Jimmie Johnson sneaked past Jeff Gordon with 44 laps to go and held on to win the Nextel Cup race at Martinsville Speedway for his series-high seventh victory of the year.
And Johnson got some unexpected late help from Ryan Newman to tighten the points race.
Newman challenged Gordon for second with nine laps to go and finally passed him three laps later as Johnson opened a lead of nearly two seconds. Johnson then had to withstand a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish, with Gordon lurking third and ready to take advantage if the leaders faltered.
They didn't, and Johnson held on through one lap before a race-record 21st caution came out. Johnson gained in the championship chase with four races remaining, cutting Gordon's lead to 53 points heading to Atlanta next weekend.
Newman held on for second, Gordon was third and Kyle Busch fourth.
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