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NASCAR

Jimmie Johnson retains the championship lead after winning at Martinsville

Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE

The 64th edition of the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway was wild with a whole lot of action throughout the day.

Good ol’ five time, Jimmie Johnson, ended the day in victory lane. Johnson set sail over his competitors as he led a race high 193 laps en route to his fourth victory of the season.

Johnson’s victory was almost stolen from him as Kyle Busch had several opportunities after the final restart with five laps to go but, Johnson was able to pull away from the No. 18 Toyota.

Brad Keselowski entered the day as the points leader, six markers ahead of Johnson. Keselowski’s day was horrendous at first. At one point, he nearly fell a lap down to the leader at the time in Johnson. But, due to a caution flag for a spin by David Gilliland on lap 98, Keselowski was able to retain his position on the lead lap.

Keselowski’s struggles continued until his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, set forth with the strategy game once again. When all of the lead lap cars pitted with 24 laps to go, Keselowski opted to stay out along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. who made his return to NASCAR competition after a two-week hiatus after his concussion which occurred at Talladega.

The No.2 car was only able to hold the lead until lap 485 as Johnson passed Keselowski for the final lead change of the race. In total, there were approximately 22 lead changes between nine drivers.

Though Keselowski wasn’t quite able to lead that many laps, he was able to get a bonus point for leading a lap which will be important heading into the closing weeks of the season.

Jimmie Johnson now leads the points standings by a mere two markers over Keselowski and 26 over Clint Bowyer who is still in the hunt after finishing fifth after leading 154 laps. Kasey Kahne is also still in the hunt for the championship as he is three points behind Bowyer and 29 behind Johnson. It’s a long shot for Kahne to win the title but with a win in one of the next three races, he should have a shot to win it all.

With Johnson leading the standings, it is the first time he has taken over the top position since the second Chase for the Sprint Cup race at Loudon in September.

The Sprint Cup Series returns to action next Sunday at 2 p.m. ET at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.