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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, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 21st position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Newman is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, won the pole position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the front row. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, climbs into his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, speaks during a press conference prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 8, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/ Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finished in 11th place Sunday, November 9, 2014 in the final Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Newman advances to the Championship 4 finale next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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