2009-04-02 / Sports

Johnson Muscles To Martinsville Win

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Jimmie Johnson Jimmie Johnson MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jimmie Johnson won the Goody's 500 Sunday at Martinsville on the 25th anniversary of team owner, Rick Hendrick's first Cup victory. It was also Johnson's fifth Martinsville win in the last six races.

"We didn't have the best car at the start, but we opted to lose track position to work on the car," said Johnson. "We tried several things that didn't work. As the day went on Chad (crew chief Chad Knaus) kept adjusting tire pressure until he got it right."

Fans were treated to beating, banging, fender-rubbing, pushing and shoving. All together, the action on the track produced one of the year's best and most exciting races.

Johnson stayed in the top five, but had not led a lap until a caution came out on lap 429. Johnson's team gave him a super fast pit stop under a caution, and he was out of the pits ahead of the leader, Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin, who led the most laps (296), regained the lead from Johnson on a restart on lap 456.

Johnson remained on Hamlin's tail and dogged him for 23 more laps. Finally, Johnson was able to set Hamlin up in order to make a pass. Going into turn four on lap 479, Johnson gave Hamlin's rear bumper ever so slight of a tap, causing him to push up. Johnson was then able to drive his No. 48 under Hamlin's No. 11.

Hamlin tried to come down and close the door, but it was too late. By the time he gathered up his car, Johnson was way out front.

"I had a little bit better car than Denny on the long runs," said Johnson. "I was patient. I set him up, set him up, and then got inside him. He tried to put the squeeze on me, but I was up on the curb sliding, and we got together. He did a heck of a job of saving it.

"I thought I was going around too, but fortunately, we had enough distance between us that we both could save it."

Johnson moved from ninth to fourth in points.

Hamlin was the defending Martinsville winner, but all he could do for the last 17 laps was look at Johnson's rear bumper grow smaller with each lap.

"It was a great battle," said Hamlin. "I'm honored to be on the same racetrack with guys like Jimmie," said Hamlin. "That was just short track racing. I would have done the same to him, and if it comes back around I will do the same.

"That's the way it is at Martinsville. I was trying to protect the spot and he was trying to get it. That's the way it goes."

Third-place finisher Tony Stewart had his best finish of the season with his new team, Stewart Haas Racing.

"We were right there when Denny and Jimmie were having their problems," said Stewart. "We were ready. I'm just proud of this team, they all did a great job today."

Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, finished sixth.

Points leader Jeff Gordon finished fourth, followed by Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., A. J. Allmendinger and Jamie Mc- Murray.

The four Hendrick teams finished first, fourth, seventh and eighth.

Jamie McMurray's 10th place was the best of any Roush Fenway team.

Top-12 Chase leaders after 6 of 36: 1. J. Gordon-959, 2. Bowyer- 870, 3. Ku. Busch-827, 4. Johnson 817, 5. Hamlin-811, 6. Ky. Busch-800, 7. Stewart-798, 8. Edwards 750, 9. Kahne-745, 10. Harvick 714, 11. Reutimann-710, 12. Kenseth-704

Is NASCAR going to the ducks

I'm surprised that all 43 Cup drivers are able to show up on Sunday to race.

It's the way they work. They are so busy. I don't see how they get to the track on time.

Almost every time I try to talk with one, he has to make a commercial and is running late.

It seems like every big name driver is more and more into the business of television.

As their driver status increases, so does their television time. I don't mean as in racing on TV, but as in acting and in commercials.

Look at Dale Earnhardt Jr. He's NASCAR's chief commercial maker. In addition to owning a production company, he can be seen on TV peddling everything from jeans to car insurance.

Maybe his racing would improve if he spent more time in the shop and less in front of TV cameras.

Michael Waltrip isn't far behind Junior. In addition to all his Domino's, Aaron's and NAPA commercials, I just received a press release that he will be appearing on the "My Name is Earl" show.

Drivers are busy doing commercials, because they choose to be. A driver does have certain responsibilities to make appearances for their sponsors, but most are constantly trying to create new opportunities that will bring them in more money. Most even have agents with contacts to Hollywood producers.

I know of one driver that spends an hour each weekday morning on the phone with his stockbroker. He gets free phone time from one of his sponsors.

Just a few days ago, my wife was watching her favorite soap opera, "General Hospital." She called my attention to the TV. One of the actors on the program was Jeff Burton. He was strutting his stuff, right along with the other soap characters.

Maybe Jeff needed the money. He only made about $5 million in 2008. That puts him way below Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt who each brought in more than $20 million.

The one I worry about the most is Carl Edwards. This country boy from Missouri is also getting his share of air time. One commercial shows him using eye drops. I know his eyes are red and tired after a race, so that commercial makes sense.

But the commercial that really bothers me is the one about the duck. Carl said three different ducks were used in the making of one of his commercials. In one scene, the duck is driving the car around the track with a pretty girl.

Have these ducks really learned to drive? The way the scientific and medical world is going, I wonder. Wouldn't it be something if these three ducks devised a plan to overpower Carl one Sunday and take over his driving duties?

It really scares me that NASCAR might allow ducks to drive.

Next week: What is Truth

Weekend racing: The Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams are at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Texas. The Camping Series Trucks are off until April 25.

Sat., Apr. 4, Nationwide Series O'Reilly 300, race 5 of 35; starting time: 3 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sun., Apr. 5, Sprint Cup Samsung 500, race 7 of 36; starting time: 2 p.m. (EDT); TV: FOX.

Racing trivia question: Where is the Sprint All-Star race held each year?

Last week's question: Which Cup team does Greg Biffle drive for? Answer. The No.16 Roush Fenway Ford.

Contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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