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Sorting out all these Martinsville 500 storylines may take a while...maybe not till Phoenix

  Hello, wall. Jeff Burton's day, once so promising, ends like this (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern
    Hey, maybe these other guys do finally have Jimmie Johnson's number.
    Mr. Martinsville, with three tour wins in the season's first five races, not only didn't win Monday's 500, he never even led a lap.
    In fact, the Rick Hendrick guys didn't really have that strong a game, at this flat half-mile which they've dominated the past several years.
   Yes, Jeff Gordon did have a victory in his sights with just two laps to go in the overtime 508-lapper. But that was only because of a faux pas by rival crew chief Mike Ford, whose call to pit with only 10 laps to go put Denny Hamlin in a deep hole.
   But Dale Earnhardt once again floundered back in the pack somewhere. And teammate Mark Martin had to recover from a pit road miscue late that knocked him out of contention while running third.
    The Hendrick scorecard:
    Gordon wound up third, Johnson ninth, Earnhardt 15th, and Martin 21st. The kicker: Jimmie Johnson goes into the Easter break back atop the Sprint Cup standings, though just by a hair over rivals Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. Kevin Harvick slipped to fourth after suffering brake problems Sunday.
    And Joe Gibbs' guys Hamlin and Joey Logano finished 1-2. Plus Kyle Busch, though playing catch-up most of the pleasant if threatening afternoon, was in contention for the win down the stretch too...until he also made that fateful decision to pit with only five miles to go and some 20 men still on the lead lap. Busch was stuck back in traffic on the restart and got knocked into the wall, finishing 22nd.
    The key storylines:
   -- the Hamlin charge to victory;
   -- the Matt Kenseth-Jeff Gordon brouhaha;
   -- a very strong performance by Jeff Burton, who had the only car that could match Hamlin lap for lap, and who was battling for the win when his right-front tire began going down late (probably from a melted tire sealing bead from excessive brake heat, a common problem throughout the race0;
   -- brake problems by now-ex-tour points leader Kevin Harvick while leading the first 57 laps;
   -- and some very hard-nosed racing through the pack, in one of the best races so far this season.
   Yes, the crowd was off. Maybe 45,000 to 50,000. But then it was a Monday.
   And these drivers – to a man – were complimentary to the fans who did show up...not only publicly thanking them but also putting on a show of classic, hard Martinsville racing.
   This might not have been the Payback 500, but enough drivers left here with ruffled feathers to set up a few scores to settle the next time out, at Phoenix after the Easter break. That will be the last break for these guys until late July.
    What happened to Johnson? He started a solid third, because that's where he was in the points when Friday's rain washed out qualifying. So he also had a very good pit, one of only three good pits here. Yet he was never really a factor.
   The man who set the pace was Jeff Burton, who appeared determined to wear out Hamlin's sore left knee – which is scheduled for surgery this week.
   "We were trying some stuff through the company (cars), especially on our," Johnson said. "We thought we would get it sorted out in practice and just came up a little short.
    "Didn't get enough time with our new ideas.
    "But we got good race experience with it, and we know what we were trying here will help us at other tracks down the road.
    "With the fast start we have had (this season), we wanted to be smart and try some things out."
    In the frantic rush to the finish Ryan Newman, not known for Martinsville prowess, wound up on the front row for the final restart, and he pulled out a fourth.
    "It was interesting...." Newman said. "I was kind of in the worst spot there for the restart (the outside lane, not preferable). So I didn't know what to expect.
    "Jeff drifted high (after getting pushed up by Matt Kenseth), and washed me up the track. And then Denny was drilling me in the bumper. I'm amazed we got back to the finish line.
    "To get a top-four after all that I think it was a good day. I can't complain."
    Not so for teammate Tony Stewart, who never got on track, then got caught up in too much bruising battling, and struggled in 26th.
    Most drivers will be rushing home to watch the video of this thing, because there was a heck of a lot of action, much more so than usual, even for this place, for some reason.
    Gordon pointed out that NASCAR's new double-file restart rule gave Hamlin the opportunity to get back in contention: "Under the old rules, there was no way...because you would be starting eighth, not fourth. Definitely the double-file restarts make a big difference."
    And it wasn't just better track position that helped Hamlin, but the jam-ups throughout the field, which wound up putting Kyle Busch in the wall on lap 500 and putting the game into overtime.

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Missed storyline - yet

Missed storyline - yet another epidemic of Goodyear tire failures.

but when the bead melts,

but when the bead melts, because of excessive brake heat, a common problem at martinsville, i can't really fault goodyear....tell the drivers to stop riding the brakes. actually lack of practice may have contributed to the problem, because teams can measure heat on brakes if they make long enough runs.....beads have been an issue at martinsville for years....but then why the RF and not both fronts? hmmmmm

[W]hy the RF and not both

[W]hy the RF and not both fronts? hmmmmm
Since the RF carries more weight going through the corner, I would think that braking force would also be heavier on the RF than the LF, so heat would build there faster.
Where's Ed Cluka when you need him?

darned, i need to give ol' ed

darned, i need to give ol' ed a call....

I can agree with the point

I can agree with the point about the beads - it's yet again that these cars have preposterouly high horsepower; I don't get why some teams don't cut their power so they can "overdrive" the corners better and at least try to save their brakes.

Even so, we've seen tire troubles like this with Goodyear for so long that epidemics like this remain an indictment of lack of competition for Goodyear.

I always admire the photos

I always admire the photos you pick for the site, Mike. This one is especially cool. Not that I like to see anything bad happen to J. Burton (or any other driver/team), but catching the moment of impact like this photo does is really spectacular.

i appreciate that. i work

i appreciate that. i work hard to find just the right photos....too bad the copy is typically superfluous lol.

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