Jimmie Johnson gave Rick Hendrick an anniversary present at Martinsville Speedway - Hendrick Motorsports' 176th victory - 25 years after Geoff Bodine won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race for the organisation at the same track.

In fact, Sunday's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at the 0.526-mile short track was almost an embarrassment of riches for Hendrick, who placed four cars in the top eight - the Chevrolets of Johnson, Jeff Gordon (fourth), Mark Martin (seventh) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (eighth).

Consider also that Stewart-Haas Racing's two entries, owner/driver Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, were third and sixth, respectively. Hendrick supplies chassis and engines to Stewart-Haas, and Stewart's crew chief, Darian Grubb, moved from Hendrick to the new organisation to start the 2009 season.

"To rebuild an organisation with all new people, Darian Grubb and (director of competition) Bobby Hutchens have done a great job over there, and I think Tony's put a lot of sweat equity into it," Hendrick said. "I think he's surprised a lot of people. I haven't been surprised, because I know the dedication in what they've tried to do.

"I think the job they've done is pretty phenomenal, with the success the Stewart-Haas crowd has had so far."

Stewart was watching, waiting

For his part, Stewart watched closely as Johnson and second-place finisher Denny Hamlin battled for the lead, with Johnson diving underneath Hamlin in turn three on Lap 485 to claim the top spot. Contact between the cars forced them up the racetrack.

Stewart, running third, was ready to take advantage of a spin, but Johnson and Hamlin righted their cars and kept going.

"I was thinking about four laps before it happened down there in (Turns) 3 and 4 that, if they had a problem, that we were right there in the catbird seat," Stewart said. "And I was just too far back when they had their problem."

Stewart remained seventh in the points standings, while Newman picked up nine positions to 18th.
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



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