April 8, 2013 in Sports

Johnson dominates start to finish

Leads career-best 346 laps at Martinsville track
Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Jimmie Johnson performs a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

No matter the changes to the car, the tires, or the weather, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway is Jimmie Johnson’s kind of place.

Johnson led a career-best 346 laps Sunday and pulled away on a restart with eight laps to go for his eighth career victory on the shortest track in the Sprint Cup Series, taking over third place on the career victories list on NASCAR’s oldest track.

The only drivers ahead of him? Hall of famers Richard Petty with 15 wins, and Darrell Waltrip with 11.

“Probably the most calm, relaxed thought-out weekend that we’ve ever had as the 48 (team),” Johnson said.

From the time he rolled his car onto the track for the first practice Friday until the final restart, Johnson had a dominant car, and knew it. And with his track record here, even when things seemed to take a bad turn, he and his team trusted history.

“We stuck to our game plan and knew what we wanted to have in the race and stayed patient, and it was tough to do at times, but it certainly worked out well,” the five-time series champion said. “And in the race, we had to adjust on the fly.”

No team does it better at Martinsville, and while Johnson said the final caution came at an inopportune time because he’d built a big lead over Clint Bowyer, he also realized it may have saved him from having to fight off teammate Jeff Gordon.

“Jeff on the long run probably had the car to beat,” he said. “Jeff has a really good line here on the long run, and he started catching me before the last caution and I was thinking, ‘Man, if this stays green, this could be a Jeff Gordon day.’ ”

Instead, the caution flew on lap 487.

Johnson picked the inside line for the final restart with Bowyer on the outside, Gordon behind him and Kyle Busch to his outside, and Johnson got a clean break for the lead into Turn 1, his top priority to build some separation for the finish.

“I felt like if I could get two or three corners and maintain the lead on Clint, I could stretch it back out again,” he said.

Bowyer slid into second and Busch, who tried to make a move on the outside line, instead got hung up out there as Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, who restarted fifth, went underneath to take fourth.

Nothing changed the rest of the way and the top five stayed in those spots.

IndyCar

Ryan Hunter-Reay ended Penske Racing’s domination at Barber Motorsports Park by holding off Scott Dixon to win the IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.

Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Will Power had won IndyCar’s three previous races at Barber, but Hunter-Reay beat both for the pole.

The defending IndyCar champion ran a steady race, holding strong in one intense battle for position with both Penske drivers, to claim his first win of the season.

Dixon finished second for the fourth consecutive year.

NHRA

Allen Johnson won the Pro Stock event at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals and claimed more than $100,000 during the weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Johnson won the $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge bonus event Saturday, $25,000 for winning Sunday’s race and the $25,000 NHRA Sweep Bonus for winning both events.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car) also were winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.

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