NASCAR »

Gordon back in victory lane as Kenseth ties with Johnson

Jeff Gordon recalled his glory days at Martinsville with his first win of the year, while Jimmie Johnson was unable to gain his usual advantage from the track in his title battle with Matt Kenseth.
Martinsville Speedway has always been Jimmie Johnson's ace in the hole when it's came to Chase campaigns in the past. If he's been in with chance of the title heading to the half mile "paperclip" short track, then it's been Martinsville that has allowed him to put his foot down and start to pull away to safety from the opposition. With eight career wins here - his most successful track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series - there's no place that Johnson feels more at home or is more confident at.

By contrast, Johnson's chief Chase rival in 2013, Matt Kenseth, has never won at Martinsville. In fact, he's managed only three top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 27 career starts at the venue, so the name of the game for Kenseth heading to the circuit on Sunday for the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered by Kroger was damage limitation and not let Johnson massively extend the lead he'd taken at Talladega a week before. Anything else would be gravy.

Both men were up at the front right from the start, with Johnson taking the lead away from pole winner Denny Hamlin on lap 2 before the first of what would prove to be a season-high 17 cautions totalling 111 laps (almost a quarter of the 500-lap race) run under yellow. The first caution was a particularly lengthy one for fluid clean up after Carl Edwards got into the back of Jeff Burton at turn 4 and spun the #31 around, also involving Dave Blaney, Travis Kvapil and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the aftermath.

The race resumed on lap 20 with Kyle Busch talking the lead from Johnson for a dozen laps before Kenseth took over for the first time on lap 37. Deciding he liked the view, he moved in the furniture and settled down for the first long spell in the lead, amassing a total of 74 laps out in front which raised eyebrows among spectators: had Kenseth finally mastered Martinsville?

The second caution came on lap 88, and once again Carl Edwards was in the thick of it - this time it was Kvapil sent spinning around by the #99. For the second time of the day, Edwards had his spotter relay his apologies as the field pitted for the first time.

Kenseth resumed in the lead ahead of the Hendrick Motorsports pair of Johnson and Gordon, the latter driver almost as successful at Martinsville in his time as Johnson, but not having found his way to victory lane here since 2005. Still, with such proven firepower arrayed against him, it was only a matter of time before Kenseth was forced to give way: it happened on lap 111 when Johnson made a move on the low side and picked up the position, Gordon following his team mate's lead a few minutes later. Those who'd thought that maybe this would be a breakthrough day for Kenseth settled back again in their seats: normal service had been restored.

Johnson's lead continued through a caution on lap 140 for David Reutimann spinning out Bobby Labonte and the ensuing pit stops, through to the next yellow on lap 166 for Kyle Larson's engine letting go and dropping more fluid on the track on the backstretch. Jeff Burton stayed off pit road this time and briefly led at the restart on lap 180, but he was soon displaced by Johnson taking back his rightful crown.

It's just as well he did it quickly, because the next caution came out just three laps later when a group of cars bunched up in turn 1 and tripped over each other: Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Martin Truex Jr. were among those caught up, with Kahne ending up stuck in the grass, Hamlin slewed sideways on the track and Truex with a new accordion design to the front of the #56.

Racing resumed on lap 192 and was under caution again on lap 205 for another multi-car accident, this time for Kurt Busch spinning after contact with Jamie McMurray that left the #78 ripe for getting rammed by Mark Martin in the #14. Kenseth took the lead soon after the restart and was back out in front when Kvapil spun in turn 4 on lap 218.




Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Sleep Innovations/Dow Chevrolet, and Dave Blaney, driver of the #7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Dodge, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2013 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Reutimann, driver of the #83 Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2013 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, and Mark Martin, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2013 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS captures the chequered flag Sunday, October 27, 2013 winning Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Gordon moved up to 3rd place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (HHP/Garry Eller for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 1st place Sunday, October 27, 2013 winning Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Gordon moved up to 3rd place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory Sunday, October 27, 2013 after winning Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Gordon moved up to 3rd place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Picture Credit: HHP/Rusty Jarrett for Chevrolet)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished ninth and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Great Stuff Chevrolet SS, finished 28th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and his team celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.




© 1999 - 2014 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.