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MOTOR RACING ROUNDUP

Burton, in the pits, emerges a winner

He uses three gas-only stops to pull out a victory over NASCAR points leader Johnson at Concord, N.C.

October 12, 2008|From Times Wire Reports

One by one the title contenders dropped out Saturday night, giving Jimmie Johnson a clear shot at widening his lead in the Sprint Cup's Chase for the championship.

Not so fast, thought Jeff Burton, who used three gas-only pit stops to pull off a victory that catapulted him into championship contention at Concord, N.C.

Burton culminated savvy pit strategy on a final stop, going into the pits with the lead and taking fuel only to make sure he was still out front on the restart with 34 laps to go at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Johnson staged a brief battle for the lead, but Burton held steady to end a 25-race winless streak.

The victory, his second of the season, pushed Burton from fourth to second in the standings with five races to go to decide the title. He trails Johnson by 69 points.

Kasey Kahne, who swept the May races at the track, finished second and was followed by Kurt Busch.

Kyle Busch, the regular-season points winner, was fourth for his best finish since the Chase began five weeks ago. Jamie McMurray was fifth, and Johnson faded over the final few laps to finish sixth.

Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and David Ragan rounded out the top 10.

The night was a disaster for several Chase contenders, including Carl Edwards, who entered the race second in the standings. He lost power in his Ford early and finished 33rd to probably lose his shot at his first Sprint Cup title.

"It is obviously bad for our prospects for the championship," team owner Jack Roush said.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't fare much better, finishing 36th after his tire exploded a lap before he planned to head to pit road to have them changed. He's 10th in the standings.

Matt Kenseth was caught in a mid-race accident and finished 41st to drop to 11th in the standings.

Photographs of the scuffle between Edwards and Kevin Harvick on Thursday show a more physical confrontation than witnesses described, with Edwards at one point grabbing Harvick by the throat.

The two NASCAR stars argued during Thursday's practice when Edwards confronted Harvick in his garage stall at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The photographs, obtained Saturday by the Associated Press, show the two drivers clutching each other as their conversation grew heated.

Witness accounts said the two argued, Harvick turned to walk away from Edwards, and Edwards grabbed his shoulder to turn him back around. Witnesses said Harvick responded by shoving Edwards onto the car, and crew members rushing in to separate the two.

Edwards allegedly was put in a headlock by a Harvick team member as the drivers were separated.

"It's pretty well-documented everything that happened," Harvick said Friday. "Best thing I can tell you is we were in our pit stall and just protected our turf."

Edwards and Harvick were called before top NASCAR officials before the start of Saturday night's race to discuss their feud.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton tightened his grip on the Formula One title by claiming the pole position for today's Japanese Formula One Grand Prix.

The championship leader and winner here last year took his sixth pole of the season with a time of 1 minute 18.404 seconds, and will start four grid positions ahead of his title rival, Felipe Massa of Ferrari.

Vaughn Gitten Jr. defeated Tanner Foust to win the final round of the Formula Drift Championship at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale. Foust's second-place finish was good enough to win his second consecutive series championship.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Driver standings

*--* RANK DRIVER POINTS BEHIND 1 Jimmie Johnson 5878 -- 2 Jeff Burton 5809 -69 3 Greg Biffle 5792 -86 4 Carl Edwards 5710 -168 5 Clint Bowyer 5693 -185 6 Kevin Harvick 5671 -207 7 Tony Stewart 5650 -228 8 Jeff Gordon 5633 -245 9 Kyle Busch 5552 -326 10 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5524 -354 11 Matt Kenseth 5518 -360 12 Denny Hamlin 5498 -380 13 David Ragan 3678 -2200 14 Kasey Kahne 3592 -2286 15 Ryan Newman 3286 -2592 *--*

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