Philadelphia, PA – Sorry, Rick Hendrick. You're going to have to wait at least one more race before you can celebrate your 200th win in NASCAR's premier series.
Team owner Hendrick had a 1-2-3 finish coming to him in Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, but thanks to David Reutimann and Clint Bowyer, Hendrick's glorious day quickly turned into a miserable one.
Ryan Newman was the one who had a celebration in victory lane.
It was the Hendrick Motorsports show at Martinsville, with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson leading for a combined 440 laps. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran in front for three circuits around the 0.526-mile paperclip-shaped racetrack as well.
With just a handful of laps remaining in the scheduled 500-lap race, Johnson was leading the way, while Gordon ran in second and Earnhardt Jr. third. But Reutimann interrupted the momentum of the race on lap 497 when his car stalled on the frontstretch, forcing a caution and therefore setting up a green-white- checkered finish.
Reutimann had been experiencing problems with his car, including engine trouble, several laps before he came to a stop on the track. NASCAR had already black-flagged Reutimann for his slow car.
"I just hate that I was involved in anything that changed the complexion of the race, so I got to apologize to the guys that it affected," Reutimann said. "I was just trying to limp around there. We needed to finish the next couple of laps to try to stay in the top 35 (car owner points). Then the motor had been breaking up for the last couple of laps. I had a broken timing belt or whatever down the back straightaway, and the motor just quit."
Reutimann was summoned to the NASCAR hauler after the race to meet with officials and discuss the incident that ultimately changed the outcome of the event.
In fact, the race turned chaotic when it resumed on lap 504.
Running fourth at the time of the restart, Bowyer dove underneath Johnson and Gordon to make it a three-wide battle for the lead in turn one. But all three drivers made contact and spun around, allowing Newman to squeeze through the melee and move to the front for the first time. A.J. Allmendinger took over the second position, while Earnhardt Jr. kept his third spot.
Newman might have been the one who started the commotion when he bumped Bowyer from behind after the green flag waved.
"They (Hendrick Motorsports) had the cars to beat, and they should have won the race, and we should have finished fourth there, but that's just the nature of the beast," Bowyer said. "(Gordon) spun the tires pretty hard. If I didn't go down there, the 39 (Newman), who had already hit me in the rear, was going to. I did and the 39 won."
Newman led the way for the second green-white-checkered attempt. He held off Allmendinger during the final two-lap overtime finish to claim his first Sprint Cup Series win at Martinsville and the 16th of his career.
"We'll take what we can get," Newman said. "We've lost them that way hands down several times here, and it's nice to be able to win one."
Instead of winning at Martinsville for the seventh time, Johnson had to settle for a 12th-place finish. And you can only imagine what his mood was like at the end of the race.
"A lot of cussing, and a lot of frustration," he said. "I'm upset about what happens, especially when it happens like it did with a last-minute, dive-bomb and hope-that-it-works type thing. That stuff is just no fun."
Gordon led the most laps with 328, but after his spin on the first green- white-checkered attempt and then running out of fuel during the final caution, the seven-time Martinsville race winner finished one lap behind in 14th.
"That's Martinsville, green-white-checkered," Gordon said. "There are no guarantees at this place. Anytime they stack them up like that, you know it is going to get ugly in the first couple of corners. I was just hoping to get a decent start. I got a good jump, but then the tires spun. I didn't know if Clint had a big run or what happened. I guess he got a run and then the No. 39 gave him a pretty big shot. It pretty much took us all out there."
After the race concluded, Gordon hunt down Bowyer in the garage. Fortunately, the two came to an agreement on what happened when they spoke.
"I was pretty mad at the time, but after understanding what happened, I wouldn't blame it on him," Gordon added.
Sometimes things go your way at Martinsville, and sometimes they don't. That's just the way racing is there.