The drive for seven is back on—although it was never really off.
Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson won Sunday’s Goody’s 500 from Martinsville Speedway after leading 92 of the 500 laps. The win, his ninth at the 0.526-mile track and fourth of the season, propels him and his No. 48 Lowe’s team into the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he will be eligible for the title. If he wins it, he will tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most all-time.
“I’ll probably lie to all of you guys and say I’m not going to think about it at all,” Johnson told NBCSN in victory lane. “But it’s inevitable. Fortunately, I don’t have to think about it for three weeks. But we’re going to enjoy this and savor it.”
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Johnson on the way earning another grandfather clock, the trophy that is awarded to the winner at NASCAR’s oldest track. On lap 208, he restarted 25th after making contact with Denny Hamlin while racing inside the top five. The crew buffed out the fenders, made some small repairs and the No. 48 was good to go.
But then, on lap 358, Johnson stalled on the backstretch. His car was out of fuel. But the veteran didn’t panic, cycled his switches and was able to get enough fuel out of his reserves to last for another few laps before hitting pit road for service.
Non-Chaser Brad Keselowski finished in second, with Hamlin coming home third. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five, with the No. 20 leading the most laps all afternoon long (176). The other JGR car of Carl Edwards finished 36th (23 laps down) after cutting a tire while running third on lap 358.
Jeff Gordon came home sixth in his final scheduled NASCAR start, Martin Truex Jr. was seventh, with Jamie McMurray crossing the finish line in eighth, Joey Logano in ninth and AJ Allmendinger in 10th (his third straight top ten).
The two Stewart-Haas Racing Chasers of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch struggled pretty much all day. Harvick finished 20th, two laps down and Busch finished in 22nd, three laps down. The other SHR cars of Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart finished 24th and 26th, respectively, showing the organization’s lack of speed and handling all afternoon long.
The race also experienced a 29-lap caution period after Edwards’ incident scrambled the lineup into oblivion. NASCAR spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to sort out the mess that occurred when the caution came out in the midst of green flag pit stops. Drivers, fans and crew chiefs alike were angered at the situation. Because of the amount of confusion and the fact that the red flag was not displayed, almost 30 laps were essentially wasted.
The Chase Grid has Logano (-4), Harvick (-16), Kurt Busch (-18) and Edwards (-36) as the bottom four with Johnson (already clinched), Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch currently occupying the top four transfer spots.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the Lone Star State and Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500. Who’s the defending winner of that race and has won four of the last six races at TMS? You guessed it: Jimmie Johnson.