Jimmie Johnson runs away with Martinsville win, advancing to championship race


Jimmie Johnson led the final 92 laps of the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 to capture his ninth career win at Martinsville Speedway, his 79th career win, and clinched one of the four spots in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Johnson took the lead on Lap 409 from Denny Hamlin and wasn’t challenged afterward.

The No. 48 was followed by Brad Keselowski, Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano and AJ Allmendinger.

“Anything you want in life you have to work for it,” Johnson told NBCSN. “It isn’t going to come easy and we knew that coming into this race and there’s so many challenges at this racetrack.”

Johnson’s victory, his fourth of the year, came after he accidently shut off his car during the final caution period, which lasted 29 laps amid confusion over the restart order after the caution came out during green-flag stops.

“This is the right time to start winning races.,” said Johnson, who last won at Martinsville in 2013. “I’ve been trying to ignore this conversation about seven (championships), and now I can’t. We’re locked in.”

This is the first time that Johnson, who has six Sprint Cup titles, has advanced to the championship race in the elimination format.

Johnson’s win ensures that Joe Gibbs Racing won’t put all four of its cars in the Chase championship in Miami.

MORE: Point standings

MORE: Race results

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Jeff Gordon finished sixth in likely his last Sprint Cup start. Gordon earned top 10s in his last two starts at Martinsville and Dover … Brad Keselowski earned his first top five in five races … Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. led 147 laps before finishing seventh … Kyle Busch earned his fourth top five in the last six races … AJ Allmendinger finished 10th for his third straight top 10 and his eighth of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Carl Edwards brought out a caution during green flag stops on Lap 356 after losing a tire and hitting the Turn 1 wall. Edwards finished 36th … NASCAR timing and scoring had a bad day at the office. The Edwards caution came during green-flag stops and confusion over the restart order and free passes caused the caution  to last 29 laps … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished last after wrecking on his own in Turn 3 on Lap 21 … Stewart-Haas Racing had an uncommon race with all four of its cars finishing off the lead lap. Kevin Harvick was the team’s highest finisher in 20th, two laps down.

NOTABLE: Gray Gaulding finished 39th, 140 laps down in his first Sprint Cup start … Hendrick Motorsports’ 24 wins at Martinsville is the all-time record for an organization at one track.

Quote of the Day: “We worked so good together we gave the win to the 48 today. That’s how good JGR is.” – Kyle Busch after Joe Gibbs Racing placed three of its cars in the top five.

Next: AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway at 2 p.m. ET on Nov. 6 on NBC.

Martinsville Truck race postponed to Sunday after Cup race

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The Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck race at Martinsville has been postponed until Sunday afternoon, following the Cup race.

Ben Rhodes led the field to green 2:05 p.m. and held the lead until Mike Senica stalled on the track. Rhodes led the first 23 laps until precipitation red flagged the event at 2:17.

The Truck race will be televised on FS1.

Martin Truex Jr. sweeps Martinsville Cup practice

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After posting the fastest single lap and quickest 10-lap average in the first practice, Martin Truex. Jr. also topped the fastest lap chart in final practice for the STP 500 with a speed of 95.415 mph.

Also repeating his performance from the first practice, Brad Keselowski was second on the leaderboard. Keselowski was fast on long runs with the quickest 10-lap average of 94.579 mph.

Sophomore Daniel Suarez was notably fast. His lap of 95.588 mph was third on the chart.

Kyle Busch (95.122) and Ryan Newman (94.756) rounded out the top five.

Jimmie Johnson (93.831) was hoping to carry over momentum from last week’s top 1o at Auto Club, but struggled to find single lap speed. He landed 28th on the speed chart.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wheel hopped entering turn three with 33 minutes remaining. He rolled out a backup car and will start at the back regardless of where he qualifies.

Click here for the full final practice times.

History looms for the Wood Brothers

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Glen Wood first came to Martinsville, Virgina in November 1953, making the short 30-minute drive from Stuart for his NASCAR debut in a family owned car. Nearly 65 years later, the famed Woods Brothers are still racing the iconic No. 21 on the half-mile bullring.

The torch has since been passed to Glen’s sons, but the history remains.

“Our dad came here and raced,” Eddie Wood said in a press release before the STP 500. “He raced here in the fifties and it’s just a special, special place and knowing that the Ford Fusions ran really well last year here that gives you a lot of confidence. I’m sure it gives Paul (Menard) a lot of confidence, but it’s just a special, special place.”

Last fall, Ryan Blaney returned the 21 to the top 10 on the team’s home track for the first time in 12 years. He finished eighth in the First Data 400. This year, Blaney turned the car over to Menard and as the series comes to Martinsville for the first of two races this year, the legacy continues.

“The pressure is all what you make of it,” Menard said. “I know a couple things – I’ve got a great team behind me. We’re gonna have a fast Ford and we’re gonna have a lot of fans cheering on the 21 car, so you can think about that every waking second you’re up here, or you can go to work and do your business. It’s obviously an honor to drive this car and to be a part of the Wood family driving the 21 at Martinsville, and I’m really gonna think about that when I put my firesuit on, but once you get the helmet on it’s all business.”

The gravity of protecting the Wood Brothers’ legend at Martinsville is increased by the fact that this week marks NASCAR’s first short track race of the season and a return to its grassroots. It is easy to feel the history of racing on this little track nestled in rural Virginia—not only for the iconic team, but the entire field.

“It’s getting back to grassroots,” Menard said. “Over half the guys, probably more than that, started racing at short tracks with late models somewhere. We were running 25 laps back then versus 500 now, but the stage racing is kind of like a couple of heat races before the A Main, so you try to get your points when you can and be smart about things when you can and let it rip when you can.”

“You can race here year after year, race after race and there’s no way anybody can mess this race up,” Eddie Wood said. “This is just always a great race because it’s tight and it’s grassroots, it’s NASCAR roots.”

The STP 500 is not just another race for the Wood Brothers. On a track that puts a premium on mechanical grip and driver ability, as opposed to flat out horsepower, Menard has greater control over his fate. That is both good and bad news, because a milestone has been within reach for the past 27 races –  the team’s 100th win.

“It would be huge,” Menard said of the 100th win. “I’ll take it anywhere. We started at Daytona and didn’t get it there, and we’ll keep working until we get it. Martinsville would be a huge one for us, obviously, and if we do that, we’ll have another one for the museum down the road.”

Ben Rhodes grabs Martinsville Truck pole

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Ben Rhodes laid down a lap of 95.942 mph in the final round of qualification for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck series at Martinsville to win his third career pole.

Teammate Matt Crafton will line up beside him on the outside of the front row with a lap of 95.704 mph.

Grant Enfinger qualified third to give ThorSports a clean sweep of the top spots.

Round two: Kyle Benjamin was fastest 95.830 mph. With time running off the clock, Myatt Snider (94.984) bumped Harrison Burton (94.770) out of the top 12.

Round one: Todd Gilliland topped the chart with a speed of 95.213 mph. He will have to drop to the back to start the race because of an engine change, so he did not attempt to post a time in the second round.

Click here for the race lineup.

Weather permitting, the green flag will wave over the field at 2 p.m.