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Jimmie Johnson rallies down the stretch to win Martinsville for the fifth time in his last six runs here

   Jimmie Johnson: Mr. Martinsville! But the next time here Denny Hamlin may turn the tables (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Jimmie Johnson let teammate Jeff Gordon carry the freight most of the afternoon for car owner Rick Hendrick, but down the stretch it was Johnson-versus-Denny Hamlin, in fierce battle, with Johnson banging around Hamlin for the lead for good with 16 laps to go, winning Sunday's Martinsville Goody's 500.
   Hamlin led the most laps, and Johnson didn't get the lead until lap 430 of the 500.
   After a flurry of late-race yellows, Johnson finally pushed Hamlin out of the way to take the lead with just eight miles to go, and he sprint away to win by six lengths. Hamlin couldn't mount any late charge.  
    "I don't know how Denny got inside of me on that one restart," Johnson said of one of several incidents between the two, with about 40 laps to go. "But I had a little better car on the long run, and I set him up.
   "I assume he figured I had a little better car because he didn't come back down and dump me."
  That winning move by Johnson was breath-taking.
  "At first I lost it, and I thought 'Well, that's it.'... and then the car caught itself. Then I lost it again when I got in the marbles. Again thankfully nobody was right on us so we could recover and get going and carry on.
  "That was a slide for a really long time. I'm glad that both cars stayed straight.
   "That was just a fun day. We didn't have the best car at the start, so we had to take our time fixing our car."
   Hamlin wasn't happy about the end-game, but he handled it with class. "We just came up short. I would have done the same to him. And if it comes around again, I will," Hamlin said.
   New owner-driver Tony Stewart was a perhaps surprising third, with a shot to win, depending on how the Johnson-Hamlin duel went. "We weren't the caliber of Denny and Jimmie, but we're inching up closer, and six weeks into this, I'm proud of where we're at," Stewart said.
   "Our guys gave us a really got stop at the end that got us up there.
   "I didn't know till the end of the race where Ryan (Newman, his teammate) was. I had no idea he'd have such a strong run at the end, to get to sixth.
   "I was about three car lengths back of where I needed to be to be a part of it at the end. The hard thing for me was to keep on my marks and not get caught up in watching Denny and Jimmie."
   "He knew he was going to have to run for his life after that move," Hamlin said of Johnson. "But he was smart about it; he moved us up into the trash, to where we couldn't get back to him.
   "Maybe if I hadn't made that move on him earlier to pass for the lead....I could have waited and done the same thing to him."
   Is it hard for Hamlin to bite his tongue about the bitter loss?
   "It's not that hard, because I know I would have done the same thing to him," Hamlin said.
   "Jimmie has always been very fair with me. And his credibility is 50 percent about how it's easier to take.
   "When he did move me up the track, he did back off a little to give me a chance to get my stuff back together...but I was just too high up in the loose stuff.
   "You know he's going to make a move like that on you....but I was thinking he was going to do it later, maybe with two or three to go. But on a short track when you get an opportunity, you've got to take it, because he didn't know that my car wasn't going to get better.
   "Everyone who travels the circuit knows the problems I seem to have at the end of these races. But it will turn around."
   And maybe teammate Kyle Busch will have his short-track luck turn around too. Busch, winner at Bristol, was in trouble all day Sunday and never a factor.
   Clint Bowyer carried the day for team owner Richard Childress, finishing fifth. But Jack Roush's teams were never factors.

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