With just four races remaining in the Chase, all of Jimmie Johnson's closest competitiors lost ground to the current, and future, champ Sunday in Martinsville. That's the bad news. The good news is that at least he didn't win. Or is it? He didn't win, yet still padded his points lead.
CHECKERED FLAG.....The Commonwealth of Virginia's own Denny Hamlin won at Martinsville, Virginia's tight half-mile roller rink for the second time in his career. He led a race high 206 laps, including the last 138. Some people (me) thought that Hamlin would fall to pieces after a disastrous start to his Chase efforts. Yesterday, he and his crew kept their cool through several restarts at the end of the race and earned a tough win.
GREEN FLAGS.....Juan Pablo Montoya was back on the podium with his hard fought third place finish. Kyle Busch overcame a lot of adversity to score a 4th on Sunday and a 2nd on Saturday in the NNS race in Memphis. Jamie McMurray (6th) and Kevin Harvick (10) broke into the top-10 for a rare visit Sunday. Bobby Labonte qualified 8th and hung around the top-10 most of the day, and finally came home in 13th. A lot tougher than a 13th at most tracks these days.
YELLOW FLAGS.....The following drivers all were involved in at least one crash, most of them more than that. Scott Speed (31), Kasey Kahne (32), David Stremme (33), AJ Allmendinger (34), and Sam Hornish (35). None of these guys has ever been a contender at Martinsville, and it doesn't look like they will be for a long while.
RED FLAG.....Carl Edwards on his on track tete-a-tete with rival Kyle Busch, "I don't know what his problem is. I got into him, he hit me back, then I hit him back, so we're even." Maybe you shouldn't have dropped out of that community college, Carl. You admit you hit him first, AND last...so now you're even?
BLACK FLAG......NASCAR'S dumb ass rule about freezing the field the instant a caution comes out. This would also do away with other dumb ass rules for the lucky dog and the wave around. Twice now in the last month, there has been a wrecked car sitting at the finish line on the last lap. Twice now, NASCAR has waited too long to throw the caution.
In the previous instance, they showed the yellow when the leader was exiting turn four. Yesterday they threw the caution and checkered flag simultaneously as Hamlin hit the finish line. That meant that Hamlin raced back to the line but no one else could, as the field should have been frozen as soon as the yellow was displayed. Check the replay out and see if Busch passed Jeff Gordon for position before, or after, the yellow flew. It was close, and Gordon may have backed off for the caution.