Martinsville, Va., — It was a familiar scene in Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway with the No. 48 and Jimmie Johnson celebrating a victory.
Johnson started from the pole and drove to victory lane with little resistance and takes the Chase for the Sprint Cup points lead away from Brad Keselowski, who started 32nd and finished sixth. Johnson is now just two points ahead of Keselowski as the Chase will head west to Texas.
Johnson and the No. 48 team executed flawlessly on the track, and on pit road.
“Today was a tough day,” Johnson said. “There were a variety of cars that had control over the race at different points.”
Johnson said the middle of the race when the sun was out the balance went away, but as the laps ticked away and the clouds rolled back in causing the temperature to drop the car came back to life. Johnson added that you can’t count out good race teams—including the No. 2 and Keselowski.
“It doesn’t matter what sport it is, teams step up and show what they’re made of and we’ve seen a lot of teams do it in this Chase,” said Johnson. “Our team came out on top today and a few more races of doing that and we should be in good shape.”
Kyle Busch was in good shape to challenge Johnson for the checkers, but there just were not enough laps.
“Really, really disappointing for us today,” said Busch. “It was a good run. It’s all we had.”
Third place finisher Kasey Kahne had his best finish in some time at the short track and said they were “right there.”
“I think my window to race in is really small at this track,” said Kahne. “I make it hard for Kenny Francis (crew chief) and those guys.”
“The first round I’ll be loose and then the next round I’ll be tight, it’s just so hard to find that fine line,” Kahne added. “We got third and that’s my best run in a long time here and it felt pretty good all day.”
Aric Almirola was excited to get the iconic No. 43 back in the top-five with a fourth place finish. Almirola said the car was terrible as the green flag dropped, but adjustments in the pits paired with a strategy call gave them the position they needed for a solid finish.
“Todd Parrot (crew chief) and all these guys on this team got us fixed up at the end of the race,” said Almirola. “We made every change we could possibly make to get our car better.”
“It was a great rebound from last week at Kansas,” Almirola added.
Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Keselowski rallied to finish sixth, Jeff Gordon was seventh, Brian Vickers was eighth, and Bobby Labonte was ninth. Greg Biffle rounded out the top-10.
Johnson also jumped to the top of the Sprint Cup points standings, but is only two points ahead of Brad Keselowski. Bowyer is 26 back in third, and Kahne is 29 back in fourth. Hamlin drops to fifth (-49), Gordon is sixth (-54), and Martin Truex, Jr., is seventh 63 points behind the leader. Matt Kenseth is eighth (-66), Biffle in ninth (-69), Tony Stewart is 10th (-71), and Kevin Harvick is 11th (-88). Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is 12th 140 points back.
Other news from the Tums Fast Relief 500
Hamlin was one of the fastest cars on track and even drove back from two pit road speeding penalties, but electrical issues (with the master switch) ended Hamlin’s day early with 100 laps remaining. Hamlin was able to return to the track, but finished a disappointing 33rd.
“When these things happen you just have to suck it up and move on because there is nothing I can do about it,” said Hamlin. “One of these days it will be our time, it’s just not right now.”
With the win by Johnson Chevrolet has clinched the brand’s 10th consecutive manufactuerer’s title. Chevrolet drivers who have contributed are: Jimmie Johnson (four wins); Tony Stewart (three wins); Kasey Kahne (two wins); Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (one win); Jeff Gordon (one win); Ryan Newman (one win); Kevin Harvick; Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray.
“I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to our teams, drivers and technical partners on winning the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturers’ Championship for Chevrolet for the 36th time,” said Alba Colon, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. “The spirit of cooperation among all of our teams is extraordinary, and has allowed us to give them the right tools to be competitors on the track, as well as partners for the benefit of Chevrolet. To achieve this accomplishment 10 consecutive years is a remarkable feat with the level of competition in the Sprint Cup Series.”