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Sprint Cup Recap — STP Gas Booster 500

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Jimmie Johnson dominated at Martinsville Sunday, winning the STP Gas Booster 500.

In fact, Jimmie Johnson dominated the entire race weekend.

He was the fastest car in the first practice.  He set the track record and won the pole in qualifying.  Then, during the race, he led 347 of 500 laps and never dropped lower than 5th place.

“We had just such a calm weekend,” Johnson said.  “We just executed from the first laps in practice to where we were at the end of the race, and that was fun.”

Well, yeah.

The 347 laps led is actually the most Johnson has ever led during a single race in his entire career.

Of course, there was some drama at the end.  The final restart of the race with 8 laps to go set up like a mirror image of the wild finish from last year.  Jeff Gordon & Clint Boyer were the only ones that seemed to have a shot at Johnson, but even Gordon admitted after the race that no one was touching the #48.

“You get a driver like Jimmie and a team like the #48,” Gordon said, “you put them on the pole in that number one pit stall and it’s going to be really, really hard to beat them.”

It was Johnson’s eighth career win at Martinsville, which moved him into third place in all time wins at the speedway.  The only two drivers ahead of him on the list are Richard Petty & Darrell Waltrip.  Both are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Whenever Jimmie decides to hang it up, he will be, too.

Here’s what we learned in Martinsville:

1. Danicamania is back. Patrick battled her way to a 12th place finish after starting in the rear because of an engine change.  She was spun on lap 15 by Ken Schrader, and got as far as 2 laps down before a few wave-arounds got her back on the lead lap.  The #10 car got better as the race went on, and Danica wound up with a very respectable finish for her first time in Martinsville.

2. Post race scuffles are commonplace.  Folks, we’re barely into the season and we’re starting to see some genuine hostility.  This week’s spotlight lands on Kevin Harvick, who spun Brian Vickers #55 machine after a three wide finish with Danica Patrick.  I don’t even know the cause of this one, but it looks like the checkered flag isn’t going to necessarily stop the action on track anytime soon.

3. Mark Martin is really, really good.  It’s not easy to climb into another guy’s racecar, with another guy’s team and finish in the top 10 at a Sprint Cup race, especially when you start 35th.  Minus a miscue on pit road that had him leaving his pit box without a tire, Martin drove a flawless race.  He’ll swap seats with Brian Vickers next week in Texas.  I wonder if Kevin Harvick will remember that?

Tommy Joe Martins is a former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver & a weekly racer at the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.  A graduate of the University of Mississippi, he’s been a sports columnist for The Daily Mississippian, a radio host & a life-long NASCAR fan.

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