Chevrolet drivers swept the front row with Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne posting the quickest time in qualifying. Just sixteen thousandths of a second behind Kahne was Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick on the outside of the front row.
Toyota drivers started side-by-side in the second row. Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer combined for starting spots three and four.
Ryan Newman rounded out the top five in his Stewart-Haas Chevrolet.
Drop Of The Green
Kevin Harvick hung tough on the outside and completed the pass for the lead as the field came off of turn four on the first lap.
Seven time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon was on the move early. Jeff Gordon charged from his ninth place starting spot all the way up into the lead by lap twenty-one. Gordon clearly had a fast car and went on to rule the early going.
For the second week in a row green flag racing was the order of the day. Last week Auto Club Speedway's only caution was for the rain that ended the race. This week the 2012 Goody's Fast Relief 500 started with 97 laps of green flag racing.
Jeff Gordon dominated the first part of the race until Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a pass for the lead on lap 229. Junior Nation went wild until green flag pit stops came just a couple of laps later.
Junior clearly had a fast horse and a very realistic chance of breaking his long losing streak. Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race since 2008. That year he picked up the June Michigan victory by stretching his fuel mileage to claim the win. That was Junior's first and only win for car owner Rick Hendrick.
However the three drivers that combined to win 14 of the last 18 Martinsville races were running first, second and third with 140 laps to go. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin are masters of Martinsville and it looked like today's race would go to one of them.
- Martinsville breeds streaks.
- Junior has never won in Martinsville.
- Today wasn't going to be his day either.
Chasing The Checkers
With fifty laps to go Jimmie Johnson was in control with Jeff Gordon riding in second. Gordon was within sight of Johnson but seemed content to ride there as the laps were clicking away.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed to improve late in a tire run and he worked his way back up to third so Hendrick Motorsports drivers were running in the top three spots.
Johnson and Gordon were working through traffic allowing Gordon to close up as the race entered the final ten laps. Gordon got to his bumper and ran just inches away. With six laps to go Gordon took a look on the bottom but couldn't make it stick. He tried again on the next lap and the one after.
They crossed the line side-by-side with three laps to go but the caution flew one more time setting up a green-white-checkers finish. Gordon and Johnson stayed out while everyone else behind them hit pit road for a splash of fuel and a couple of tires.
Jeff Gordon was ahead by inches when the caution flew so he had his pick of lanes for the restart. Clint Bowyer won the race off of pit road and restarted third right behind the leaders.
When the green flag flew all heck broke loose. Clint Bowyer dove to the bottom and made it three wide into turn one. That just didn't work and both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson spun. For a second it looked like Bowyer was going to get away and take the win but Gordon clipped his back bumper and spun Bowyer up into the wall as well.
This left the lead open for Ryan Newman who restarted fifth but found himself all alone out front when the caution flew to clean up the mess in turn one.
So this set up green-white-checkered attempt number two. Newman had the lead with A.J. Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. making up the rest of the first two rows.
The second restart was clean and the two leaders stayed side-by-side for the entire first lap. Newman got a little bit of an edge in turn two and was able to slide up in front of Allmendinger and take the win.
- Ryan Newman
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Brad Keselowski
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Jeff Gordon
- Denny Hamlin
- Matt Kenseth
- Aric Almirola
- Tony Stewart
Greg Biffle continues to lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings but Dale Earnhardt Jr. cut into his lead and moved up into second. Junior is just six points behind in spite of his long losing streak.
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings: