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Johnson's win marred by plane crash tragedy.

By Andrew Charman

Jimmie Johnson's late season revival continued with a second win in two weeks at Martinsville, but his joy was short-lived when he learnt of a plane crash that claimed the lives of 10 members of the Hendrick Motorsport team including Ricky Hendrick, son of team owner Rick.

Martinsville proved a frustrating race in which the pace car led the most laps, 125 of the 500 run under yellow flags. But the result left Kurt Busch looking increasingly like this year's Nextel Cup champion, taking fifth on a day when all his closest contenders struggled.

The repaved surface at the paperclip-shaped half-mile Martinsville Speedway saw Ryan Newman set a record 97mph lap in qualifying, and the #12 ALLTEL Dodge led the first lap of 500 around a track where the cautions were expected often. The yellow duly flew at the end of lap one as Joe Nemechek's #1 US Army Chevrolet was pitched into a spin, everyone bouncing off each other around him.

Back to green on lap 8, Newman headed team-mate Rusty Wallace in the #2 Miller Lite Dodge and 41 others strung out in a line around three-quarters of the track. Wallace, winner of the April Martinsville race, was clearly quick, and as Newman moved wide the Miller Dodge gladly assumed the lead. Ward Burton's #0 Netzero Highspeed Chevrolet followed through, while coming fast were the leading two chase contenders, Dale Earnhardt Jr's #8 Budweiser Chevrolet heading Kurt Busch in the #97 Irwin Ford. Initially keeping them company was the impressively quick #06 Mobil 1/Jasper Engines Dodge of Travis Kvapil, who Penske Racing had only put in the car on Tuesday for his first Nextel Cup start following rapid pace in testing.

The yellow flew again on lap 16 as Brendan Gaughan spun and Sterling Marlin's #40 Coors Light Dodge hit the #77 Kodak version. At the green on lap 23 Wallace headed Burton and Newman, and within 10 laps both Earnhardt and Busch had demoted the #12 car. Meanwhile the third of the title contenders, Jeff Gordon, was struggling in 17th, unhappy with the handling of his #24 Dupont Chevrolet.

Ricky Rudd brought out the third yellow on lap 40, the #21 Motorcraft Ford spinning out of eighth after being tagged by Jeff Green's #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge. All but five cars headed for pit road, and Wallace lost out, coming out behind six other cars led by Ward Burton.

Non-pitter Terry Labonte's #5 Kelloggs Chevrolet that led the field back to green, only to be taken by Kasey Kahne, his #9 UAW/Dodge Dealers having led a lot of laps this year but still to win. Further back Earnhardt found himself on the outside with no way to get back to the low groove, dropping to 11th. Back in the pack, Rudd spun again without sparking a caution, but when Robby Gordon's #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet did the same a lap later the yellow flew and Kahne and Marlin both pitted.

Labonte stayed out to head the lap 72 restart only for Rudd to tap Robby Gordon into another spin bringing out the caution again. Still Labonte refused to pit while at the green on lap 84, Tony Stewart's #20 Home Depot Chevrolet was quickly inside Busch for second, and within five laps took Labonte for the lead, forcing the Kelloggs Chevy wide and Busch and Newman taking advantage.

The yellow flew again on lap 106, as Matt Kenseth spun Dale Jarrett and Bobby Hamilton Jr's #32 Tide Chevrolet had nowhere to go, hitting the #88 UPS Ford in the side. Busch emerged quickest from pit road ahead of Stewart, Wallace and Earnhardt, but all lined up behind non-pitters Marlin, Jamie McMurray's #42 Havoline Dodge and Brian Vickers in the #25 GMAC Chevrolet.



Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 2004 Siemens 300
Fifth place at Martinsville edged Kurt Busch closer to his first title (Photo: Autostock/Ford Motor Co).
Martinsville`s new surface was faster and led to many cautions (Photo: Autostock/Ford Motor Co).
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Damage to the winshield of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Spring is Calling Chevrolet, is repaired on pit road during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, poses in Victory Lane with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Gray Gaulding, driver of the #20 Gemini Southern / Krispy Kreme Chevrolet, is involved in an on track incident with Brandon Jones, driver of the #33 EXIDE Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 Toyota No. 1 For Everyone Sales Event Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, races Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, is hit by Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, as he pulls into his pit box during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS races to a third-place finish Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Racing Chevrolet SS won the race and Jimmie Johnson driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished second. (Photo by HHP/Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Racing Chevrolet SS gets the chequered flag as he crosses the finish line Sunday, March 30, 2014, winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Chevrolet finished first, second and third in the race. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

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