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Hamlin staves off Johnson at Martinsville

Denny Hamlin triumphs on 'home' soil in the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway - but Sprint Cup Chase leader Jimmie Johnson is arguably the biggest winner in finishing a close second...
Denny Hamlin may have won the Virginia campaign in triumphing at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, but Jimmie Johnson moved ever-closer to a record fourth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championship crown with a runner-up finish at the 0.526-mile short track.

In a green-white-chequered-flag finish that ended under caution with John Andretti wrecked at the finish line, Hamlin pulled away from Johnson over the final two laps of the Tums Fast Relief 500. As the cars roared off Turn 4 on lap 501 – one lap beyond the scheduled distance – NASCAR simultaneously displayed the yellow-and-chequered flags when Andretti was unable to drive away.

Juan-Pablo Montoya was third, followed by Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. Jamie McMurray, pole-sitter Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick completed the top ten.

Hamlin, who passed Johnson for the lead on lap 363 and held it the rest of the way, collected his second victory at the narrow, paper clip-shaped track and the seventh of his career. In winning his third race of the season, the Virginia native completed a sweep of the fall races at the two race tracks in his home state, having scored an emotional triumph at Richmond on 12 September.

“We were really good on the long runs, but I was kind of worried about that short run at the end,” confessed Hamlin, who is ninth in the standings at 352 points behind Johnson. “We were able to survive it, thank God. I hate to say it was a little bit of a lack of a motor, but it seemed like our car just would not accelerate like those guys' did. By doing that, it saved the rear tyres, and it was able to stay a little bit longer. I think that had a little bit to do with why we were so good at length (long runs).

“Jimmie obviously gave us a lot of respect there towards the end. He knew that we had a faster car and tried to protect his points lead. It was a good situation we were in. We were kind of racing for nothing, and he's obviously racing for a championship and, honestly, it was a great run at the end.”

Having won five of the previous six races at Martinsville – a streak interrupted only by a Hamlin victory in the spring of 2008 – Johnson found solace in his runner-up finish. He increased his lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings to 118 points over second-placed Martin. Gordon is third, 150 off the lead.

Johnson said he was concerned with having to line up in the outside lane – in second position – for re-starts on laps 489 and 500.

“Starting from the outside lane, there was so much to lose,” the Californian explained. “I was really nervous about getting to the bottom (the preferred line) and protecting the position I was in. All-in-all, a good day. I wish we could have won, but we just didn't have anything for the 11 (Hamlin) on that last run.”

Johnson, however, said it was still too early in the Chase to think about protecting a points lead.

“We all know what the answers are,” he underlined. “It's the same stuff over and over again. The mechanicals, the stuff we can't control is the stuff I'm worried about. The stuff we can control, I feel we're going to be great.

“[There are] four good tracks coming up for us. If we have no issues, I feel that we can race for this championship, and things will turn out as we want. The stuff I can't control, I know it gives everybody something to talk about, but I'm tired of talking about all the what-ifs – and I'd just rather not.”

by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service



Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia [pic credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 United States Air Force Ford, walks through the garage area prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/NASCARA via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, lead a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, climbs from his car after being involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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A large incident occurs in turn three during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 United States Air Force Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 after the race was called for weather at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 United States Air Force Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 after the race was called for weather at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 United States Air Force Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 after the race was called for weather at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Hellmann`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Hellmann`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dakoda Armstrong, driver of the #43 Fresh from Florida Ford, and Trevor Bayne, driver of the #6 AdvoCare Ford, lead the field to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Hellmann`s Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane with Jared Fogle of Subway after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brendan Gaughan, driver of the #62 South Point Chevrolet, spins out during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #98 Carroll Shelby Engine Ford, and Elliott Sadler, driver of the #11 SportClips Toyota, spin out during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Gilliland, driver of the #38 Love`s Travel Stops Ford, poses with Ms. Coors Light, Rachel Rupert, after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS, qualified fifth Friday, July 4, 2014 for Saturday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Johnson is 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Bobby Labonte, driver of the #33 Thunder Coal Chevrolet SS, qualified fourth Friday, July 4, 2014 for Saturday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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