Ryan Newman spoiled the Hendrick Motorsports party.
Newman came from nowhere to win the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway Sunday, emerging from a jam of traffic in overtime to score his first win of the season.
The race decision appeared to be between Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon with a few laps to go, but a late-race caution caused by David Reutimann’s car stalling on the frontstretch opened the door for others.
It sent the race into overtime, and the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish ended in calamity as Clint Bowyer tried to make a three-wide pass for the lead in the first turn. That didn’t work.
Bowyer bumped Gordon, who bumped Johnson, who spun. Bowyer wound up spinning, also, sparking a caution.
Newman, who had bumped Bowyer’s rear as the green flew, slipped through on the inside and took the lead.
Newman stayed in front for the second green-white-checkered and outran AJ Allmendinger for the win. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. followed.
Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. were trying to score Hendrick’s 200th Sprint Cup win.
After a fierce battle at the front involving Johnson, Gordon and Denny Hamlin, Johnson took the lead from Hamlin on lap 393 Sunday and stayed in front until the closing laps. Gordon ran in his shadow much of that time.
Johnson grabbed the lead from Gordon on lap 356. That marked the conclusion of a remarkable rally by Johnson, who had been penalized for speeding on pit road early in the race, a penalty that sent him to the rear of the field.
The race’s fifth caution flew on lap 361, sparking a critical round of pit stops. Johnson led at that point, but he dropped to third – behind Denny Hamlin and Gordon – after the pit-stop round.
Gordon dominated the first half of the race, leading 217 of the first 250 laps.
He held the lead on lap 246 when Dave Blaney caused the second caution of the day when he spun into the wall in turn two.
Kasey Kahne, who had been racing in the top five, drove into the garage during the caution and later parked his car with engine failure, continuing what has been a wicked season for the Hendrick driver.
During a long green-flag run from laps 105 to 245, Earnhardt Jr. held the lead for three laps, causing a major eruption in the grandstands.
In a scenario unusual for Martinsville, the race went almost 100 laps from the start without a caution flag.
The first one appeared on lap 99 when Kyle Busch, whose car did not perform well from the green flag, whacked the outside wall. Busch drove to the garage for repairs.
Kevin Harvick outran pole winner Kahne on the first lap and led the first 22 before giving way to Gordon to led laps 23-99.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.