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Denny Hamlin did exactly what he predicted he would do – win at Martinsville. And now the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship is as wide open as ever, with Hamlin trailing Jimmie Johnson by just six points with four races to go.
Here is a look at how the 12 Chase drivers fared in Race No. 6 of the Chase on Sunday at Martinsville:
1. Jimmie Johnson – Finished 5th: He was never a factor for the win, and while he maintained the points lead, Johnson now can't afford to race conservatively next week at Talladega. That is huge. (-)
2. Denny Hamlin – Finished 1st: Momentum clearly is in Hamlin's corner now. Not only has the Chase gone almost exactly as he scripted it, but he now has put Johnson in an unfamiliar situation. (-6 points)
3. Kevin Harvick – Finished 3rd: No one expected Harvick to be a challenger at Martinsville, but he was. Harvick has to be thrilled heading to Talladega, where he will be a favorite to win. (-62 points)
4. Kyle Busch – Finished 4th: Give Busch credit for not packing up his helmet bag and heading home after the back-to-back incidents at Kansas and California. He won't win the title this year, but he's proving that Joe Gibbs Racing has the best 1-2 punch in NASCAR. (-172 points)
5. Jeff Gordon – Finished 20th: It's not a race for Gordon without some sort of incident. A horrible pit stop put him back in traffic, and that was followed by a run-in with Kurt Busch. Don't be surprised if those two go at it in a few weeks at Phoenix. (-203 points)
6. Carl Edwards – Finished 8th: A solid run for Edwards, who never has been very good at Martinsville. He's still within earshot of the top five. (-217 points)
7. Tony Stewart – Finished 24th: The roller coaster continued for Stewart, who ran up front at times before having a tire go down. When it's all over, the standings won't show how well Stewart actually has run in the Chase. (-236 points)
8. Jeff Burton – Finished 9th: Had the best car at both Martinsville races this year, yet has nothing but frustration to show for it. Oh, and don't forget his run-in with teammate Kevin Harvick. That battle is not over. (-242 points)
9. Kurt Busch – Finished 16th: Busch will be watching his back from here on out. Said that he tried to "let [Gordon] go," but he's not kidding anybody. Gordon won't announce it, but he will exact revenge. (-277 points)
10. Matt Kenseth – Finished 15th: Moving into the top 10 means as of now Kenseth has an invitation to the banquet in Las Vegas. Guess it's some consolation. (-293 points)
11. Greg Biffle – Finished 33rd: Biffle is one of those drivers who is either very good at a track or very average, which is one reason he probably won't win a title under the current Chase format. (-316 points)
12. Clint Bowyer – Finished 38th: His biggest contribution now is giving Kevin Harvick his pit crew. Aside from that, Bowyer doesn't have much left to play for. (-406 points)