Virginia’s Denny Hamlin Loves Martinsville

HAMMOND, IN: Home state hero Denny Hamlin held off Nextel Cup favorite Jimmie Johnson to score a popular victory at NASCAR’s oldest active track; the 1/2 mile paper clip known as Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

In a green-white-checker finish that extended the race distance one extra lap, Hamlin’s Toyota got to the flag ahead of Jimmie Johnson, as John Andretti’s crash brought out the yellow on the last lap. Juan Pablo Montoya was third, followed by Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. Johnson added 28 points to his Cup advantage over Mark Martin.

In spite of losing to Hamlin Sunday, it seems that nothing can de-rail Jimmie Johnson’s drive for his unprecedented fourth straight Cup title. Even though Johnson qualified outside the top 10 at Martinsville, it took a mear 60 laps for the #48 to assume the lead in the Tums Fast Relief 500. It’s been a long time since a race team as achieved the kind of invincibility that the Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus-Rick Hendrick combination is currently enjoying. Not since the days of Fred Lorenzen/Holman-Moody and Richard Petty/Lee Petty has a NASCAR team had the ability to consistently win at any and all venues on the schedule.

If the #48 teams manages to get out of Talladega next Sunday with another solid finish, the ball game would have to be considered over. To be able to witness the domination that the #48 team displays in NASCAR today is amazing, awe-inspiring and, unfortunately, a bit boring. Even with the nearly identical cars that NASCAR currently requires, the Johnson/Kanus group has found a way to distance itself from the field.


The Chase standings, with Martinsville finish in parenthesis:
Johnson; Martin (eighth), -118 points; Gordon, -150; Tony Stewart (ninth), -192; Montoya, -200; Kurt Busch (17th), -240; Ryan Newman (seventh), -312; Greg Biffle (25th), -350; Hamlin, -352; Carl Edwards (20th), -413; Kasey Kahne (32d), -439; Brian Vickers (11th), -530.

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