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.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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