Rick Hendrick has been carting around the 200th win celebratory hats since last year. Three of his drivers dominated the Martinsville race, but the win was denied under a green-white-checker finish.
The Hendrick Motorsports cars ran strong all day. By lap 85, all four of the teams were in the top 10. They remained there until Jimmie Johnson caught a speeding penalty during a caution on lap 102.
He restarted mid-pack, at the end of the lead lap cars. Nearing the midpoint of the race, all the HMS cars were in the top 10 once again.
On lap 229, Junior took the lead from Jeff Gordon, who had led most of the race. Shortly after that, the lead cars came in for a green-flag caution.
On lap 240, the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, driven by Kasey Kahne, began smoking. It was an ominous sign for the driver who had started on the pole and run in the top five to that point.
Kahne pulled his car into the garage, showing his frustration as the crew worked under the hood. It has been a discouraging start for the driver who was expected to come out of the gate with top finishes.
After a lengthy stay, Kahne returned to the track only to spin due to an apparent blown engine with smoke billowing out the back of the car.
Prior to the caution for the No. 5, Johnson moved to second behind Gordon on lap 313. The driver of the No. 48 had six wins at Martinsville heading to this race, with an average finish of 5.4.
On lap 356, Johnson moved to the lead with Gordon running second and Earnhardt filling the fourth slot.
Lap 364 saw the cars return to the track after what could have been the final pit stop under a yellow-flag caution, which was brought out by a spinning car.
With 18 laps to go, Gordon and Earnhardt were told to conserve fuel and that they were about two laps short. Gordon was running second followed by Junior.
With three laps to go, David Reutimann brought out a caution and Gordon took the lead over Johnson. Earnhardt came to the pits, obviously upset, and took a splash of fuel.
Reutimann stayed on the track when he could have gone to the pits. He was called to the NASCAR hauler after the race. He tried to stay on the track with a broken tie rod, and then the car quit running.
The green-white-checkered restart was ugly when Clint Bowyer cut to the inside under Gordon and sent Johnson and Gordon sliding along with the driver of the No. 15. Gordon then ran out of fuel.
The restart had Ryan Newman in the lead, and he took the checkered flag, followed by A.J. Allmendinger and Earnhardt was third.
Gordon finished 14th and Johnson ended the day in 12th place, but Junior moved up one slot to second in the point standings.
It looked to be an April Fool's Day joke on Hendrick with the domination of his drivers and the inevitable 200th win on the horizon, only to see it vanish.
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