Jimmie Johnson kept his nose clean in a fractious race to claim his eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Martinsville.
Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsport team-mates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne spent the whole race battling with the Joe Gibbs cars of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, but in the end it was Johnson who took the chequer for the 62nd time in his career.
Clint Bowyer brought his battle-scarred Toyota home second after a strong finish, just ahead of Gordon.
Kahne was fourth, while Busch crossed the line side-by-side with reigning champion Brad Keselowski, with Busch fractionally ahead.
Two potential winners were hobbled when a yellow quickly followed a restart caught many of the drivers by surprise.
In the confusion, Bowyer rear-ended Jamie McMurray and was rammed by Michael Waltrip Racing team-mate Martin Truex Jr, causing substantial damage to Truex’s car. Joey Logano also got involved, bashing up the nose of his Penske Ford in the process.
The caution was caused by Dale Earnhardt Jr making a slow getaway. This caused Brian Vickers to tip Marcos Ambrose into a half-spin.
As the Australian fought for control he tagged Mark Martin (standing in for the injured Denny Hamlin in the #11 Gibbs Toyota). Vickers sustained the most damage, but continued to run in the top 10 until a late left-rear puncture caused him to spin off the lead lap.
Martin’s first stand-in race for Joe Gibbs was hardly star-studded. There were numerous clashes on track and an incident in pitroad when he left before the left-front wheel was attached. Despite all this, he managed to finish 10th.
Danica Patrick also had an eventful race. She started on the final row following an engine change penalty, but worked her way into the top 20.
On multiple occasions she dropped off the lead lap, but fought her way back. She caused the race’s opening caution – spinning after a nudge from Ken Schrader, and a late-race caution when Vickers tapped her into Earnhardt – but drove well to take 12th.
The race was briefly stopped late on after Kurt Busch’s Furniture Row Chevrolet burst into flames as it hit the wall when his brakes failed.
The former champion had the presence of mind to hit the extinguisher button before he clambered out, but with so much clear-up work needed, racing was suspended.