Hamlin ends Johnson’s streak
MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Denny Hamlin didn’t need to do anything funny to exact his revenge from Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville Speedway. He just drove right by him.
Then he drove away with ease on three restarts over the final 52 laps, ending the three-time defending series champion’s two-race win streak and remarkable run of five victories in the previous six races at the shortest circuit in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
Hamlin used an out-of-sequence pit stop after about 160 laps to move to the front, then held on up there until the entire leaderboard headed for pit road about 20 laps later.
The finish shaped up as another possible drama involving Hamlin and Johnson, who nudged Hamlin aside with 15 laps to go at Martinsville in the spring and sailed off to an easy victory.
But with NASCAR having implemented double-file restarts since then, it was no trouble. “The only difference was it was double-file restarts versus single-file and you actually feel a little bit better with him right beside you than behind you,’’ Hamlin said.
He wound up leading the final 138 laps after passing Johnson, and pulled away after a restart with 52 laps to go, another with 12 laps left, and a then a two-lap sprint to the end.
The final restart was for debris on the track, which he thought curious. “[The debris] was there in Turn 1,’’ he said. “However it was there at Lap 100. It was. I’m not kidding you. It was there. I don’t know if there was another piece somewhere.’’
Johnson, who is seeking his record fourth consecutive title, extended his lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin from 90 points to 118. Jeff Gordon, also of Hendrick, remained third, but saw his deficit grow from 135 to 150. Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, followed by Kyle Busch, who passed Gordon on the final lap.