Denny Hamlin won another Martinsville race and closed the gap in the points to just six behind Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship. In a race that saw many of the Chase contenders suffer issues on the paperclip shaped track in Virginia, Hamlin pushed hard passing Kevin Harvick after a door to door battle for several laps late in the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.
Mark Martin found himself in the top ten after a late race restart and passed Harvick as well, racing to a second place finish. Kevin Harvick who had issues during the race with teammate Jeff Burton held on to finish third. Harvick sits third in the Chase with just sixty two points between him and NASCAR Sprint Cup front runner Jimmie Johnson.
After battling with Jimmie Johnson, a vocal and irate Kyle Busch managed the pass and secured a fourth place finish, while Jimmie Johnson held onto fifth place when the checkered flag flew. Busch gained one spot in the Chase standings, while Johnson barely held on to the points lead.
Jeff Gordon took a hit in the points after taking a hit from Kurt Busch. Gordon caved in the right rear of the car, but his crew managed to get him back on the track without losing too many laps. After going two laps down, Gordon finished the race in twentieth and fell to fifth in the championship points race.
Carl Edwards gained one position in the Chase with his eighth place finish while Tony Stewart lost a position in the championship race bringing the #14 in to a twenty fourth place finish in the Tums Fast Relief 500.
Other notables were Dale Earnhardt Jr., who excited the crowd when he took the lead mid-race, staying there for a while. Earnhardt finished with a top ten that will surely rejuvenate his team. Last week’s winner Jamie MacMurray came across the checkers in eleventh. Story of the week driver, Kasey Kahne, in the Red Bull #83 for the first time, brought his Toyota in for a fourteenth place finish.
Jeff Burton gained two spots in the Chase and finished the race in ninth. Matt Kenseth finished the race in fifteenth. He gains one position in the Race for the Chase. Kurt Busch held on to ninth place in the point standings with his sixteenth place finish. Greg Biffle fought problems throughout the day. He fell three positions in the standings to eleventh and brought his ailing Ford home sixty eight laps down in thirty third. Clint Bowyer’s problems in the Chase continued. Bowyer finished the race one hundred forty one laps behind the leaders in thirty eighth.
Going in to next weeks race at Talladega, only one hundred and five points separate fourth place from ninth place in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship. It’s still anybody’s to take.