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Denny Hamlin wins race, but Jimmie Johnson builds his Chase lead with four races to go

Denny Hamlin moves from 11th to ninth in the Chase standings after winning the Tums 500 at Martinsville, Va.

Associated Press

Denny Hamlin moves from 11th to ninth in the Chase standings after winning the Tums 500 at Martinsville, Va.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Denny Hamlin didn't need to do anything funny to exact his revenge from Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville Speedway. He just drove right by him.

Then he pulled away with ease on three restarts over the final 52 laps of Sunday's Tums 500, ending the three-time defending series champion's run of five trips to Victory Lane in the previous six races at the shortest circuit in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series.

Hamlin used out-of-sequence pit stops after about 160 laps to move to the front, then held on until the entire leaderboard headed in about 20 laps later.

"Once we got that track position, our car just kind of took off," he said.

The finish shaped up as another possible drama involving Hamlin and Johnson, who nudged Hamlin aside with 15 laps to go at Martinsville in the spring. But with NASCAR having implemented double-file restarts since then, there was no trouble.

"The only difference was it was double-file restarts vs. single file, and you actually feel a little bit better with him right beside you than behind you," said Hamlin, 28, who was born in Brandon.

He led the last 138 laps after passing Johnson and pulled away after a restart with 52 laps to go, another with 12 left and finally a two-lap sprint to the end.

Johnson said he wished he had the car to reprise his bump-and-run pass of the spring.

"If I had a chance to pass him and to get to his bumper and work him over, I would have," he said. "But I wasn't going to come in with the second-place car and take a cheap shot and pass him that way."

Instead, he protected his position and his points lead.

Seeking his record fourth consecutive series title, Johnson extended his lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin from 90 to 118 with four races left. Jeff Gordon, also of Hendrick, is still third but saw his deficit grow from 135 to 150.

"I would have liked to have been hooked up better, but we couldn't get it," said Martin, who finished eighth.

Juan Montoya, who was third Sunday and fifth in points, had several tire-sized black doughnuts on the side of his car, courtesy of Gordon. Montoya said he has grown tired of Gordon crowding him in turns.

"He wasn't giving me any (space), so I played the same game," Montoya said. "Right at the end we ran together, and he gave me some room and I gave him some room. … Sometimes you've got to set a precedent so people back off a little."

Sprint Cup points

With four races to go, only these drivers are eligible in the Chase for the Championship:

Driver PointsBack

Jimmie Johnson 6,098—

Mark Martin 5,980 118

Jeff Gordon 5,948 150

Tony Stewart 5,906 192

Juan Montoya 5,898 200

Kurt Busch 5,858 240

Ryan Newman 5,786 312

Greg Biffle 5,748 350

Denny Hamlin 5,746 352

Carl Edwards 5,685 413

Kasey Kahne 5,659 439

Brian Vickers 5,568 530

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official standings today

Up next

Amp Energy 500, noon Sunday, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway TV: Ch. 28

FAST FACTS

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 73.633 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 34 minutes, 44 seconds

Margin of victory: under caution

Caution flags: 15 for 77 laps

Lead changes: 21 among 12 drivers

Lap leaders: Newman 1-21; Gordon 22-46; Andretti 47; Gilliland 48; Gordon 49-58; Johnson 59-89; Newman 90; Johnson 91-130; Newman 131; Johnson 132-140; Montoya 141-177; Gordon 178; Burton 179-182; Hamlin 183-201; Ky.Busch 202-205; Hamlin 206-253; Biffle 254-259; Johnson 260-301; Martin 302; Reutimann 303-320; Johnson 321-362; Hamlin 363-501

Denny Hamlin wins race, but Jimmie Johnson builds his Chase lead with four races to go 10/25/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 25, 2009 9:55pm]
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