Jimmie Johnson Wins Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

With only 4 races left in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the pressure has become more tangible than ever. The 12 teams and drivers competing in the Chase all want a win (or two) to secure their spots and gain the most advantage when it comes to the final race of the season. But, not everyone are going to be lucky. At this point, only Matt Kenseth (driver of the #17 Ford) and Brad Keselowski (driver of #2 Dodge) have been lucky to bag a double. The latter holding the top spot in the Chase standings. Denny Hamlin (#11 Toyota) and Clint Bowyer (#15 Toyota) both have 1 win each under their sleeves. 

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Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway
And at this point as well, I've been worried that Jimmie Johnson (#48 Chevrolet) will go to Homestead without a single trophy from his Chase runs. That would have been fine since he's still doing great and have actually managed to cut the points gap between him and Chase leader Brad Keselowski - even without a win. 

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Jimmie Johnson, #48 Chevrolet
But, this is Martinsville we're talking about this week and Jimmie have a great record in this particular track. Things are sure looking up. The sun shone even brighter when the 48 grab the pole during qualifying last Saturday. I just knew JJ will win this. Sure enough, after 500 Laps the checkered flag went down and the grandfather clock went to the #48 team. Way to go, Jimmie!

So, let's get back to what happened at the half-mile track that is Martinsville Speedway. 

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Jimmie Johnson is on the pole at Martinsville
The race went green at around 1:47pm ET and polesitter Jimmie was sitting on the inside pole while Brian Vickers sat alongside him on the outside. Rounding off the top 10 starting line are Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.

Not even 20 laps into the race and tempers are already soaring high on the track. Johnson pushed past Vickers in Turn 2 while Jeff Burton raced Denny Hamlin for the 4th place. At Lap 17, Jeff Gordon has zoomed past Hamlin for the 5th place. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick dropped back to 23rd place with a damaged left-rear quarter panel; he started 13th.

The first caution of the night was out at Lap 45 when David Stremme crashed between Turns 1 and 2. And this actually became a breather for the #2 car of Brad Keselowski because at that point, he was at risk of going a lap down. The leaders pitted and it became a nightmare for Hamlin; who got slapped with a speeding ticket down the pit road. He restarted at the back when the race went back to green.

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Team #48, Pit Road Action
The race went green at Lap 52 with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers leading the restart. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr., fresh from sitting out the last 2 races, was constantly running at the top 10; he started at 20th place. At Lap 74, he was running in fourth place, 3.5 seconds behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Lap 90 and we saw fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon grabbed the lead from Johnson. 

We get the 2nd yellow at Lap 97 when David Gilliland popped the wall between Turns 3 and 4. At the restart (Lap 104), Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer were at the front of the pack. And then, we saw Denny Hamlin got back into the top 10 at Lap 112. The third caution were thrown at Lap 128 when Travis Kvapil spun in Turn 2. At Lap 149, it was Kyle Busch's turn to cause the caution to be thrown when he spun in Turn 4. This was the 4th yellow of the race. Fifth caution was thrown at Lap 199 with Marcos Ambrose spinning in Turn 2. He actually had a repeat at Lap 212; bringing in the 6th yellow. My, my. The turns at this racetrack are really tricky and a lot have been caught.

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Clint Bowyer (#15) and Denny Hamlin (#11) During The Tums Fast Relief 500 Race
But, before that 6th caution, Denny Hamlin was caught speeding on pit road again. He was back at 28th place. Now, that was really frustrating and you can see just how disappointed Denny was about the situation.  He will continue to get plagued, though. About that, well, later.

Lap 228 and the 7th caution is out. It was the other Busch brother's turn to spin in Turn 4. After the restart, we saw various position changes among the top 10, including Jimmie Johnson who was running in 6th place at Lap 310. The 8th caution was out at Lap 391. In between the 7th and 8th yellow flags, we saw a long green-flag stretch and several drivers pitted at green.

At Lap 372, Denny Hamlin started having problems with his car. He got stalled at the frontstretch, which in turn forced the 8th caution. While the crew of the #11 team tried to fix Hamlin's car, the race restarted at Lap 400. Jimmie Johnson was bringing up the front by then. He got too close to Juan Pablo Montoya's #42 car. The two taps actually sent Montoya spinning in Turn 2 - bringing out the 9th yellow flag of the race. Lap 474 and we're back at yellow when Kevin Harvick's #29 car's engine just conked out.

With 10 laps to go, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards clashed in Turn 2 - and we're on the 11th yellow. The green flag was back at Lap 495 and Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Aric Almirola were the leaders on the restart. 

With 2 laps to go, Johnson sped past Kyle Busch to grab the checkered at Lap 500. This is Jimmie Johnson's 59th career win in his 396th race and his 7th at Martinsville Speedway. Also, the win is Johnson's first in the Chase and 4th of the season.

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Jimmie Johnson grabbed 1st Chase win at Martinsville
Of course, dramas were not to be discounted - as should be expected at a half-mile track like Martinsville. Dale Jr. finished 21st despite consistently running in the top 10 for the most part of the race. Casey Mears and Juan Pablo Montoya both got a few taps from race winner Johnson. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are, for sure, both frustrated at the outcome of the race. 

Now, I'm more than happy to see Jimmie in the victory lane once again - especially at one of the races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. I know a lot of Johnson haters out there are just seething at this win; saw the comments and some are rather ugly. Sometimes, I can't help but dislike those guys even though I don't know them personally. But, it's their opinion, I guess. As for me, no amount of mud-slinging could mar my happiness for his latest win and certainly none for my admiration for the guy.

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Crew Chief Chad Knaus and Team #48 Celebrates in Victory Lane
So, congratulations Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the rest of #48 Team! Let's go sweep Texas next! :D

Check out complete Martinsville results here and the current Chase standings here.

*Image Credits:
Jimmie Johnson Facebook Page

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