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Martinsville recap: Gordon third, Johnson ninth

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 29, 2010)—Jeff Gordon scored his second third-place finish of the season on Monday at Martinsville Speedway, but that was a disappointment for the NASCAR veteran who appeared poised to win the Sprint Cup Series event.

Gordon, who led 92 laps in Monday’s rescheduled event, was rolling along toward his first win of the season and eighth overall at the .526-mile speedway when the caution flag was waved with two laps to go for a spin on the backstretch.  Gordon lined up on the inside lane next to Matt Kenseth and quickly took the lead when the green flag waved. Kenseth worked his way to the inside of Gordon and opened a hole for Denny Hamlin, who was running on the freshest tires of the group. Kenseth couldn’t maintain his footing in front of Gordon, and Hamlin slipped by to take the lead for good.

“It was unfortunate because we had a good car, and we lost some track position in the outside lane on some of those restarts,” said Gordon, who now ranks seventh in the driver standings. “That was unfortunate for us but Steve Letarte (crew chief) made a great call for us by staying out there, and we were just a hundred feet away from getting that white flag. We would be sitting in Victory Lane right now, but I am glad we are fighting as hard as we are and ended up third.”

“I hope the fans enjoyed that show, and we appreciate them coming here on a Monday and we wanted to make sure they got a good show……especially sticking around like that. “

Jimmie Johnson wheeled his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish, catapulting him to the first position in the driver point standings for the first time in the 2010 Cup season. He leads Greg Biffle by 14 points. Johnson’s top-10 finish at Martinsville is his fifth of the season and 13th in 18 Cup starts at the speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line behind Johnson, scoring 15th in his No. 88 AMP Energy Sugar Free Lightning Chevrolet. Earnhardt now ranks 10th in the driver standings.

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, led the race twice for 25 laps and was in the sixth position when a cut tire forced him to pit with 20 laps remaining in the event. A miscue during the pit stop was costly for the No. 5 team, and Martin battled back through the field. He finished 21st.