At least once a year, there's a race that Jimmie Johnson so thoroughly and utterly dominates to serve notice to the entire Sprint Cup Series field, on the very off-chance that they've forgotten, that he's the man to beat.
That happened on Sunday at Martinsville, a track that has become commonplace for those showings, and it also vaulted Johnson atop the points standings.
After starting on the pole, Johnson led 347 of the race's 500 laps en route to his eighth career Martinsville win, easily holding off Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon.
Johnson restarted with Bowyer to his outside and Gordon immediately behind him with eight laps to go after Kurt Busch's car caught fire to bring out a red flag. You may remember that those three were the principal players in a late race restart a year ago at Martinsville, when Gordon restarted first with Johnson to his outside and Bowyer in third.
On that restart, Bowyer dashed to the inside after a huge shove from Ryan Newman and made contact with Gordon and Johnson as the front three went for a spin in front of the entire field as Newman drove away for the eventual win.
This year, there wasn't even a fraction of the drama. Johnson immediately cleared Bowyer, who immediately slid in front of Gordon and maintained the advantage over final laps for the win. And no, Gordon and Bowyer didn't make any contact either. While Gordon briefly hung on to Bowyer's back bumper, he was never close enough to attempt a pass, let alone a nudge.
"Fortunately we didn't have any craziness with two tires or four tires at the end and the fastest car won the race," Johnson said in victory lane.
Yes, that's an accurate statement. Johnson never ventured far from the top five all day, and swiped the lead from Matt Kenseth for good on lap 363. It was the sixth time that Johnson has won at Martinsville and led at least 100 laps, and in 23 starts at the half mile paperclip, he's finished in the top 10 20 times.
"I think the last stop or two, we really got our car adjusted right," Johnson said. "And got some clean air, got track position, which was very important."
Johnson took the points lead thanks to teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s struggles and 24th place finish after spinning out late in the race. Through six races, Johnson is the only driver with two wins and leads Brad Keselowski by six points, while Junior is 12 points back in third.