It was another one that got away for Jimmie Johnson.
The six-time series champ and eight-time Martinsville winner lost the lead with 17 laps to go and finished second to Kurt Busch on Sunday.
But Johnson didn’t think of it that way. It didn’t get away, he just got beat.
“Last year, I felt like some got away that I definitely had control of and was disappointed in myself,” he said. “Some of the stuff, circumstances, got me.”
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Johnson said there wasn’t more he could do Sunday as he tried to get the lead back from Busch.
“I just got beat,” he said. “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.”
Brad Keselowski recorded his worst finish at Martinsville, finishing 38th, 31 laps down, after a pit-road accident with Kurt Busch.
The contact tore up Keselowski’s front end so badly that his team tore it off, and Keselowski drove the rest of the race without it.
“I started to check up and I just barely got in the back of him and Kurt just accelerated and drove through us, absolutely drove through us,” Keselowski said. “I tell you what, I’m about tired of his recklessness.”
Keselowski and Busch are former teammates at Penske Racing.
“He does some awesome things for charity and he’s probably the most talented race car driver, but he’s also one of the dumbest,” Keselowski said.
Told that Busch said he would mess up Keselowski’s face if he got a chance, Keselowski said, “Tell him, come here. I’m right here. He knows where I’m at. Leave Victory Lane and we’ll go.”
Denny Hamlin, who sat out the race at California because of an eye problem, had engine shutdown problems and wound up 19th, a disappointing finish after he was confident from a strong practice session.
“The car was shutting off in the corners, and that was frustrating,” he said. “As fast as we were on Friday, it probably would play into our advantage not having practice on Saturday, but there was a laundry list of things that we needed to try and didn’t get to do it.”
Hamlin had a piece of metal removed from his eye last week.
Points leader again
Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved back into the points lead with his third-place finish, his fourth podium finish of the season.
He leads Matt Kenseth, who gained three spots, by nine points and Carl Edwards by 10.