Sunday, April 1, 2012

Victory Falls Into Newman's Lap

If there was a "Look What Fell Into My Lap" award, Ryan Newman would be an early candidate to win it.  Newman took full advantage of his opportunity when he was able to avoid a wreck that collected the top three cars of Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson.

Ryan Newman celebrates his Martinsville victory (Courtesy Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne led the field to the green flag.  After a dismal start to the season, many were hoping that he would be able to hold onto the lead for at least one lap.  But unfortunately for Kahne, Kevin Harvick, who won the Truck Series race Saturday, took the lead and led the first lap.  Harvick actually led the first 21 laps, until Jeff Gordon took the lead.  Gordon started ninth, and quickly moved his way up through the field. 

Gordon believed that he had a tire going down, but he was able to hold off Brad Keselowski until the first caution came out at lap 97.  Kyle Busch smacked the wall in Turn 3 after what they believe to be a broken track bar.  Jeff Gordon was able to win the race off pit road, and he remained the leader.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third at Martinsville (Courtesy Getty Images)
Gordon led all the way until lap 229, when his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead.  Following green flag pit stops, however, Jeff Gordon was able to regain the lead from Earnhardt Jr.  At the same time, Kasey Kahne's bad luck continued; his engine began to lose power.  Kahne took his Chevrolet to the garage as Dave Blaney spun on lap 244 to bring out the second caution.

 The caution flag flew again on lap 263 after Juan Pablo Montoya got a bump from Ken Schrader and went around.  The fourth caution flew for Kasey Kahne, who's woes continued.  After coming back out on the track after getting his engine serviced, his engine completely blew on lap 315.  On his way into the pits, he spun in his own oil and blocked the entrance to pit road.

Kasey Kahne's woes continued at Martinsville (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race went back green on lap 329, and Jeff Gordon still led the field.  Gordon led until lap 356, when Jimmie Johnson, who has won six Martinsville races, took the lead.  Johnson led up until the fifth caution, which came out on lap 361 when Travis Kvapil spun in Turn 2.  On the restart, Denny Hamlin beat Jeff Gordon out of the pits and took the lead.

Hamlin held the lead, but soon had to deal with Jimmie Johnson.  Johnson and Gordon got up to Hamlin, and Johnson raced Hamlin for about 20 laps in the closest racing we had seen all day, before Johnson finally was able to make the pass.  Gordon followed him through to move back up to second. 

Jeff Gordon led 328 laps en route to a 14th place finish (Courtesy Getty Images)
With 4 laps to go, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were beating and banging for the lead, when David Reutimann's car stalled on the track for the sixth caution.  Jeff Gordon was the leader on the restart, but he quickly lost the lead.  Clint Bowyer dove into the first turn 3-wide, and Jimmie Johnson spun before Jeff Gordon's car clipped Bowyer's car, spinning him out as well.  Ryan Newman took the lead, and under the caution Jeff Gordon ran out of gas.

Clint Bowyer (15), Jeff Gordon (24), and Jimmie Johnson (48) wreck in Turn 1 (Courtesy Getty Images)
Ryan Newman led AJ Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., and Matt Kenseth on the restart.  Newman was able to hold off AJ Allmendinger to win his first grandfather clock.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, Matt Kenseth fourth, and Martin Truex Jr. fifth.  Points leader Greg Biffle had a very quiet day, and went on to finish 13th.  Jeff Gordon, who led a race-high 328 laps, finished one lap down in 14th.

The ending of the Goody's Fast Relief 500 was amazing.  The one thing that is shocking is that Hendrick Motorsports failed to win their 200th race.  Between Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports led 443 of the 515 laps run.  Rick Hendrick will have to wait at least two weeks to win the milestone victory, because the Sprint Cup Series is off next weekend.   The next race will be at Texas under the lights for the Samsung Mobile 500.  The race can be seen on Saturday, April 14 at 7 P.M. on FOX.

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