Jimmie Johnson Wins Bizzare Race at Martinsville; Punches Ticket to Homestead

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MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 30: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Martinsville for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. Last year’s race saw a season-changing altercation between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. With Martinsville being the first race in the Round of 8, a win here is key. Given that if a Chase driver wins, they will be racing for a championship come Homestead. Martin Truex Jr. won his fifth pole of the season, with Logano to his outside. The big story heading into this race was eight remaining Chase drivers. Last week, Martin Truex Jr, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, and Chase Elliott were eliminated after Talladega. This leaves eight remaining drivers with three more races to decide the Championship 4. As Jimmie Johnson wins in Martinsville, he punches his ticket to the championship round at Homestead.

Jimmie Johnson Wins Bizzare Race at Martinsville; Punches Ticket to Homestead

Race Recap

The race started like any other Martinsville race: bumper to bumper. Truex Jr. got off to an early lead. The first caution involved Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spinning into the wall, his day would be done. Chaser Jimmie Johnson got into a small spat with Denny Hamlin. Due to this, the #48 received front end damage and sent Johnson to the back. Carl Edwards would later cut a tire and hit the wall. This lead to a chain of events and confusion. A number of drivers including race leader Kenseth were on pit road. The inherited leader AJ Allmendinger passed a number of them, trapping them in the pits.

The caution came out mid-cycle, this trapped many drivers one lap down. NASCAR needed a few extra laps to sort everything out, causing Johnson, Allmendinger, and Casey Mears to run out of gas under caution. After a 40 second pit stop, Johnson restarted third. The front row consisted of Hamlin and Kyle Busch, both of whom beat the caution when making their pit stop. On lap 410, Johnson took the lead away from Hamlin. Johnson never looked back. Leading the final 90 laps, Jimmie Johnson wins his ninth Martinsville victory and first since 2013. Brad Keselowski would finish in the runner up position. This win tied Johnson with Jeff Gordon, who was making his final NASCAR start, for most wins all-time at Martinsville. Johnson advances to Homestead where he will compete for his seventh championship.

Top 5 finishers from the Goody’s Fast Relief 500:

  1. #48 Lowe’s Chevy- Jimmie Johnson
  2. #2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford- Brad Keselowski
  3. #11 Fedex Toyota- Denny Hamlin
  4. #20 Dollar General Toyota- Matt Kenseth
  5. #18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota- Kyle Busch

Other notable finishers include AJ Allmendinger in 10th, Michael McDowell in 18th, Jeff Gordon in eighth and Grey Gaulding finishing 39th in his Sprint Cup debut. Carl Edwards came home a dismal 36th, and Kurt Busch three laps down in 22nd. Kevin Harvick, who is currently the title favourite, brings his #4 Busch Light Chevy home in 20th.

Final Thoughts

This race, although not as wild as last year, definitely lived up to the hype. Win and advance to compete for a championship, finish poorly and face elimination. One bad race can ruin everything. One bad race in the Round of 8, however, means that as driver, you were so close but so far. Martinsville has a reputation as a place where dreams can be made, and dreams can be crushed. With 500 laps run today, that brings 500 chances for something to go horribly wrong. While this race was very bizarre in its own right, it definitely gave the fans their moneys worth.

Chase Standing after Martinsville:

  1. #48 Hendrick Racing Chevy- Jimmie Johnson (Advanced)
  2. #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota- Denny Hamlin +6
  3. #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota- Matt Kenseth +6
  4. #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota- Kyle Busch +4
  5. #22 Team Penske Ford- Joey Logano -4
  6. #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy- Kevin Harvick -18
  7. #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy- Kurt Busch -20
  8. #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota- Carl Edwards -34

With the top four advancing to Homestead, it is crucial for the drivers looking in that they pick up a win. As Jimmie Johnson wins in Martinsville, he reduces the Chase spots to three. With three spots remaining, the pressure mounts for the remaining seven drivers. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be back in action Sunday Nov 6th, for the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

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