Johnson, Gordon and Earnhardt finish in top seven at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon contended fiercely for the lead, but crossed the finish line second and third, respectively behind Tony Stewart during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Martinsville Speedway. Johnson and Gordon were joined in the top 10 by teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished seventh. Mark Martin finished the day in 28th-place.
The trio of top-10s at Martinsville gives Hendrick Motorsports 100 total at the short track. This is more top-10s than any other team has at any other track in the Cup Series.
The day started with the caution flag waving on Lap 7 when Earnhardt collected Gordon in an incident involving Kurt Busch, damaging the front right side of Gordon’s No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. Adjustments were made by crew chief Alan Gustafson on pit road that helped Gordon remain a race contender. After dodging several more instances in the field, Gordon worked his way to lead on Lap 235.
Gordon battled to stay at the front of the pack all day and led 113 laps, pushing his laps led total 3,094 at the historic racetrack. The 15th caution of the day came out with 73 laps to go and Gordon and Johnson lined up second and third, respectively with 68 laps to go on the restart.
After navigating lapped traffic Johnson pushed to the lead with 60 laps to go. The final caution was brought out on Lap 493. The driver of the No. 48 myLowes Chevrolet kept the lead, with Gordon and Earnhardt lined up fourth and seventh behind him, respectively. The field went to green with three laps to go and a hard-fighting No. 48 team battling for the lead. Johnson finished the day second behind Tony Stewart and moved to sixth in the driver standings. Gordon maintained his 10th-place Cup ranking.
“We had a great race car all day long,” Johnson said. “Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made a great call. I thought it was going to bite us, staying out like we did; and with all the cautions that gave us an opportunity to win the race. And Tony (Stewart) hung-on tough on the outside there and I just couldn’t bring myself to leaning on him and moving him out of the way with where he is in the points. I just kind of raced him clean and then he got around on the outside and got in front of us.”
Earnhardt’s day was filled with some contact with his competitors, but he remained unscathed. The driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Paint the 88/National Guard Chevrolet came back from his earlier incident to break into the top 10 on Lap 207. Earnhardt worked his way up to his seventh place finish and remains ranked ninth in the driver standings.
Martin rolled off the grid in 19th and struggled for track position at the paper clip oval. Thanks to pit strategy, the driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet rallied from being two laps down to run in the top 10, but was collected in a late race incident and was sent to the garage for repairs by the team. He finished 28th and now ranks 20th in the driver standings.