Sunday Martinsville Notebook: Chase Contenders Have Words Following Martinsville
By: By Joe Menzer, Special to NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – It wouldn’t be a race at Martinsville Speedway without some heated words exchanged afterward.
This time drivers Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson lobbed the verbal bombs at each other following the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 on Sunday. Biffle spent several laps dueling with Johnson late in the race, and blamed Johnson afterward for driving so aggressively that the bumper on Biffle’s No. 16 Ford eventually got knocked loose and was flapping loosely in the wind.
“We finally have a good car at Martinsville, and we worked our way all the way up to sixth or seventh – and then we just got a rear bumper tore off. It takes a lot to get a rear bumper tore off,” Biffle said. “I’ve got to look back and see what happened. He claims he was inside of me; it sure felt like he hit me from behind and rubbed across (the back of the car).
“Nevertheless, we had to come in (to the pits to get the car fixed) with 80 (laps) to go and go to the tail end of the longest line (of cars on the lead lap). And we drove all the way back up into the top 10. We had a great car all day. It’s just unfortunate that happened. I think we had a top-five car and it’s hard to finish in the top five at Martinsville.”
An obviously angry Biffle approached Johnson on pit road shortly after the race, and at one juncture pointed an accusatory finger in Johnson’s face. Biffle ended up salvaging a ninth-place finish, while Johnson finished fifth.
CHEVROLET CAPTURES MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
Jeff Gordon’s win on Sunday clinched the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup manufacturers' championship for Chevrolet. It’s the 11th consecutive season Chevy has won the title, and this time it was clinched with three races still remaining in the season.
“To wrap it up with a win with a great, exciting finish, battling it out with a Toyota (the No. 20 driven by second-place finisher Matt Kenseth) is awesome. I know how much that means to Chevrolet, “ Gordon said.
It was the 16th victory of the season by a Chevy-driven car, sealing Chevrolet’s 37th manufacturer’s title.
KESELOWSKI KEEPS IT CLEAN
Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski has struggled much of the season, but was pleased to emerge from Martinsville with a fourth-place finish.
Keselowski surprised himself by staying out of trouble on a day that included 17 cautions for a total of 111 laps.
“It’s a short track and by definition there is not a lot of room to race,” Keselowski said. “With 43 cars here, there are a lot of cars on top of each other and eventually you’re going to make contact and wreck each other and make someone angry. I don’t think I made anybody angry (Sunday) and we had a decent showing, so I guess we’ll move on.”
HARVICK HAPPY AGAIN
One day after sparking controversy with derogatory post-race comments about Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon, the grandsons of car owner Richard Childress, driver Kevin Harvick went about his business without fanfare and came away with a sixth-place finish that kept him within striking distance of Chase for the Sprint Cup leaders Kenseth and Johnson.
Harvick remained fourth in the standings and is heading into next Sunday’s AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway 28 points behind the leaders, and only one point behind Gordon in third place.
“It was interesting,” Harvick said. “We fought all day. We got the nose banged up there and had a little leak in the radiator, so it was kind of nerve-wracking. (Crew chief Gil Martin and the pit crew) did a good job of adjusting the car to that little bang-up there, and we came away with a solid day.”
POLE-SITTER HAMLIN HANGS ON
It’s been a difficult year for Denny Hamlin and Sunday was no different.
After sitting on the pole, he was involved in a wreck with Kasey Kahne and others on a Lap 180 restart and suffered heavy damage to his No. 11 Toyota. But after getting the nose and other parts of the car wrapped heavily in black tape, he quickly returned to the track and remained surprisingly competitive the rest of the afternoon.
He even regained the lead briefly after the accident, and led a total of 14 laps on the day.
“We really had about a 25th-place car,” Hamlin said after finishing seventh. “I took a pretty good shot to the wheel and the steering was off just a little bit, and here that’s usually a pretty big deal. … We had a lot of damage from that early wreck. I’m proud of this whole team for fixing it, and the pit crew did an awesome job. They kept picking me up spots on pit road.”