MARTINSVILLE, Va. — It was all Jimmie Johnson Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion led a career-best 347 of the 500 laps to win the STP Gas Booster 500 for his eighth victory at the .525-mile oval.
Johnson never ran lower than fourth and beat Clint Bowyer by .626 seconds for his 62nd career Sprint Cup victory after having won his first pole of the season.
“It was a long hard fought day,” said Johnson, who picked up his second victory of the season in the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. “Martinsville stays the same over the years. You just have to dig in and get into a rhythm. You have to drive your own race and see what is going to happen. Fortunately, we didn’t have any craziness with two tires vs. four tires at the end of the race and we feel like the fastest car won the race. It was just a hard race. This race track is tough to get around, but we have a great notebook.
“Life is good, two wins this year.”
Bowyer was involved in several skirmishes early in the race, but drove his battered and bruised Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota back to second at the finish.
“She was just torn up too bad,” said Bowyer. “We were lucky enough to get back up to where we finished. All and all it was a good day.”
Jeff Gordon came on strong late in the event and finished third in a second Hendrick Chevrolet.
“We didn’t need those cautions at the end,” said Gordon, whose No. 24 was better on long green-flag runs. “I made a mistake that got us way behind on pit lane and boy, these guys made some great pit stops and some great adjustments…We just needed more laps there at the end.”
Kasey Kahne came home fourth in another Hendrick Chevrolet, with Kyle Busch (Toyota) nipping Brad Keselowski (Ford) for fifth.
The victory moved Johnson into the point lead by six points over defending champion Keselowski after six of the 36 races.
“Having never been to Martinsville, I didn’t know what to expect,” Patrick said. “I knew it was going to be a little bit crazy…It was a nice day for us. It was nice to have a good weekend.”
Driving a damaged Toyota, Brian Vickers twice made contact with Patrick while racing for position, including the last lap as he battled with Patrick and Kevin Harvick. After the checkered flag, Harvick deliberately sent Vickers spinning to show his displeasure with Vickers’ rough driving.