Martinsville is one of those tracks that always seems to have the similar results both entering the weekend and exiting the weekend. Although this weekend there was a bit of a twist in all those plans.
Entering the weekend, there were three things that were guaranteed. The first, the cars to automatically watch were Hendrick Motorsports’ dynamic duo of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. They have consistently been dominant at this track, with a combined 14 wins between them, although Gordon’s last Martinsville win came in 2005.
The second was where the twist came in. Normally, it would be Denny Hamlin as the third favorite to win at this place. But, instead he was sitting on the pit box, in a back brace, watching another driver take the wheel of his own car. The collapsed vertebrate will keep Hamlin away from the driver’s seat until possibly Darlington next month. For this weekend, Mark Martin would be the one at the wheel of the No. 11 car.
Finally, the one thing that always stays the same no matter who’s the favorite to win the race, and that is Martinsville Speedway selling a huge load of their infamous hot dogs. Something about the combination of mustard and coleslaw just makes fans want even more. Although, I can say I’ve never had one of them, much less the 50 that one guy had in one sitting during one of the race weekends (I’m more of a Chicago-style hot dog type).
At the end of the race on Sunday, the dominant car was Johnson, leading the final 137 laps despite great pressure from Clint Bowyer and Gordon.
This certainly was appropriate since Hendrick Motorsports has a rich history at this track. It was the first track that Hendrick won at, the track that Hendrick debuted as a team owner, and unfortunately was also the site where he got the most devastating news of his life, when he found out many members of his family and team were killed in a place crash the morning of a race, including his young son.
It’s a shame that it will be months before NASCAR returns here. But, even though it is a guarantee that Johnson will again be the favorite at this track, he will also get to battle with Hamlin for this win.
That race, however, will be in the Chase. There is no question that if Hamlin isn’t able to win the championship, he can steal the thunder from those 12 Chase drivers and win at Martinsville. Mark my words on it.
RESULTS: 1-Johnson 2-Bowyer 3-Gordon 4-Kahne 5-Kyle Busch 6-Keselowski 7-McMurray 8-Ambrose 9-Biffle 10-Martin
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Patrick 13-Harvick 17-Stewart 24-Earnhardt Jr.
CAUTIONS: 12 for 85 laps. Lap 17-21 (#10 Spin-T4), 71-76 (#95 Stopped on track-FS), 173-179 (Debris-T4), 181-197 (#1, 9, 11, 15, 17, 22, 31, 55, 56, 88, 93 Accident-T4), 242-247 (#51, 83 Accident-T4), 256-260 (#99 Spin-T4), 281-286 (#56 Spin-T4), 294-298 (#38, 78 Accident-T4), 362-368 (#39 Stopped on track-BS), 450-458 (#55 Spin-T2), 467-472 (#10, 88 Accident-T4), 487-492 (#78 Accident-T1 [Red Flag: Lap 487, 6:21])
LEAD CHANGES: 12 among 5 drivers. Johnson POLE, Ambrose 1, Johnson 2-72, Kvapil 73, Johnson 74-90, Kyle Busch 91-102, Johnson 103-221, Kenseth 222-242, Johnson 243, Kenseth 244-264, Kyle busch 265-308, Kenseth 309-362, Johnson 363-500.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 38 Mins, 58 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 72.066 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.627 Seconds
POINTS: 1. Johnson, 231 points; 2. Keselowski, -6; 3. Earnhardt Jr, -12; 4. Kyle Busch, -28; 5. Kahne, -32; 6. Biffle, -32; 7. Edwards, -38; 8. Bowyer, -52; 9. Menard, -52; 10. Kenseth, -59; 11. Logano, -64; 12. Gordon, -69