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.