Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Monday, March 30, 2009

Johnson pushes past Hamlin, wins Goody's 500

Jimmie Johnson pushed his way past Denny Hamlin with 15 laps to go Sunday en route to winning the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Hamlin, who led a race-high 296 laps, finished second, while Tony Stewart finished third.

Polesitter Jeff Gordon came in fourth, while Clint Bowyer finished fifth.

Heading into Turn 3, Johnson was on the inside of Hamlin. Hamlin came down the track, and in trying to avoid contact, Johnson's car hit the yellow curb. That shot Johnson back up the track and into Hamlin's left rear. Hamlin got caught in the marbles, leaving Johnson to motor by for the lead and leaving the driver of the No. 11 to hold on for second.

One would think Hamlin would be angry, feeling like a victim unfairly robbed of his shot at victory. Rather, Hamlin was smiling, content to call it a simple racing incident and admitting that had the tables been turned, he would've likely done the same.

"I had to nudge a lot of guys to get around them at points during the race," he said. "So it's hard for me to fault [Johnson] for what he did. With 20 to go, that's part of racing. It really is. It's short track racing at its best."

If the maturity surprises you, you're not alone. Hamlin, along with just about every driver Joe Gibbs has employed not named Bobby Labonte or Dale Jarrett, has had maturity issues, but if the sentiment on Sunday was genuine (and frankly, I'm not convinced), Hamlin may just be turning the corner.

Hell, Johnson was more upset over the incident, and he wound up in Victory Lane.

You think Kyle Busch would let such an incident slide? No ... we'd probably see an episode eimilar to the one at the end of last weekend's Nationwide race at Bristol or Monday's Camping World Truck Series event at Martinsville.

Either that or he'd haul off and go after the guy.

Johnson's win came on the 25th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports' first Cup Series win, which also came at Martinsville courtesy of Geoff Bodine in 1984. A pre-race ceremony marked the occasion, with Bodine and the car he ran sitting on the front stretch. It was a nice moment commemorating a historic moment for one of NASCAR's most successful teams.

Johnson's win was also his fifth in the last six races at Martinsville -- Hamlin the lone exception in this race one year ago -- and Johnson now has six checkered flags at the .526-mile oval in his career. Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins at Martinsville.

Gordon holds an 89-point lead over Bowyer as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Despite not having won in the last 47 races and fading from the lead on Sunday, Gordon is already leaps and bounds over where he was last year -- which is important when one considers Texas isn't one of Gordon's best tracks.

In fact, it's one of only two tracks on which Gordon has never won. Homestead-Miami is the other.

Could Gordon break that pattern this weekend? Possibly, but he'll have to fight off a host of other drivers -- including Carl Edwards, who won both races there last season -- to do it.

All I know is ... even though we're done with the short tracks until Richmond at the beginning of May, the fireworks are just starting.

Pictures from Martinsville coming in the next post, either today or tomorrow.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500
1. Jimmie Johnson*
2. Denny Hamlin**
3. Tony Stewart
4. Jeff Gordon*
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Ryan Newman
7. Mark Martin
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9. A.J. Allmendinger
10. Jamie McMurray
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Juan Pablo Montoya
13. Michael Waltrip
14. Marcos Ambrose
15. Jeff Burton
16. Bobby Labonte*
17. Reed Sorenson
18. Kurt Busch
19. Kasey Kahne
20. David Reutimann
21. Casey Mears
22. David Stremme
23. Matt Kenseth
24. Kyle Busch
25. Paul Menard
26. Carl Edwards
27. David Ragan
28. Greg Biffle
29. Martin Truex Jr.
30. Scott Riggs
31. Elliott Sadler
32. Joey Logano
33. Brian Vickers
34. Sam Hornish Jr.
35. John Andretti
36. David Gilliland
37. Aric Almirola
38. Jeremy Mayfield*
39. Scott Speed*
40. Robby Gordon
41. Joe Nemechek
42. Dave Blaney
43. Todd Bodine

* led a lap (5 bonus points)
** led most laps (5 more bonus points)

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