Jimmie Johnson jumped back up to the lead of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with his fourth win of the season and his seventh at Martinsville Speedway. The victory puts Johnson two points ahead of Penske's Brad Keselowski with just three races to go.
Johnson got maximum points after a grueling 500 laps. He led more laps than any of his rivals while battling some tough opposition headed by Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer and his Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon.
Five-time champion Johnson overtook Keselowski with 14 laps remaining after the former Chase leader elected to stay on the track when the penultimate caution waved with 25 laps to go. Johnson, who led the field at the time, pitted for new left-side tires, a move that most behind him followed.
With more grip at his disposal and in a car often the class of the field on Sunday, Johnson was the first of a number of drivers to dispose of Keselowski's No. 2 Dodge before the last caution was called for an incident involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards.
Once the green waved for the final five laps, Johnson held off the charging Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch, who recovered from an early spin to be in contention but could not prevent Johnson from scoring his most valuable win of the year.
"We just had a great racecar," said Johnson. "And I think we've also learned our lesson here in the past in not pitting late and that certainly came into play and we made the right decision there. I'm so torn with emotion right now with winning here; and I'm so happy to be in the point lead."
Keselowski fell back to sixth - still a good result from 32nd on the grid. With JGR's Denny Hamlin all but out of title contention after succumbing to electrical glitches, a two-horse race is now brewing between Johnson and Keselowski.
Bowyer came out on top from a clash with Gordon in the closing laps and moved up to third in the Chase with his fifth place finish behind Kasey Kahne's Hendrick Chevrolet and the impressive Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.
After running among the top 10, Earnhardt's late spin, caused by contact from Edwards, meant he finished as the last car on the lead lap on his return to Cup competition following a two-week absence with concussion.
Results - 500 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 3h23m09.000s
2. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 0.479s
3. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 0.596s
4. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 0.862s
5. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 1.924s
6. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 2.201s
7. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.294s
8. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota + 2.834s
9. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 3.053s
10. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 3.233s
11. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 3.385s
12. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 3.615s
13. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge + 3.892s
14. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 4.120s
15. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet + 4.122s
16. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 4.270s
17. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 4.545s
18. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 4.771s
19. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 4.908s
20. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 5.876s
21. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 8.241s
22. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 1 lap
23. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 1 lap
24. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 1 lap
25. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 1 lap
26. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 1 lap
27. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 2 laps
28. AJ Allmendinger Phoenix Chevrolet + 2 laps
29. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford + 5 laps
30. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 6 laps
31. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 8 laps
Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 473 laps
Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 466 laps*
Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet 253 laps
Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 193 laps
David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 185 laps
Scott Speed Leavine Ford 116 laps
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 85 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 61 laps
David Stremme Inception Toyota 46 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 35 laps
Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 22 laps
Reed Sorenson Humphrey Smith Toyota 19 laps
* Running again at finish