When it comes to short tracks, everyone has the one that stands out. For Hendrick Motorsports, that track is Martinsville. Normally it’s because of success, which statistically has stood out for the organization with how many wins they have achieved over the years.
But Martinsville took on a whole new meaning in 2004, after a Hendrick plane carrying employees and family crashed hours from the speedway.
All 10 people on the plane, including the pilot and co-pilot, all perished in that flight.
One of those that was lost in that incident was Rick Hendrick’s son, former driver and owner of the then-Busch Series team, Ricky. At the end of that race, Jimmie Johnson was the one victorious, but in the midst of celebrating, there was a lot of sorrow. The team would honor the fallen men and women in victory lane, especially young Ricky when the team members turned their caps around, something Ricky always did as a driver.
Since then, whenever Martinsville sees a Hendrick driver take victory, it holds a lot more meaning. Last year, Jeff Gordon took the win in what was thought to be his final trip to the track. Since then, obviously, he’s done substitute driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr, whom is out for the remainder of the season with concussion-like symptoms.
Today, the same driver that won in 2004 was back in victory lane. This win had both meaning for the organization, and for the team.
Obviously, getting a ninth grandfather clock was big for Johnson, as it matched Gordon in wins among active drivers. But, like Gordon a year ago, it locked him into the opportunity to win a championship in Homestead. At the same time, any win by a Hendrick driver at this track is emotional because of what happened here 12 years ago. Johnson and his team again turned their caps around in honor of Ricky and all those that were lost that fateful fall afternoon.
It’s still emotional today because going to this track is a constant reminder of what occurred. But, winning is a pretty good way to bring a smile to the faces at Hendrick.
RESULTS: 1-Johnson 2-Keselowski 3-Hamlin 4-Kenseth 5-Kyle Busch 6-Gordon 7-Truex Jr. 8-McMurray 9-Logano 10-Allmendinger
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Elliott 20-Harvick 22-Kurt Busch 36-Edwards
CAUTIONS: 5 for 54 Laps. Lap 23-28 (#17 Spin-T3); 62-66 (Fluid on the track); 133-139 (Debris-T4); 201-207 (Debris-FS); 358-386 (#19 Accident-T3).
LEAD CHANGES: 15 among 9 drivers. M. Truex Jr. 1-24; J. Logano 25-45; M. Truex Jr. 46-62; R. Smith 63-64; M. Truex Jr. 65-73; K. Larson 74-79; M. Truex Jr. 80-110; Kyle Busch 111-113; M. Truex Jr. 114-150; M. Kenseth 151; M. Truex Jr. 152-180; M. Kenseth 181-355; D. Hamlin 356; A. Allmendinger 357-361; D. Hamlin 362-408; J. Johnson 409-500.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 20 Mins, 55 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 78.540 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.291 Seconds
CHASE GRID: 1. Johnson-4044 (Points)*; 2. Hamlin, -5; 3. Kenseth, -5; 4. Kurt Busch, -7; 5. Logano, -11; 6. Harvick, -23; 7. Kurt Busch, -25; 8. Edwards, -39; 9. Truex Jr, -1818; 10. Keselowski, -1837; 11. Dillon, -1857; 12. Elliott, -1859; 13. Larson, -1861; 14. Stewart, 1888; 15. McMurray, -1901; 16. Buescher, -1921.
*Secured spot in Championship Round.