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Sunday, 30 October 2016 21:55

Johnson Wins at Martinsville, Clinches Championship Spot

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Johnson Wins at Martinsville, Clinches Championship Spot Robert Laberge (Getty Images)

With his victory, Jimmie Johnson is now in position to join Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven championships.

Jimmie Johnson won the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 from Martinsville Speedway on Sunday to lock himself into the Championship Round of the Chase.

Johnson led 92 laps on his way to his ninth-career victory at Martinsville.  On the final restart, Johnson had to race Denny Hamlin for the lead, who is one of the best when it comes to racing at Martinsville.  Once Johnson got around Hamlin, he pulled away over the final 30 laps.

Johnson said the way the race played out suited his car’s setup.

“Coming into this race, there are so many challenges at this track,” Johnson said.  “Having those long runs really suit my style and my car.”

Johnson will now head to Homestead-Miami Speedway in three weeks to fight for his record-tying seventh Championship.  If Johnson is the top-finishing Chase driver at Homestead, he will tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers to win seven championships.  Johnson said he was trying not to think about that scenario for as long as he could.

“I’ve been trying to ignore this conversation about seven, but now I can’t,” Johnson said.  “Probably going to lie…and say I’m not going to think about it at all, but it’s inevitable.”

“We’re going to enjoy this and savor this, and try to get our ducks in a row for Homestead.”

Hamlin finished third after racing Johnson hard after the final restart.  Martinsville is Hamlin’s best track, and he said a change they made under the final caution cost them a chance at the win.

“We thought we were going to come back out under green flag conditions, and we made an adjustment for that and it was just not good,” Hamlin said.  “A race-winning car at times, but definitely not at the end.”

Hamlin raced hard with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch over the final run, which allowed Johnson and Brad Keselowski to pull away. Hamlin said they will have to fight for every position in the next few weeks.

“Well, you try to do everything you can to hold them off, but you’ve got to be realistic too,” Hamlin said. 

Busch was less optimistic following the race, and said he was frustrated with the way his teammates raced.

“We work so good together we gave the 48 [of Johnson] a win,” Busch said.

Unofficial results:

1. Jimmie Johnson

2. Brad Keselowski

3. Denny Hamlin

4. Matt Kenseth

5. Kyle Busch

6. Jeff Gordon

7. Martin Truex Jr.

8. Jamie McMurray

9. Joey Logano

10. AJ Allmendinger

11. Kasey Kahne

12. Chase Elliott

13. Greg Biffle

14. Kyle Larson

15. Aric Almirola

16. Ryan Newman

17. Austin Dillon

18. Michael McDowell

19. Ryan Blaney

20. Kevin Harvick

21. Casey Mears

22. Kurt Busch

23. Trevor Bayne

24. Danica Patrick

25. Paul Menard

26. Tony Stewart

27. Chris Buescher

28. Clint Bowyer

29. Landon Cassill

30. Regan Smith

31. Dylan Lupton

32. Matt DiBenedetto

33. Jeffrey Earnhardt

34. Brian Scott

35. Michael Annett

36. Carl Edwards

37. David Ragan

38. Reed Sorenson

39. Gray Gaulding

40. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Bryan Nicodemus

My name is Bryan Nicodemus.  I'm from Pittsburgh, PA, and I am currently a sophomore at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.  I am majoring in Public Relations, and I hope to work in NASCAR someday.  Follow me on Twitter: @mmarkaholic55