How the race was won
Johnson Jeff Gordon twice ran down his teammate (once before the late caution and again in the closing laps) and appeared to be poised to make the pass for the win. But Jimmie Johnson held his line and survived some bumping and banging courtesy of the No. 24 car to edge Gordon at the line for his third career Martinsville win (Gordon has seven wins there).
Story of the race
Johnson vs. Gordon. Clearly.
Also, COT part II – though it really wasn't that big of a story on Sunday.
Give 'em credit
Johnson (for his driving throughout – especially in the closing laps) and his team (for turning an also-ran car into a race winner).
Gordon for not wrecking Johnson – though didn't it seem like he would move him out of the way a bit more? No matter. Sure, he wanted the win, but Gordon and Co. haven't looked this good in a very long time.
NASCAR. The Car of Tomorrow really isn't all that bad. Looks a little different, sure, and there are plenty of kinks to work out, but it's got potential.
Chevrolet's top teams. Just look at the top seven. No big surprises in that group, though the top-five perhaps was most important for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Anyone see what Mike Skinner did this past weekend to follow-up his back-to-back wins heading into Martinsville?
David Ragan had a nice return trip to Martinsville, Scott Riggs and Ricky Rudd finally grabbed their first top-20s of the year, Jamie McMurray continued to look pretty decent, and Matt Kenseth and Co. again took a bad car and drove it toward the front.
What were they thinking?
NASCAR. It says the foam in the COT can't cause the kinds of issues Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth (among others) have experienced, unless teams are messing up their setups. Seems NASCAR needs to take a closer look at the foam.
The fuel pump issue and drivers sometimes locking up the brakes also are issues that need to be looked at, though the latter could be more of a necessary driver adjustment than anything.
Better luck next time
Harvick Kevin Harvick. He probably could have found his way to a top-five finish (or at least a top-10), though the foam problem might have undone that even if the fuel pump hadn't been an issue
Dale Jarrett. He could have had a top-20, which would have been significant for that team.
J.J. Yeley. Another good run ruined late.
By the way …
We spend a lot of time talking about Kyle Busch sometimes being over-aggressive but also maturing, and he did make a couple of wild moves on Sunday. But he finished fourth at Martinsville and won at Bristol, which begs the question: does he really need to change anything about his driving style?
Lapped traffic often can be troublesome, but Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Harvick, Junior and Co. fighting through it while battling one other at the front of the field in the lap 140-145 range was an absolute blast to watch – possibly the most exciting part of the race until the finish.
Grading the race
This one wasn't so bad until the rain delay – which did create drama around whether the weather would give Junior the win or whether it would allow the race to continue. But after the cars hit the track again, the race dragged on (thanks to cautions) toward the finish. Of course, the finish was spectacular, leaving a good taste in fans' mouths after a Martinsville race that was, even without the late drama, overall better than the COT's debut at Bristol. Grade: B-
From the source
Jimmie Johnson: "I am speechless about outdueling Jeff Gordon for this win. … That was the hardest driving I have ever done. Then to have my bumper beat off by my teammate in a way that didn't jeopardize either one of us – really class act by Jeff."
Jeff Gordon: "We had to wait til the end to start roughing [Johnson] up and I didn't want to wreck him, so that's why we're second, not first. … [If] anybody else had been in second but me, he probably wouldn't have won the race."