StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117571148918346.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.nascar.com‘, ‘Defending NASCAR Nextel Cup champ Jimmie Johnson celebrates his third win in four races after winning the Goodys Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville, Va., April 1.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117571155128030.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.nascar.com‘, ‘Jimmie Johnson (48 car) edges his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon at the line April 1 to claim victory in the Goodys Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville, Va., April 1. Johnson and the Lowes No. 48 team borrowed the same car set-up from Gordons team after the 48 performed poorly earlier in the week.‘);
It was 1977 when the musician and singer Meatloaf had his first hit single with the song Two Out of Three Aint Bad. Thirty years later, Jimmie Johnson, the defending Nextel Cup champion, might be singing his own follow-up version of the tuneThree Out of Four is Even Better.
With his win this past Sunday, April 1, in the Goodys Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville, Va., Johnson and his crew chief, Rockford native Chad Knaus, made it three victories out of the last four races. The win also makes it their third victory in the six Nextel Cup races run so far this year.
Johnson had to hold off a serious late-race challenge by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and owner of the Lowes No. 48, Jeff Gordon. Johnson was able to maintain a slight lead over Gordon during the final portion of the contest. With three laps to go, things got even tighter between the two.
Gordon made several attempts to get by Johnson, but on each attempt, he was able to hold off the menacing Gordon. On the final lap, Gordon desperately bumped Johnson a few times and pulled alongside him coming out of turn four. The two traded paint as they raced side by side to the checkered flag. Johnson won by a half a car length.
Denny Hamlin finished third. Last weeks winner at Bristol, Kyle Busch, was fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his best finish of the year in fifth.
Gordon was able to maintain his lead in the season points standings. He has a 28-point lead over second-place driver Jeff Burton. Despite winning half of this seasons races so far, Johnson is 60 points behind Gordon in third place.
The series takes this weekend off for the Easter holiday. They will return to action Sunday, April 15, for the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
from the April 4-10, 2007, issue