From 2009-2011, the Chase race at Martinsville had shown to be a good determinator of who the champion would be at the end of the year, as in the driver that had won this race the previous three years had gone on to win the title.
At the same time, this race is also emotional for one particular team in the sport, as it also a reminder of a great loss.
In 2004, the day of the Chase race at Martinsville, a Hendrick Motorsports plane crashed on its way to the speedway. On board were Hendrick crewman, engineers, and family members. Most notable, Ricky Hendrick, the young son of owner Rick, who had already retired as a driver and became a car owner in the second-tier series. His driver, Brian Vickers, one year earlier won the then-Busch Series title in his car.
That weekend, all 10 individuals on the plane lost their lives. The emotional feeling among the teams was for a moment relieved when Jimmie Johnson went to victory lane that afternoon. But, it was still overshadowed.
Every year since, this race is a reminder of it, and it’s hurtful because Hendrick himself knows the kind of individual that his son was, and was becoming. His future was bright, and had all the makings of being a great car owner in the sport. But suddenly, in an instant, it was gone, snatched away before he could experience what NASCAR still had in store for him.
Sunday, Johnson would go to victory lane for the seventh time at the “Paper Clip,” and now has just a slight lead over his closest competitor, Brad Keselowski. With three races to go, it could be the omen of the future.
That’s not to say he’s going to get on a roll like Stewart did last year, winning three of the last four Chase races, but considering that Johnson seems to figure things out in the Chase better than any other driver, it is obvious he wants his sixth title very bad.
If he wins it, he won’t be called “Five-Time” any more. Instead, he’ll officially have the “Six-Pack” of titles.
RESULTS: 1-Johnson 2-Kyle Busch 3-Kahne 4-Almirola 5-Bowyer 6-Keselowski 7-Gordon 8-Vickers 9-Labonte 10-Biffle
NOTABLE FINISHES: 14-Kenseth 21-Earnhardt Jr. 23-Truex Jr. 27-Stewart 32-Harvick 33-Hamlin
CAUTIONS: 11 for 64 laps. Laps 46-51 (#30 accident-T1), 98-103 (#38 accident-T3), 129-136 (#93 spin-T2), 151-155 (#18 spin-T4), 200-204 (#9 spin-T2), 213-218 (#9, 93 accident-T2), 230-234 (#78 spin-T4), 393-399 (#11 stopped on track), 440-445 (#48, 42, 83, 14 accident-T2), 476-481 (Oil on track), 492-495 (#88, 99 accident-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 22 among 9 drivers. Johnson 1-47, Kvapil 48, Johnson 49-67, Gordon 68-98, Johnson 99-106, Gordon 107-146, Vickers 147-164, Hamlin 165-170, Johnson 171-182, Bowyer 183-200, Johnson 201-204, Gordon 205-225, Bowyer 226-234, Johnson 235-237, Bowyer 238-349, Hamlin 350-355,Vickers 356-364, Kenseth 365, Kahne 366-377, Bowyer 378-392, Johnson 393-477, Keselowski 478-485, Johnson 486-500.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 23 Mins, 9 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 77.677 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.479 Seconds
2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup: 1. Johnson, 2291 points; 2. Keselowski, -2; 3. Bowyer, -26; 4. Kahne, -29; 5. Hamlin, -49; 6. Gordon, -54; 7. Truex Jr, -63; 8. Kenseth, -65; 9. Biffle, -69; 10. Stewart, -71; 11. Harvick, -88; 12. Earnhardt Jr, -140.