five of those nine races, Gordon four. They also rank one-two (Johnson first, Gordon second) in a crucial pre-race NASCAR Loop Data category, Driver Rating. Johnson leads at 124.7. Gordon is next at 124.0.
More crazy-good numbers for Johnson: He averages a top-10 finish at 10 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ 22 tracks. Martinsville ranks second on that list, with Johnson’s average finish there at 5.6. His best (5.5) is at Phoenix International Raceway. He also leads two other pre-race Loop Data categories for Martinsville — Average Running Position (6.4) and Laps in the Top 15 (3,579, or 89.3%).
Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins and seven poles at Martinsville. He also has 20 top fives and 26 top 10s in 32 starts there. He’s finished in the top five in the last eight Martinsville events. His average finish there — 6.9 — is nearly two positions better than his second-best track, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (8.6).
- Kyle Busch Seeks To Master Martinsville...After winning last week at Bristol Motor Speedway and climbing to fourth place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) faces down one of his racing challenges this week at Martinsville Speedway.
The historic half-mile has held one of the series’ hottest drivers at bay, with Busch posting three top fives and four top 10s in eight series starts there. According to pre-race NASCAR Loop Data statistics for Martinsville, Busch has an Average Running Position of 14.9, with his best finishes a pair of fourths in 2007.
He finished 38th there last spring and 29th last fall, both due to brake problems.
“The first race locking up rear brakes and eventually breaking the rear gear, and then the second race overheating the front brakes and popping right-front beads,” Busch said. “We went and tested at Little Rock to try and get our brakes squared away and we found out how to pop right-front beads over and over. We fixed that problem. We used to pop them in 46 to 50 laps and now we can go 80 laps straight and not see a darn issue.”
Busch heads into this weekend at Martinsville with momentum, having won a national series race in each of the last four weeks. Last Sunday, it was the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Bristol. Two weeks ago, he won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Atlanta. Three weeks ago, he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at his hometown track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and a month ago, he swept both the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events at Auto Club Speedway.
- Don’t Forget Denny: Defending Martinsville Winner On A Quiet Roll...With much focus given to the Jeff Gordon-Jimmie Johnson dominance at Martinsville Speedway, and Kyle Busch’s recent hot streak, Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota) has crept up the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings largely unnoticed.
He finished second to Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, last Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, an effort that propelled him into the top 12 for the first time this season.
Now comes Martinsville, which wears a big bulls-eye on Hamlin’s schedule.
“This is a great track, with a ton of history and special style of racing,” he said. “I think it’s where I am at my best and I know the entire No. 11 FedEx team circles the Martinsville races on the calendar.”
Hamlin’s quiet climb has been a season-long effort.
Starting with a 26th-place in the Daytona 500, he moved to 15th after a sixth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway. A 22nd-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a 13th at Atlanta Motor Speedway moved him to 14th in the standings, before last week’s runner-up effort.
The Bristol finish vaulted Hamlin six spots, to eighth in the series standings. And now he anticipates Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500, of which he — a Virginia native — is the defending winner.
“The experience of winning a Cup race here, at a Virginia track where I raced Late Models a few years ago, and in front of great racing fans and in front of my family, was something I will never forget,” Hamlin said. “And to have a Martinsville clock sitting in my home that I see everyday – it reminds me of that day and also how much went into getting to that point.”
Hamlin ranks fifth in pre-race Driver Rating for Martinsville (101.3), per NASCAR Loop Data statistics.
His average finish of 8.9 ranks third best behind Johnson (5.6) and Gordon (6.9), respectively.
- Gilliland, No. 71 Chevrolet In 35th As 2009 Car Owner Standings Take Effect At Martinsville...Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 marks the season’s first event where competitors who are not in the top 35 of the 2009 car owner standings must qualify for a starting position.
Prior to this week, the final 2008 car owner standings were used to “lock in” the top 35.
For the rest of the season, the top 35 in each week’s owner standings are guaranteed a starting spot. Everyone else must qualify on time.
Top-35 positioning is crucial to those teams hovering just above or below the “bubble”. The team occupying the 35th position this week is the No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet, driven by David Gilliland and owned by Kevin Buckler.
The No. 71 was 34th in owner points heading into last week’s event at Bristol. Gilliland managed to stay in the top 35 with a 36th-place finish there.
“Being 35th in owner points is like having the last seat in the last life boat on the Titanic,” Buckler said. “You breathe a sigh of relief, but you are still out in the freezing ocean waiting for a life line.”
Now comes Martinsville, with its tight confines and little room for error.
“We will be able to go to Martinsville and unload the car in race trim and run,” said Gilliland of the advantage for his team and crew chief Slugger Labbe. “Slugger and the guys will be able to work on it and get it a little closer to what we need in the race. It will definitely help us in our situation to be better on Sunday. I am excited to be able to work on the race setup when we unload.”
The No. 82 Team Red Bull Toyota driven by Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Scott Speed and owned by Dietrich Mateschitz, is 36th, 21 points out of 35th.
The No. 8 Guitar Hero Chevrolet driven by Aric Almirola and owned by Chip Ganassi is 37th, also 21 points out of 35th; the No. 82 earns the 36th spot due to a tiebreaker. Both drivers have a season-best finish of 21st; Speed won the tiebreaker with a higher second-best finish to date, a 28th compared to Almirola’s 30th.
Close behind — by one point — is the No. 98 Energizer/Menards Ford driven by Paul Menard and owned by Max Jones. The 96 is 26 points out of 35th.
Above the “bubble,” the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet driven by another Raybestos Rookie contender, Joey Logano, and owned by Joe Gibbs, is 34th, 14 points ahead of Gilliland.
Further ahead, in 33rd, is the No. 34 Taco Bell Chevrolet driven by John Andretti and owned by Teresa Earnhardt. The No. 34 is 41 points ahead of the 35th-place No. 71 driven by Gilliland.
- Martinsville Milestone: 25th Anniversary Of Hendrick Motorsports’ First NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Win...With 25 years, 175 wins and eight NASCAR Sprint Cup titles in his rearview mirror, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick knows how to mark special occasions in the sport.
So how did he celebrate his first series win on April 29, 1984 at Martinsville Speedway?
Armed with toilet paper, Hendrick and some friends road-tripped that Sunday night to Pleasant Grove, N.C., where they redecorated driver Geoff Bodine’s front yard.
“He did that?” Bodine said. “I thought the neighbors did that. Now I know. They could have done anything that night — painted my house pink — and it wouldn’t have bothered me. We were so happy.”
While victory celebrations have evolved, Hendrick Motorsports’ transformation from fledging All-Star Racing, as it was known then, to its current powerhouse status began at one of NASCAR’s most historic tracks. On that April day in 1984, Bodine led 55 laps, passing then-defending series champion Bobby Allison with 48 laps remaining to take the lead and the win.
Hendrick, a Palmer Springs, Va., native, wasn’t even there. At church with his wife, Linda, he got the winning news via phone, delivered by then-general manager Jimmy Johnson.
“We missed Rick, but, you know, no one thought we were ready to win,” Bodine said. “It was only our eighth race together with a brand new race team. How do you do that? How do you win your eighth race out?”
- Small Track, Big Impact...Martinsville Speedway officials, plus local and state leaders, announced Tuesday that the historic track, which hosted the first official NASCAR Sprint Cup event in 1949, has an annual impact of $170 million on the local economy.
A study conducted by the Washington Economics Group produced the result. The study also determined that 2,824 permanent jobs for Virginia residents can be tied directly or indirectly to the track.
Martinsville Speedway president W. Clay Campbell was joined at Tuesday’s announcement by Chuck Yaros, associate economist for the Washington Economics Group, which did the study; Deborah Buchanan, Chairman, Henry County Board of Supervisors; Gene Teague, Martinsville City Councilman; Ward Armstrong, who represents the 10th district in the Virginia House of Delegates; Roscoe Reynolds, who represents the 20th district in the Virginia State Senate and Mark Heath, President and CEO of the Martinsville and Henry County Economic Development Corporation.
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