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NASCAR

Johnson wins at Martinsville for eight time

Jimmie Johnson continued his dominance at Martinsville Speedway by winning Sunday's STP Gas Booster 500.

Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion, started on the pole and led 346 of 500 laps to win at Martinsville for the eighth time, which is the most among active drivers. Richard Petty (15) and Darrell Waltrip (11) have more wins than Johnson at this 0.526-mile, paperclip-shaped racetrack.

The 12th and final caution for an incident involving Kurt Busch set up an eight-lap shootout to the finish. After the restart, Johnson pulled away from second-place runner Clint Bowyer and then beat Bowyer to finish line by 0.6 seconds.

"We had a great weekend, and I know that the stats clearly show that," said Johnson, who earned his 62nd career win in NASCAR's premier series. "It was probably the most calm, relaxed weekend that we've had as the 48 (team), and mature weekend we've had. We really fell back on our experience and stayed committed to that."

Johnson became the first repeat winner in the series this year. He won the Feb. 24 season-opening Daytona 500.

"Life is good, two wins this year," he said.

One year ago, Johnson was denied a victory at Martinsville when he was involved in a crash with Jeff Gordon, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, and Clint Bowyer while all three drivers were battling for the lead following a restart in the closing laps. Ryan Newman benefited from that wreck by taking the lead and then the win. Johnson started on the pole and won here in October.

"Well, last year I had the upper hand with tires, and it just didn't work out, but this time, I was on the outside and it definitely was the opposite of that," Bowyer said after his second-place run, his best in 15 starts at Martinsville.

Bowyer bounced back from slight damage he sustained on his No. 15 Toyota when he was involved in an 11-car accident that occurred on lap 180.

Gordon took the third spot, while his teammate, Kasey Kahne, was fourth. Kyle Busch, who won the most recent race two weeks ago in Fontana, Calif., placed fifth.

"I think third was a great finish for us," Gordon said. "We needed the points. We needed a good solid run. The 48 (Johnson), you give him that No. 1 pit stall at Martinsville, and I mean, it's almost near impossible to beat him."

Brad Keselowski, the defending series champion, Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Mark Martin, who substituted for the injured Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, completed the top-10. Hamlin suffered a compression fracture in his lower back during an accident on the last lap at Fontana. He watched the entire Martinsville race in his pit stall area.

"I did not fill Denny Hamlin's shoes, I can tell you that much," Martin said. "He is the master. I enjoyed this opportunity. It was fun."

Martin drove Hamlin's car for Martinsville only. He will resume his schedule in the No. 55 car for Michael Waltrip Racing next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Danica Patrick finished an impressive 12th in her first start at Martinsville. Patrick qualified 32nd but had to start from the rear of the field due to an engine change. She spun around in the early going and fell one lap behind but patiently worked her way through the field from there. It was Patrick's best finish since her eighth-place run at Daytona.

"It was just nice to have a good weekend after having so many that weren't good since Daytona," Patrick said. "I think the team has a lot to be proud of. The stops were good. We had a little right front damage from early in the race, so it was a little bit of a pain in the butt to get that tire off and then back on for stops."

With the win, Johnson took a six-point lead over Keselowski and a 12-point advantage over teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 24th. Patrick made contact with Earnhardt and spun him around with less than 35 laps to go.