Jimmie Johnson dominates again at Martinsville

Published 4:59 pm Sunday, October 19, 2008

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Jimmie Johnson won again at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, padding his lead in his bid for a third straight title with four races to go.

The two-time defending series champion led 339 laps as he and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates dominated once more on the oldest, smallest and trickiest circuit in the Sprint Cup Series.

Johnson won the fall race at this track for the third consecutive time. It was his fifth career victory on the 0.526-mile oval and fourth in the last five races.

“It’s just been good to me,” he said.

Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, followed by Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon, giving Hendrick three of the top four spots. The 1-2 finish was the 23rd for the multicar team and third at Martinsville.

“I didn’t have anything for Jimmie,” earnhardt said. “That car was so awesome.”

Johnson increased his lead from 69 points over Jeff Burton to 149 over Greg Biffle. Burton started second and finished 17th.

As they had in the spring, when they combined to lead 371 laps, Johnson and Gordon set the pace all day with Gordon leading 57 laps. Earnhardt made it a three-car Hendrick party near the front and, unlike in the spring, Johnson this time managed to close the deal.

In March, Denny Hamlin won on pit strategy.

Johnson led seven times in all, passing Gordon for the top spot with 209 laps to go. He then made quick work of Matt Kenseth, who stayed out on the track under caution with 38 to go.

Johnson heads to Atlanta with the largest points lead in the history of the Chase at this point. He’s not ready, however, to start thinking about another title.

“It’s getting closer,” he said. “It’s still not time.”

The day was shaping up as a great one for Jamie McMurray, who started 20th and climbed into contention quickly. He was running fourth with about 100 laps to go when his car suddenly slowed on the backstretch. He drove it directly to his garage and wound up 38th.