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Jimmie Johnson led a race-high 296 laps, but was unable to seal the deal Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. He held on to take second, with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishing behind him in third. This race marks the fifth consecutive race at Martinsville that the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Spring Is Calling Chevrolet SS has led for 100 or more laps. Teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne encountered issues during the race and ultimately finished 12th and 22nd, respectively.
Johnson wasted no time at the short track, quickly moving into the runner-up position by Lap 2. He fell to third by Lap 14, but reclaimed his runner-up position by Lap 21, with teammate Jeff Gordon running right behind him. Seconds later, he took the lead. Johnson won the race off pit road when he made his first yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 45. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Spring Is Calling Chevrolet SS lined up first for the restart at Lap 45 and retained his lead for 11 laps. Johnson would follow this pattern for the majority of the race, leading 11 times for a race-high 296 laps and contributing to a new track record for lead changes (33). With 48 laps to go, Johnson ran into lap traffic and slid to second. The caution flag was waved at Lap 459 and Johnson made his way onto pit road for his last pit stop of the day. He won the race off pit road and lined up his Chevy SS in first position for the restart at Lap 466. After battling for the top position, Johnson reclaimed the lead by Lap 483. Johnson was unable to retain the lead and finished the race in second to winner Kurt Busch.
QUOTING JIMMIE:To be truthful, last year I felt like some 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.
Q. What is the feeling today besides the fact you know you got beat at Martinsville, which you've won here eight times?
JOHNSON: It's nice to know our cars are good. This track is in the Chase, so we'll come back a lot smarter and try to prevent running second again. 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.
Q. Jimmie, a couple years back Kurt was quoted on camera as saying there were 41 cars on the track he would rather lose to than losing to the 48, but you guys obviously had a great race today and it was predominantly clean. Is that indicative of the fact that you two have gotten beyond that point and you're now able to race without any kind of animosity?
JOHNSON: Yeah, for sure. I think things came to a head at Pocono and then Richmond was shortly thereafter. After the Richmond race we sat down and talked long about things and got through it. Through some of the struggles he's had the last couple years before he landed at Stewart‑Haas, I've been there and kind of advised ‑‑ not necessarily advised, but had conversations with him, gave him my opinion. I was happy to see him go to Stewart‑Haas. He's a fantastic driver, and with the way we share information, we can learn from him and learn from that. We're definitely in a good place, that's for sure. I think today was very representative of that.
NEXT RACE: Texas Motor Speedway: Sunday, April 6th : 2:00 p.m. ET FOX and PRN Radio