Jimmie Johnson started his weekend off right. He was on a mission to recapture the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead. He accomplished everything he wanted. Jimmie and his team was able to get his car running well, well enough to be at the top of the speed charts in the first practice. They were also able to back up that practice by winning the Pole for the TUMS Fas Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
The Martinsville Speedway is a NASCAR track where track position is key to being in a position to win the race. By starting on the pole Jimmie Johnson not only starts with the best track position possible but his team also gets to pick the best pit stall. Having the best pit stall gives Jimmie and his team the best possible chance of keeping track position during pit stops. Jimmie said, “Our pit stops were awesome. Got me track position each time, which was really, really important. The last few stops, I think the last stop gave me the lead. To be on the inside lane and have control of the race was huge.”
Jimmie Johnson used his track position to lead the race on eight different occasions for 193 laps. Clint Bowyer looked like he could take it from Jimmie and led 154 laps. Between both of them they led about 70% of the race.
Jimmie said after the race “We just had a great race car. And I think we’ve also learned our lesson here in the past in not pitting late and that certainly came into play and we made the right decision there. I’m so torn with emotion right now with winning here; and I’m so happy to be in the point lead.”
Brad Keselowski, the points leader at the start of the race, made a bad decision at the end to stay out while everyone else got at least two fresh tires. “I felt like it was going to be a problem for him. I mean, we’ve been there before and have stayed out and gotten beaten.” Jimmie said, “I expected him to drop a little further back, so with only a 2-point margin, he must have stayed up in the top five somewhere. You just can’t count out good race teams. When you’re in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, teams step up to show what they’re made of. We’ve seen a lot of teams do it this Chase.” Brad was able to hold on for a sixth place finish. He is now second in points, two points behind Jimmie.
Clint Bowyer finished one spot ahead of Brad in fifth but is one point farther back from the leader then he was at the start of the race. He is now third in points, 26 points back. Kasey Kahne is in fourth 29 points back.
Denny Hamlin who was third in the standings prior to the race had a mysterious electrical problem with his main electrical switch. He had to go to the garage in order to get his car to run. Denny said “Just disappointment. Just to have to go through a day like that and it end like this is tough, especially on our best race track. Going through the adversity of speeding twice and still driving back to the front — it’s frustrating. What can you do? We broke a bolt on a master switch and it ended our Chase chances. We’ll try to turn the table and get a lot of wins. Definitely disappointing as far as that’s concerned.” He finished the race 33rd and is now 49 points behind Jimmie. He is essentially out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Jimmie’s win clinched the Manufacturer’s Championship for Chevrolet for the 10th consecutive year and 36th overall. This is the fourth win for Jimmie Johnson this season and his 59th total.
Kyle Busch was second, Kasey Kahne third, Aric Almirola fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth. Stephen Leicht was the highest finishing rookie 34th.
“Our team came out on top today, and a few more races doing that, we should be in good shape.” Jimmie Johnson is looking like he is certainly ready for his sixth NASCAR championship.
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