Johnson wins Martinsville

Jimmie Johnson took the lead for the final time on lap 439 to earn the first short track win of his career on the 0.75-mile Martinsville Speedway. The Henderick Motorsports' driver took his second consecutive win in the 'Chase for the Championship' and his sixth win of the season.

Jimmie Johnson.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Johnson led twice for 67 laps taking the lead for the final time on lap 439. He managed to steer the No. 48 Chevrolet clear of trouble as the races final laps were filled with bumps and bangs, taking the the 12th win of his career and sixth this season.

Jamie McMurray grabbed his first top-five finish at Martinsville with a second place result.

"We used pit strategy," said McMurray. "Seems like we use it now every weekend, it was hard to pass."

Polesitter Ryan Newman finished third racking up his 13th top-10 result of 2004. Newman knocked teammate Rusty Wallace as the race winded down, sending Wallace to 10th place.

"I don't guess Rusty and I are on speaking terms right now," Newman said. "I know I was underneath him, and I know he came down on me. I wasn't going to give him anything, so he got loose and lost a bunch of spots. Then he came up and hit me after the race. Our car was faster than his at the end. I'm not sure if he's aware of that, but he will be."

Sterling Marlin recorded his 13th top-10 finish in 37 races at Martinsville, with his fourth place effort.

"It was fun running up front today with the Coors Light Dodge," said Marlin. "Tony Glover and the guys did a great job in the pits with all the calls, and I did all I could to bring it home in one piece.

"We were really good when we were running out front today."

Busch led a race high 120 laps before his car setup began to fall off relegating him to fifth overall.

"It was a superb day," Busch said. "With the way we tested and put things together, we just implemented to aggressive of a setup. We didn't know the concrete was gonna be this harsh on tires and then it filled in as we went, so we had a great setup for the beginning part of the race, it was just too aggressive for the later part and we got boxed in."

The race started on time despite ominous skies and a frequent drizzle that peppered the track all morning. The rain stopped almost on queue, as they fired up the engines at 1:00 pm. Ryan Newman led the field to the green flag but with just two laps on the board, Joe Nemechek spun in turn two brining out the day's first yellow.

The early caution was a harbinger of things to come, as they were plentiful. Lap 14 saw Brendan Gaughan, Sterling Marlin and Jeremy Mayfield get together to cause the second yellow that brought the leaders to pit road, pole sitter Ryan Newman lost his lead during the service stop sending Rusty Wallace into the lead of the race.

Wallace gave up the lead after a round of stops at lap 42 when several cars chose not to pit after the second caution. That put Terry Labonte at the front of the pack; he led seven laps, before Kasey Kahne powered the No. 9 Dodge around the No. 5 Chevy for the lead.

Things settled down for awhile, until Ricky Rudd spun on lap 64. He recovered and the caution did not come out, but a lap later Robby Gordon spun in virtually the same spot after making contact with Kyle Petty.

Gordon and Rudd just couldn't stay out of each other's way. On lap 76, Gordon spun in turn four after a tap from Rudd.

Tony Stewart grabbed the lead briefly, but a lap 105 incident between Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and Jimmy Spencer sent Sterling Marlin to the lead after the leaders pitted and the No. 40 Dodge elected to stay out. Marlin led until lap 131, when point leader Kurt Busch maneuvered around him for the top spot.

As the cautions continued to fly, Busch managed to maintain the lead until lap 250 when the No. 29 Chevy of Kevin Harvick passed the No. 97 Ford. Harvick paced the grid until lap 355 when he came out second to Jimmie Johnson after a series of pit stops.

Johnson, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon swapped the lead during a series of cautions and service stops until lap 417 when Marlin once again emerged the leader through pit strategy. Marlin could not fight off the hard-charging Chevy of Johnson, who once again grabbed the lead at lap 439.

The race was filled with the bumping and banging action that Martinsville is famous for. As the race drew to a close, teammate Ryan Newman bumped Rusty Wallace out of the way, washing him up the race track as Wallace was attempting a charge on Johnson.

"I told him (12) to stay out of my way, that I could win the race," said Wallace. "But he didn't do it."

In the end, Johnson survived unscathed and unchallenged to garner the win.

Kurt Busch continues his reign atop series standings. Jeff Gordon (-96), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-125), Jimmie Johnson (-207), Mark Martin (-224), Tony Stewart (-246), Elliott Sadler (-255), Matt Kenseth (-260), Ryan Newman (- 266), and Jeremy Mayfield (-364) complete the top ten.

There were 17 cautions for 125 laps, and 22 lead changes among 10 drivers.

At the end of the race, an announcement from NASCAR that the victory lane celebration and all post-race events were canceled came as a surprise to the racing community. It was later learned that the victory by Johnson would be a bittersweet one due to the loss of family and team members of the Henderick family and their organization. Hendrick Motorsports' plane crash takes lives.