Apparently, Rubbing Really Is Racing At Martinsville!

Dave GainerCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2009

Bristol is a great short track, but apparently it can't hold a candle to Martinville.

On Sunday, Martinsville became a place where today's rubbing was racing, and these drivers wouldn't have it any other way. 

This was one of the better races of the year. It started out with Jeff Gordon setting the pace for the field, leading all laps except the caution laps. Later on, other players became involved.

Denny Hamlin set his sights on the No. 24, slowly gaining on him until he could make the pass, and finally did so.

Clint Bowyer had something to say Sunday, with a consistently fast performance battling back and fourth with those same leaders.

Tony Stewart also benefited from that first class Hendrick equipment, posting a phenomenal run today.

Dale Earnhard, Jr. was also in the mix and had a workmans like effort making it back to the front. This was the first track Earnhardt raced under the new Hendrick team collaboration that came out of a four-car team meeting earlier in the week.

For the 1st time this season, Earnhardt's car got better as the run went on, rather than getting worst.

But Sunday's journeyman award goes to Jimmie Johnson and the 48 team. Early handling issues sent the 48 car to the back of the field. His car was fast early, but Crew Chief Chad Knaus knew it wasn't fast enough to win the race.

They went to work on the car and slowly, but methodically, worked their way back through the field. Finally, three solid pit stops put the 48 car in the top-five and eventually in the lead.

At this time the No. 11 and No. 24 cars were battling back and fourth with the vision of a trophy clock gracing their respective living rooms.

Then, a late caution got Johnson in the catbird seat where for a few laps he began to drive away from the 11 car.

We all know cautions breed cautions, and this gave Hamlin a chance to over take the 48 on a restart, and he did, riding his bumper then diving down for the second best move of the race.

Hamlin got the clean air, and started to pull on Johnson. But slowly the 48 car crept back into Hamlin's view, eventually running up on his bumper.

With 15 to go, Johnson made a gutsy uncharacteristic move diving down deep and late into the corner. Hamlin tried to fight him off, but he was at the mercy of Johnson's front right fender. They both slid up the track, almost allowing Stewart a chance to pass them both, but it was not to be. The 48 then drove away from the 11, securing the victory.

This battle reminded me of the 24 and 48's last lap battle to the checkered flag two years ago, although not as intense.

That "Days of Thunder" Movie quote: "rubbing is racing," rang true today. Both drivers were skilled enough not to wreck each other, a great show of talent.

The 18, 99, 17, and the 16 all had a tough day, but those the Fords will be strong at Texas next week so stay tuned.