Auto Racing | Johnson gets win, praise
Jeff Gordon has passed the torch to Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville Speedway, the track where Gordon has had more success than almost anyone...
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jeff Gordon has passed the torch to Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville Speedway, the track where Gordon has had more success than almost anyone.
"He's Mister Martinsville," Gordon said Sunday after his Hendrick Motorsports teammate won his third straight race on the 0.526-mile oval, the shortest and perhaps trickiest in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series racing. "That guy is unbelievable here."
But Johnson, who has four victories in Martinsville to Gordon's seven, indicated he is not ready to accept the title.
"I saw something where Richard Petty won how many?" he said of NASCAR's career-victories leader at the track with 15.
"That's Mister Martinsville. That's the king."
Johnson made the pass he didn't allow Gordon to make in the spring, sneaking inside with 44 laps to go in regulation in the Subway 500 and holding on for his series-high seventh victory of the year and the 30th of his career.
"I was nervous with [Gordon] behind us, and I was able to hold him off," Johnson said. "And then [Ryan Newman] got in there and I knew he was going to be real tough on a short run, too. ... I know he's hungry. He's been working real hard to get back to victory lane, so I knew he wasn't going to cut me any slack."
It turned out the slack came from the caution flags. A track-record 21 of them flew, slowing the proceedings for 127 laps, and forcing the race to be extended by six laps. Even the hoped-for, two-lap dash to the finish was cut short by yet another accident.
"Those last restarts were tough on me," Johnson said.
Johnson got unexpected late help from a feisty Newman.
Newman challenged Gordon for second on Lap 492, getting increasingly more physical, and passed him on the inside on the 494th circuit as Johnson opened a lead of nearly two seconds.
Gordon leads Johnson by 53 points with four races left. Third-place Clint Bowyer is 115 points behind Gordon.
"This thing's not over yet," said Johnson, the defending series champion.
Newman held on for second and Gordon was third. Vancouver, Wash., native Greg Biffle was seventh and Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw was 15th. Neither Biffle nor Kahne qualified for the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup.
"Jimmie was strong, we were strong, and he got the best of us," Gordon said, adding he was angry at first that Newman got so rough but bore no ill will afterward. "We had some trouble on pit road and to be able to rebound from that and come back and get a top-five finish, we've got to be real happy about that."
Newman said he thought he had a chance to overtake Johnson, but the cautions that limited green-flag chances to six laps or less after Lap 463 made it difficult. "It was pedal to the metal and hopefully you have a good-enough car to make a move," Newman said.
Johnson and Gordon have combined to win eight of the last 10 races in Martinsville.
Bourdais secures title
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia — As usual, Sebastien Bourdais outdid himself. Needing merely to finish 12th or better, the Formula One-bound Frenchman won the Lexmark Indy 300 to clinch his fourth Champ Car World Series title in a row.
The season ends Nov. 11 in Mexico City.
Bourdais also won in Surfers Paradise in 2005. He is the first driver to win the event twice in its 17-year history.
|Chasing the Cup|
|Unofficial NASCAR standings, with four races left in the Chase for the Nextel Cup:|
|Martin Truex Jr.||447|
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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