Johnson Books Championship Ticket with Victory at Martinsville

by Tucker White On Sun, Oct. 30, 2016

Jimmie Johnson celebrates victory in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Photo: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jimmie Johnson will race for a seventh championship in three weeks time after taking the lead with less than 100 laps remaining and scoring the victory at NASCAR’s last track from its charter season.

Martin Truex Jr. led the field to the green flag at 1:18 p.m. Caution flew for the first time on lap 22 for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wheel-hopping going into Turn 3, spinning and rear-ending the wall in Turn 3, ending his day.

It went back to green on lap 28 and the caution flew again on lap 62 for David Ragan laying fluid on the track.

The race settled into more of a follow the leader routine after the lap 68 restart, with the lead changing between Kyle Larson and Truex, and Kyle Busch and Truex (113 and 114). Debris in Turn 4 brought out the third caution on lap 132.

Matt Kenseth and Truex swapped the lead back and forth on laps 152 and 153. Eventually, Kenseth took over the top spot on lap 183.

Denny Hamlin and Johnson were battling for second during the run and it climaxed with Hamlin bumping Johnson out of the way and making contact with Brad Keselowski in the process.

Debris on the backstretch, a torn banner according to NBC, brought out the fourth caution on lap 200.

After restarting on lap 207, the race settled into its longest run of 151 laps. It was so long that the fifth caution, for Carl Edwards hitting the wall in Turn 3, came out during a cycle of green-flag stops (a rare occurrence at Martinsville) with 142 laps to go.

Because it fell during a cycle of green-flag stops, it jumbled up the running order to the point that it caused a lengthy delay as race control sorted out the running order. The caution lasted a total of 29 laps.

The race restarted, eventually, for the final time with 114 to go with Hamlin in the lead. Johnson got alongside him with 92 to go and finally took control of the lead with 91 to go. Keselowski worked his way around the Joe Gibbs Racing trio of Hamlin, Kenseth and Busch, but he ran out of time and Johnson drove on to score the victory.

It’s his 79th career victory in 540 Sprint Cup Series starts, fourth of 2016 and ninth in 30 races at Martinsville Speedway.

Keselowski settled for second in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford. Hamlin, leading 45 laps, overcame a speeding penalty to round out the podium in his No. 11 JGR Toyota.

Kenseth led a race-high of 175 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish in his No. 20 JGR Toyota. Busch led three as he rounded out the top-five in his No. 18 JGR Toyota.

Jeff Gordon finished sixth, Truex – leading 147 laps – finished seventh, Jamie McMurray finished eighth, Logano finished ninth and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top-10.

Ten cars finished the race on the lead lap and 38 were running at the finish.

The race lasted three hours, 20 minutes and 55 seconds at an average speed of 78.540 mph. There were 15 lead changes among nine different drivers and five cautions for 54 laps.

Johnson leaves Martinsville with a five-point lead over Hamlin.

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