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Johnson leads chase after Martinsville win

Travis Kvapil's spin in turn 2 brought out the third caution on lap 128. Gordon, Busch and Martin Truex Jr. opted to stay out under the yellow and duly led the field at the restart ahead of Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin, while Johnson had dropped back to 11th place after deciding to come in.

Gordon once again surged away, but this time he had competition - from Brian Vickers, who surged into second place and then set his sights on the leader. He slid under Gordon into turn 1 for the lead bringing Hamlin through with him at the same time for the ride, just before a new caution was out for a solo spin by Kyle Busch in turn 4. The #18 didn't make any contact with anything or anyone, but Busch was dumped to the back of the lead lap in 28th place as a result of the misdemeanour.

Vickers cleared Hamlin to keep the lead at the restart, but was ousted by Hamlin on lap 165 who was in turn usurped by Johnson who decided that he wanted his lead back now, thank you very much, and who duly reclaimed it on lap 171 with Clint Bowyer following through into second. Bowyer decided to give the #48 a little 'excuse me' bump to allow him to take the lead on lap 182, and checking up caused Johnson to lose second place to Hamlin shortly afterwards.

A fifth caution came out on lap 199 when Marcos Ambrose spun in turn 2; the pit stops put Johnson and Gordon back on the front row for the restart, but the shock of the race so far was Hamlin getting done a second time for speeding on pit lane and getting demoted to the back of the lead lap - 28th place - all over again.

After a brief additional caution for a second spin by Ambrose, the race resumed and Clint Bowyer soon passed both Johnson and Gordon for the lead just before a new caution came out for a spin by Kurt Busch in the Furniture Row Racing #78 in turn 4 on lap 228, with a little help from Kevin Harvick - although Busch admitted that he'd hardly had a stellar car all afternoon.

"The spin was obviously a major blow to us today," he said. "But we also had a vibration in the Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet for the majority of the race and that affected the car's handling."

After that rather broken patch of caution-hit running, the race restarted on lap 235 and went for a whopping 158 green flag laps without further interruption. Bowyer established himself as the dominant leader over Jeff Gordon for the first two thirds of that distance, despite a dicey moment when he made contact with Tony Stewart's #14 car as he put the reigning Sprint Cup champion a lap down on lap 301.

Gordon started to fade as the time for green flag pit stops approached. He'd already lost second after being passed by the likes of Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers before he came on to pit road on lap 335. Bowyer didn't come in until lap 351, but when he did the car stalled and he lost valuable seconds as he was push-started by the crew.

Vickers briefly inherited the lead before his own pit stop on lap 365, and then it was Kasey Kahne who pushed to the front for the first time on lap 366, although his time at the top only lasted a dozen laps before Bowyer arrived having recovered from his pit lane setback and ready to take back his rightful place at the head of the field with little drama.

In fact the drama was happening elsewhere on the track: Denny Hamlin, having already overcome two speeding penalties to stay in contention, was now facing hi last stand of the day. The car's electrics started going haywire on him on lap 372 with the gauges flashing all sorts of things that they were never meant to do. He tried switching over to the backup battery, which momentarily did the track and allowed him to get back up to speed, only for the issue to reassert itself seconds later and the car start to cut out. As driver and crew tried to work out what was wrong and how to fix it, the car died for good on lap 391 triggering the eighth caution of the day.




Related Pictures

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Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, is involved in an incident as Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, passes during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 28, 2012 in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, races to the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 28, 2012 in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 28, 2012 in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
David Ragan, driver of the #34 Taco Bell Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, are seen on the track after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, loses control of the car after making contact with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS qualified for third position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates setting the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, speaks at a press conference following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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