Pole sitter Jimmie Johnson won the 64th Annual TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Johnson led the most laps during Sunday’s race, leading on 8 separate occasions for a total of 193 laps.
This is his fourth victory during the 2012 season as well as his seventh victory in 22 races at Martinsville Speedway. Going to Texas Motor Speedway, with three remaining races in the Chase, Johnson now leads the point standings by 2 points over Brad Keselowski, who finished sixth.
From the start of the race Johnson proved he had a superb car, trading the top position with his Hendrick Motorsports team mate Jeff Gordon for the first 150 laps of the race. Johnson said, “The middle portion when the sun was out, we seemed to lose our advantage a little bit, was more like a top-five car instead of a race-leading or winning car.” Johnson continued saying, “The weather conditions were changing, overcast, clouds came in, cooler temperatures. The balance on the racetrack changed a lot for me, and it came my way.”
Crew chief, for Johnson, Chad Knaus said, “We had to work really hard on our racecar today. I have to put a lot of compliments towards our pit crew because they did a really good job.” Knaus said they made significant changes and big adjustments to the racecar; they didn’t falter and kept the 48 teams track position.
Kyle Busch in the tricked out M&M’s Halloween Toyota raced hard finishing second 0.479 seconds behind Johnson. On the white flag lap Busch seemed to be on top of Johnson’s bumper going into one, as Johnson protected the bottom, Busch got loose and spun his tires.
“Jimmie did a good job,” Busch said, giving Johnson credit. “He’s a five-time champion, six-time champion, probably six, for a reason.” Busch continued, “He squirted away from me. No chance of getting back to him in three and four. He manipulated my car the way he needed to protect himself for the last corner down there in three and four.”
Johnson and most of the field pitted on lap 476, after Kevin Harvick blew an engine, as Keselowski and Earnhardt Jr. stayed on the track and led the field to the green, Earnhardt Jr. fell back within seconds, but a determined Keselowski struggled to keep to top spot until Johnson passed him, 5 laps after return to green flag conditions.
Johnson stated, “We’ve learned our lesson here in the past in not pitting late, we made the right decision there.”
Denny Hamlin, who has four victories at Martinsville, and was looked to as a favorite going into this weekend, suffered a calamitous blow as the #11 FedEx Express Toyota dealt with an electrical problem late in the race. After several sporadic power losses, the #11 of Hamlin’s stalled on the frontstretch, causing the eighth caution of the race, on lap 391.
A broken post on the master cutoff switch proved to be the problem, by the time his crew identified and fixed the problem, Hamlin was 34 laps down and finished in 33rd place. Hamlin dropped from third to fifth in the point standings, 49 points behind Johnson.
Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five positions. Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, Bobby Labonte, and Greg Biffle finished sixth through tenth.
With Johnson’s win today Chevrolet has clinched the Manufacturers’ Championship for this season, making it the 10th consecutive year with 699 victories.
With only 3 races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Champion, the next race is at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday November 4th, on ESPN at 2 pm.