Johnson Takes Big Step Towards Title

Jimmie Johnson is on the verge of history.  No driver since Cale Yarborough in the late 1970's has won three straight titles in NASCAR's premier circuit.  With a dominating win Sunday afternoon at Martinsville, he now has a third straight championship within his grasp. 

There wasn't much talk about Jimmie Johnson winning a third straight championship at the start of The Chase.  Now, it's almost a certainty.  Johnson took a big step in his pursuit for the championship by winning the TUMS QuikPak 500 at the Martinsville Speedway.  He didn't just win the race, he dominated it.  Johnson led 339 of the 500 laps.

As there usually is at Martinsville, there were plenty of cautions.  The yellow flag waved 12 time for 76 laps.  Most of the wrecks were the usual short track bumping variety, causing several spin-outs and a lot of contact.  There was one rather odd circumstance that brought out the sixth caution on lap 163.  Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., and Tony Raines all had tire troubles at the same time.  They stopped around the same spot on the track to bring out the yellow.  Adding to that, NASCAR penalized Busch two laps, saying Busch intentionally stopped to cause the caution.

Chase drivers filled out the top five, with Dale Earnhardt. Jr finishing behind his Hendrick teammate.  Carl Edwards finished third with Jeff Gordon fourth, and Spring Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin fifth.  Casey Mears placed sixth with Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth seventh and eighth.  Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top ten.

Other notable finishes include Greg Biffle in 12th, Jeff Burton in 17th, Tony Stewart 26th, and  Kyle Busch in 29th.

Johnson's dominating win along with his closest rivals in the point standings finishing out of the top ten gave his title hopes a big boost.  With just four races remaining in the season, Jimmie now leads second place Greg Biffle by 149 points and third place Jeff Burton by 152 points.  Fourth place Carl Edwards is 198 points back.  Anything can happen in the span of four races, but it's looking more and more likely that Jimmie Johnson will be celebrating his third straight title.

For this weekend, the Truck Series will be at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the E-Z-Go 200 Saturday while the Nationwide Series will be in Memphis that same day for the Kroger On Track for the Cure 250.  The Sprint Cup Series will race in the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta on Sunday.

By:  CrimsonCowboy

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