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Jimmie Johnson nudges Denny Hamlin aside to win NASCAR race

Hamlin finishes second at Martinsville, followed by Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer.

March 30, 2009|Associated Press

Jimmie Johnson nudged Denny Hamlin aside in the third and fourth turns with 15 laps to go in the Goody's 500 at Martinsville, Va., and gave team owner Rick Hendrick a perfect place to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first victory in NASCAR's premier series: Victory Lane.

Johnson, dubbed "Mr. Martinsville" by Jeff Gordon, lived up to his moniker, winning for the fifth time in the last six races on the smallest, trickiest track in the series. It was his sixth victory at the 0.526-mile oval, second only to Gordon's seven among active drivers.

Hamlin, the defending race champion, never challenged Johnson after he slid high into the banking after the bump and pass, and his winless streak extended to 32 races. Hamlin finished second, followed by Tony Stewart, Gordon and Clint Bowyer.

The victory was the 18th for Hendrick Motorsports at Martinsville, where a victory by Geoff Bodine 25 years ago gave the fledgling company a needed boost.

Johnson's 41st victory came after it looked as if Hamlin had outfoxed him.

The Virginia native ducked inside Johnson on a restart with 45 laps to go, gaining the position he needed to take the lead, and held it before Johnson caught him on the backstretch on the 485th lap. From the outside, Hamlin tried to cut down in front of Johnson, bringing the contact that sent him sideways up the banking.

Johnson gathered control and grabbed the lead, while Hamlin kept his car from hitting the wall and tried to give chase, but Johnson pulled away easily and coasted to victory.

"He tried to put the squeeze on me and I was up on the curb and sliding and we got together," Johnson said in Victory Lane, before getting a bearhug from Hendrick.

Jenson Button won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne, beating teammate Rubens Barrichello and giving Brawn GP a 1-2 finish in its first race.

Defending Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth but was elevated to third by a post-race stewards' decision that penalized Toyota's Jarno Trulli for overtaking under safety-car conditions.

BASEBALL

Tigers put Zumaya, Willis on disabled list

The Detroit Tigers put left-hander Dontrelle Willis on the 15-day disabled list with an anxiety disorder and put oft-injured reliever Joel Zumaya on the list with a sore right shoulder.

But Willis said he has been feeling well on and off the mound.

"I have no idea, but [the doctors] didn't like what they saw in the blood," Willis said. "This is not something where I'm too amped up and I don't know where I'm at, and I'm running sprints up and down the parking lot."

Chicago Cubs Manager Lou Piniella picked Kevin Gregg to be the team's closer. Gregg beat Carlos Marmol, the Cubs' setup man last year, to replace Kerry Wood, who signed with Cleveland in the off-season.

SOCCER

Ecuador ties Brazil in World Cup qualifier

Ecuador's Cristian Noboa scored a goal in the 89th minute to force a 1-1 tie with Brazil in a World Cup qualifier at Quito, Ecuador. Five-time world champion Brazil dropped from second in the South American tournament with the tie, overtaken by Argentina, which beat Venezuela, 4-0, on Saturday and by Chile, which beat Peru, 3-1, on Sunday.

TRACK AND FIELD

UCLA women win Cal/Nevada meet

The UCLA women's track and field team ran away with the team crown in the Cal/Nevada Championships at Drake Stadium, winning by nearly double over the nearest team. UCLA athletes posted four event wins on the final day of competition.

PASSINGS

Longtime coach Saban, 87

Lou Saban, the well-traveled coach whose NFL and college careers spanned five decades and dozens of jobs, died in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. He was 87. Story, Section A.

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