1. Tony Stewart: Stewart salvaged a solid seventh-place finish at Martinsville after a wild finish scrambled the finishing order and gave Stewart’s teammate Ryan Newman the win. Stewart moved up one place into a tie for third in the Sprint Cup point standings, and trails Greg Biffle by 12.
“Some people would say Ryan ‘bullied’ his way to the win,” Stewart said. “Those people would all share the last name ‘Logano.’
“I guess you could say Ryan stole the win. He took the win right out from under the noses of Hendrick Motorsports. As a result of Ryan’s win, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson should visit Outback Steakhouse, Ryan’s sponsor, and get a free Bloomin’ Onion. Let me reiterate: it’s free, so they won’t have to steal it.”
2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr: Earnhardt made a risky move to pit during a caution with three laps to go, but the move paid off after a disastrous restart for Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. When the dust settled, Ryan Newman had stolen the win, and Earnhardt had a third, his third top-5 finish of the year.
“Hendrick cars were running 1-2-3 with two laps to go,” Earnhardt said. “Hendrick’s 200th victory was so close, we could smell it. Oddly enough, it smelled like a Bloomin’ Onion from Outback Steakhouse.
3. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth posted his third top-5 finish of the year with a fourth in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville. He is now tied for third in the point standings, 12 behind Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle.
“Recklessness caused pure chaos at Martinsville,” Kenseth said, “which led to an amazing finish. What’s more amazing? The fact that I used ‘recklessness,’ ‘chaos,’ and ‘Martinsville’ in a sentence, and didn’t mention Brian Vickers.”
4. Greg Biffle: Biffle maintained the Sprint Cup points lead with a 13th-place finish at Martinsville, one lap down. He holds a six-point lead over the hard-charging Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who finished third.
“David Reutimann was clearly driving the ‘Car Of Tomorrow,’” Biffle said, “because at that rate of speed, it would have been Monday before he completed 500 laps.”
5. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson’s epic duel with Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon was interrupted two laps from the end by the stalled No. 10 car of David Reutimann, which forced the race’s penultimate caution. On the ensuing restart, Johnson and Gordon spun after Clint Bowyer’s dive to the bottom, assisted by a bump from Ryan Newman, caused short-track chaos. Johnson limped home with a 12th-place finish.
“Newman got lucky,” Johnson said, “and I can live with that. As my five Sprint Cup titles can attest, I’d rather be good than lucky. But give Newman credit. For someone with no neck, he sure did stick his out.”
6. Kevin Harvick: Harvick started second on the grid at Martinsville and led 21 early laps before his day went sour. He finished 19th, two laps down, and tumbled one spot in the point standings into a tie for third.
“We totally missed the setup on the No. 29 ‘Budweiser Is Back’ Chevrolet,” Harvick said. “As a result, my pit crew sent me out on the track with half-hearted encouragement, saying ‘This Dud’s For You.’ I can’t thank them enough, so I won’t thank them at all.”
7. Martin Truex, Jr.: Truex posted his fourth top-10 finish of the year with a fifth in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. He jumped two places in the point standings into a tie for third, 12 behind Greg Biffle.
“Between David Reutimann, Clint Bowyer, and Ryan Newman,” Truex said, “it was an April fools day to remember. Apparently, Auto Club Speedway wasn’t the only appearance the Three Stooges made.”
8. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer’s dash to the inside on a late restart, helped by a bump from Ryan Newman, initiated a crash that wiped out Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon from contention. Bowyer spun as well in the melee, but recovered to finish 10th, and now sits ninth in the point standings, 34 out of first.
“I had fresh tires,” Bowyer said, “so I knew I could get a good jump on Gordon and Johnson on the restart. I had ‘grip;’ they had ‘gripes.’ But don’t blame me. I was trying to win. David Reutimann? I’m not sure what he was doing? I don’t know why he chose to park on the track. My guess? It’s Martinsville, and that was the only spot available.”
9. Jeff Gordon: Looking for a win to boost a lackluster season, Gordon saw a near-victory ripped from his grasp after a caution for David Reutimann’s stalled car led to the restart that wrecked Gordon. Gordon took the lead after stalking Jimmie Johnson for 50 laps, and was poised to give Hendrick Motorsports its 200th win.
“Obviously,” Gordon said, “Reutimann has a mistaken idea of ‘start and park.’ He was, quite literally, out for a Sunday drive.
“I understand Reutimann was trying to score as many points as possible to keep that No. 10 car in the top 35, so Danica Patrick can run her allotted races. Heck, why not just let Patrick race at Martinsville. That way, we know any caution caused by the No. 10 would have been a legitimate one.”
10. Ryan Newman: Newman plowed his way to the front on a restart with two laps to go, leaving the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson in his wake. Newman held off A.J. Allmendinger on the final green-white-checkered finish to secure his first win of the season, and Stewart-Haas Racing’s third.
“Hopefully,” Newman said, “I haven’t burned any bridges with the Hendrick camp. After all, they do provide us with engines. So, I don’t mind them giving me horsepower, but I do mind them giving me grief. Joke of the day: How is Stewart Haas Racing different from Hendrick Motorsports? Stewart Haas can win with Hendrick engines.”