MARTINSVILLE, Va. - One thing Jimmie Johnson's closest competitors for the Sprint Cup championship had in common on Sunday: bad timing.
Both Jeff Burton, who won last weekend's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and Greg Biffle had cars capable of contending for the win late in Sunday's Tums 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Neither had a horrible day, but both were caught up in circumstances that significantly contributed to the large gap between them and Johnson in the series standings.
Johnson was going to pad his lead anyway, as he collected his sixth win of the season. Adding to the pair's deficits were Burton's late-race penalty for pitting outside the box and Biffle's getting caught by a yellow flag after he had made a pit stop for fuel under green.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Modesto Bee
"Just one of those things that happen on pit road, especially a small pit road," Burton said of the late-race miscue. "We were coming down (pit road) and (Jeff Gordon) was leaving (his pit).
"I was trying to stop when he was coming out and when I did I was so far down pit road, it was hard to get position back in the box. We pit and we were over the line."
Biffle, who finished 12th, is now second in the standings, trailing Johnson by 149 points with four races remaining. Burton, who entered the race 69 behind Johnson, is now third, 152 behind Johnson. Carl Edwards is fourth, trailing Johnson by 198.
Neither Biffle nor Burton conceded anything to Johnson and both said they expected he and his No. 48 team to perform well this weekend at Martinsville, where they have had tremendous success.
"We're going to come and get them," Biffle said of Johnson's team. "We've got four more chances and we're going to some of our best places, so they better be on their 'A' game.
"I know they have so far, but we're going to bring the heat to Atlanta (next weekend) and all the rest of the places and see what we can do."
Burton expressed similar confidence.
"I don't think this (win by Johnson) is the nail at all," Burton said. "If it surprises anybody that (Johnson) ran well at Martinsville, they are crazy. I don't view this as being over."