Johnson dominates in Martinsville victory

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Jimmie Johnson led 346 laps en route to claiming his eighth career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Martinsville Speedway this afternoon, re-taking the Cup championship lead in the process.

Johnson, now the winningest active driver at the famous “paperclip,” had to withstand one final restart with eight laps remaining but pulled away from Clint Bowyer and the rest of his rivals.

“I think the last stop or two, we really got our car adjusted right and got some clean air and track position, which was very important,” said Johnson, who now leads Brad Keselowski by six points as the series heads for Texas Motor Speedway. “…Just as the day wore on and we got to the end, they were flawless on pit road and I did my job on the race track to maintain track position, and we could control the race at that point.

“Being stuck on the outside lane on a restart would have been the death of whoever was out there. Fortunately, we had control of the race late and held off a lot of hard-charging guys.”

Bowyer’s runner-up was a hard-fought one, as he was one of multiple drivers caught in a wreck at Lap 180 that had a big impact on the race. Luckily for the Kansas native, his car had been fast throughout the weekend and when he needed to make up ground following the collision, it came through for him again.

Still, Bowyer wondered what could have been if he hadn’t been caught in the incident.

“It’s just disappointing. She was just tore up too bad,” Bowyer said to The Sporting News’ Jeff Owens. “We were lucky to get back up where we were.”

Jeff Gordon finished third for his best finish of 2013, while Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne finished fourth and fifth respectively.

As for Danica Patrick, she managed to finish a surprising 12th in her Martinsville debut — her best finish of the young season since her eighth-place outing at the Daytona 500. Patrick brought out the first yellow of the day with a spin at Lap 17 and fell two laps behind at one point, but was able to make them up by taking the wave-around on consecutive cautions.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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