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Martinsville recap: Hendrick trio in top 10, remain top three in Chase

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 25,2009)—Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon scored top-10 finishes in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Martinsville Speedway and still are ranked 1-2-3 in the championship standings.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, rallied from his 15th starting spot on Sunday to lead 164 laps and finish second. The runner-up finish marked Johnson’s 12th top-five result in 16 Cup starts at the track. The three-time defending Cup champion now owns a 118-point lead in the standings.

“I just lacked a little bit of forward bite,” Johnson said. “We had it turning, which is hard to make it do here. It was just a little too much. Denny (Hamlin, race winner) had the best car there on that last run, and maybe the two runs before that he had the best. I knew at the end of the race that No. 11 car was going to be there and was going to be strong. Congratulations to him. It was a great day for us. I wish we could have won, but second, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Gordon, who remains third in the standings, led three times for 36 laps and finished fifth after starting second in his No. 24 DuPont/NATIONALGUARD.com Chevrolet.

“Our car was just really good on the long runs,” Gordon said. “So on the long runs we could pass guys fairly easily, but on the short runs, which is fairly common, it just seemed like we struggled more than normal. Plus with the double-file restarts you’ve got a lot of good cars up front, not single file, double file, and just the aerodynamics affect even a short track. But I think our car just really wasn’t quite tuned up for the shorter runs. It was much better on the longer runs, and we had the long run that we needed and drove all the way up there and then had the caution that we really didn’t need.”

Martin started fourth in his No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet and finished eighth in the 500-lap event. Martin remains second in the standings.

“I’m proud of the team and what we did,” Martin said. “We spun the tires all day and weren’t able to fix it. We fought hard, and we gave it everything we had and that’s all we could muster today. I’m really proud. You know—eighth- and seventh-place finishes—it doesn’t look like that’s going to be enough to go out here and win this championship, but there’s still some racing left and a lot of things can change at Talladega (Ala.).”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, started 12th and climbed as high as seventh before a blown tire delayed his progress. Earnhardt and his team continued to work with the No. 88 Chevy and climb through the field despite blowing two more tires throughout the race. Earnhardt, who posted lap times that rivaled those in the top 10, held on to finish 29th.

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