Mar 30, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
Kurt Busch said after winning Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway that “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” referring to Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who came into the race with eight wins apiece on the .526-mile track.
With both drivers having Hendrick Motorsports power under the hood, Busch beat Johnson to prevent the six-time Sprint Cup champion from earning his ninth career win at NASCAR’s oldest Cup racetrack.
Had Johnson won, he would have overtaken HMS teammate Jeff Gordon for most wins at Martinsville by an active driver (NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty holds the all-time record with 15 wins there).
Johnson yielded the lead to Busch on lap 473, but regained it 10 laps later. With just 17 laps remaining, Johnson felt his tires going away and couldn’t hold off Busch, eventually relinquishing the lead for good with 11 laps remaining.
“Man that is all I had, that is all I could do,” Johnson said. “I got back by him and then he got back to me and I was really, really loose in the closing stages of the race.
“Once he got back to me and put the pressure to me, I couldn’t keep the back under me. I put all the front brake in it that I could and was just hoping I could hold him off, but just wasn’t able to.
Having led 296 of the race’s 500 laps, Johnson appeared headed towards yet another dominating win at Martinsville, but will have to wait again until at least this year’s fall Chase race there to get that elusive ninth win.
“This track is in the Chase, so we’ll come back a lot smarter and try to prevent running second again,” Johnson said. “You just learn from the situation.
“I’m not saying there was a mistake today, but you learn from this weekend and carry it forward. This is a brand new car and a lot of stuff to figure out, so I know in the coming months the car’s setups will be a lot different, and we’ll just keep evolving and try to prevent running second.”
It marked the first time Johnson has ever lost at Martinsville after leading more than 271 laps in the scheduled 500-lap event. Johnson ultimately led 296 laps, only to come up short and finish second.
“(I had) just a very strong race car,” Johnson said. “We unloaded off the truck fast and qualified well and had an awesome car here in the race today.
“Of course, we’re disappointed not to get to victory lane, but there wasn’t anything else I could do. Man, I got back by (Busch) and I thought that we had control of the race then.
“I felt like since I hadn’t seen him through really any part of the day that he might have me on short-run speed but he would fall off. He stayed in my mirror and found a way back by me and then got a car length or so on me and did an awesome job. … I came up a little short, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
Johnson is still winless after the first six races, but he doesn’t seem overly concerned, given that he now has four top-six finishes.
“I’ve got to figure something out,” Johnson said. “Hopefully I’ll win a race soon or a championship. To be truthful, last year I felt like some (potential wins) got away that I definitely had control of and was disappointed in myself on some of that.
“Some of the stuff circumstances got me, but we left a lot of wins on the table last year for sure. Today, I couldn’t have done any more. I just got beat. You’re going to have those, too, and you’ve got to recognize when you get beat and you’ve got to recognize when you make mistakes, and today we just got beat.”
While he came so close, Johnson isn’t really fretting. A win Sunday would have been great, but there’s no shame in finishing second.
“We’re definitely in a good place, that’s for sure,” Johnson said. “I think today was very representative of that.”
In addition to what he hoped would have been his ninth career Cup win at Martinsville, Johnson was also seeking to give team owner Rick Hendrick his 220th career Sprint Cup win and 22nd Cup triumph at Martinsville.
The 30th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports’ first Sprint Cup win is April 29, when Geoff Bodine gave Hendrick his first career win as an owner in just the team’s eighth race together.
“We had a very fast race car,” Johnson said. “I wish we could have gotten this for Rick’s 30th anniversary.”
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Jul 24, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT
On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR AMERICA, Jeff Burton joined the crew to discuss what makes racing in the Brickyard 400 unique. Burton says NASCAR is a guest at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway due to the history IndyCar has made at the track.
Jul 24, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT
On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR AMERICA and in preparation for this week’s Brickyard 400, Leigh Diffey talked with 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. on what it was like to win the third closest finish in race history. Hornish also discussed some of the keys that drivers will need to succeed at the Brickyard 400.
Jul 24, 2014, 5:52 PM EDT
After two years of huge success with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing at his Eldora Speedway, Tony Stewart would love to eventually see the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series come to his little half-mile track, as well.
Jul 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
On Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA, Leigh Diffey is the in-studio host and is joined by Sam Hornish Jr. (2006 Indy 500 winner and current Nationwide Series driver and winner of the 2014 Iowa Nationwide race).
Jul 24, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Indy Racing Experience has partnered with Make-A-Wish® Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana to enhance two wishes during the Kroger Brickyard Super Weekend that takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 24-27, 2014.
Jul 24, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Ryan Hunter-Reay earns another award after his Indianapolis 500 win.
Jul 24, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Pirelli World Challenge President/CEO Scott Bove and 15-year-old rising star Austin Cindric to race a GTS Ford Mustang Boss for charity at Mid-Ohio weekend.
Jul 24, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Sauber driver pleased with his pace in Germany, and cares little for the question marks about his future.
Jul 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Italian tire supplier confirms its selections for the Belgian, Italian and Singapore Grands Prix.
Report: Deal for Marcos Ambrose’ return to Australia to race V8 Supercars for Roger Penske may be close
Jul 24, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT
While it’s seemed Marcos Ambrose was a lock to return to Richard Petty Motorsports, especially with all the positive things he’s said about wanting to stay in recent weeks and months, a report Thursday has Ambrose leaving NASCAR after this season and returning to his native Australia to race V8 Supercars — potentially for a new team owned by iconic American race team owner Roger Penske.
Jul 24, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Ferrari driver has few qualms about Kimi’s difficulties in 2014.
Jul 24, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT
Former Brickyard 400 winner Bobby Labonte will be returning to race at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway in this Sunday’s 21st running of the Brickyard.
Jul 24, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Our writing team makes its predictions for this weekend’s race at the Hungaroring.
Jul 24, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT
American youngster joins Marussia as its official reserve driver with immediate effect.
Jul 24, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Brazilian driver compares it to incident at the beginning of the Australian Grand Prix with Kamui Kobayashi.
Jul 24, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Formula 1 will return to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez next year for the first time since 1992.
Jul 24, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
One final chapter to the first half of the 2014 F1 season at the Hungaroring this weekend, a track that has suited Lewis Hamilton very well over the years.
Jul 24, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Six teams, 17 cars set to test at Mid-Ohio ahead of IndyCar race there next week.
Jul 23, 2014, 10:46 PM EDT
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. and Kyle Larson put on a spectacular battle in the final 40-lap segment of Wednesday’s second MudSummer Classic at Eldora Speedway, but it was Wallace holding on for the win.
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