Saturday, January 20, 2018

Johnson wins No. 8 at Martinsville in NASCAR

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jimmie Johnson dominated Martinsville Speedway again.

Johnson led a career-best 346 laps and pulled away on a restart with eight laps to go to take the STP Gas Booster 500 on Sunday.

"It was just a long, fought day," Johnson said. "Martinsville, it stays the same over the years. You just have to dig in and get your own rhythm. Fortunately, the fastest car won the race."

Johnson has won eight times at the 0.526-mile track, the shortest in the Sprint Cup series. That's fewer than only Richard Petty's 15 and Darrell Waltrip's 11.

It made Hendrick Motorsports the winningest team in Martinsville history with 20, breaking a tie with the Petty organization.

The win also put Johnson atop the point standings, six ahead of Brad Keselowski. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who started the day atop the standings, finished 24th to fall to third, 12 behind Johnson.

Johnson picked the inside line for the final restart with Clint Bowyer on the outside, Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon behind him and Kyle Busch to his outside. And Johnson got a clean break for the lead into Turn 1.

Bowyer slid into second. Busch, who tried to make a move on the outside line, instead got hung up out there as Gordon and his Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne, who restarted fifth, went underneath to take fourth.

Nothing changed the rest of the way.

"I think the last stop or two, we really got our car adjusted right," Johnson said.

Gordon, who has seven wins at Martinsville, said he knew it would be a tough day when Johnson won the pole for the second race in a row at the track because of the pit road advantage.

"You give him that No. 1 pit stall here at Martinsville, it's almost impossible," Gordon said.

Though Johnson dominated, there were times it looked as if the race might go in another direction. Matt Kenseth, who has struggled at Martinsville throughout his career, passed Johnson and led 96 laps.

Mark Martin, driving for the injured Denny Hamlin and equally disdainful of the track, moved into fourth after taking just two tires on a pit stop. But he faded quickly. Martin, mindful of Hamlin's four career victories at Martinsville, finished 10th.

"I did not fill Denny Hamlin's shoes," he said. "I can tell you that much."

Danica Patrick, whose boss, Tony Stewart, said last week that he thought it would be funny to watch her try to navigate her way around the track, got passed by his rookie driver with 19 laps to go. Patrick finished 12th, five spots ahead of Stewart.

That was despite an early spin that put her a lap down, a long green-flag run that put her another lap down and some bumping and banging that caused her to send Earnhardt spinning into the wall.

"I felt a little funny racing really hard for position there with Tony at the end," Patrick said. "And then to get in front of him, that was a little victory for me because he's so good.

"I'm going to go over to his bus after this and see what he has to say about it."

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Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

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