Sunday's Tums 500 at Martinsville Speedway had a familiar ending.
Its ramifications, however, have produced a new look to the Sprint Cup Series title hunt.
Jimmie Johnson showed again why he has been the master of Martinsville, starting on the pole and leading the most laps on his way to his seventh career victory at the Virginia short track.
In the process, Johnson propelled himself into the series points lead. With three races remaining, he's in good position for a sixth Cup championship.
Sunday's race also changed what was largely a three-man battle for the title into what looks like a one-on-one fight to the finish.
Johnson holds a two-point advantage over Brad Keselowski heading into this weekend's race in Texas. No other driver is closer than 26 points.
"We've done a very nice job over these seven races to put ourselves in the points lead. We've had a variety of different races finish with fuel mileage and things like that, which have kept us out of Victory Lane," said Johnson, who earned his fourth win of the season.
"We're ready to race under any conditions. [Keselowski] is a great driver. It's a great team. The next two races will tell the tale. Anything can happen."
Denny Hamlin - himself a strong performer at Martinsville - can certainly attest to that.
Anything that could go wrong for Hamlin on Sunday did. He twice was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to drive from the rear of the field to the front. Late in the race, twice within 10 laps, his car suddenly lost power and restarted before it finally came to a complete stop on the track on Lap 392 of 500.
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