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Johnson leads chase after Martinsville win

Celebrating in victory lane, Johnson suggested that the weather - and the remorseless approach of Hurricane Sandy that was on everyone's radar - might have played a role in deciding the outcome of the battle between himself and Bowyer.

"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," he said. "From there the weather conditions were changing, as all of you know.

"Overcast, clouds came in, cooler temperatures. The balance on the race track changed a lot for me, and it came my way. Maybe it hurt the #15," he speculated. "It really helped my race car - it was nice to have Mother Nature lend me a hand there at the end and play into what my car needed."

"So close, yet so far away it seems like here at Martinsville time and time again," said second-place man Busch, who said he's tried everything he could to dislodge Johnson from the lead in that final run to the finish.

"Jimmie did a good job - he's a five-time champion for a reason," said Busch afterwards. "I was getting into one, and got to his rear bumper. I didn't want to move him out of the way. He slowed the corner down, protected the bottom. When I went back to the gas, I spun my tyres and got loose, he squirted away from me. No chance of getting back to him in three and four."

Kasey Kahne came home in third ahead of Richard Petty Motorports' Aric Almirola who equalled his best Cup finish with fourth place, thanks to a late two-tyre call by his crew chief Todd Parrott popping him up the running order when it was most needed.

"Todd Parrott made a gutsy call there ... I was really surprised at how fast it went on two tyres," said Almirola. "We were horrible at the beginning of this race and I mean horrible. I don't know how we didn't go several laps down, but we fought hard all day. We fought for every position. We made all kinds of adjustments on this Ford Fusion all day."

Clint Bowyer's late surge to try and reclaim the lead ended in contact with Jeff Gordon with two laps to go: "The #24 at the end, I mean, I didn't want to!" he said after the end of the race.

"I was door-to-door with him and he just turned left to block me and I was already there," he explained. "I hit the brakes and wheel-hopped, I hit him so hard and tried to stay off of him. It was a bad deal right there. You can see I was there and he just kept turning left on me and I was like, 'Hey, you better not do that.' It is what it is."

"Pretty typical Martinsville with Clint Bowyer and the #24 car here it's not the first time," was Gordon's response. "I like Clint a lot we race really hard together and we were just racing hard right there.




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