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Jimmie Johnson takes control of Chase standings with perfect weekend

He won the pole and lead the race at Lowe's Motor Speedway from start to finish, jumping ahead of Mark Martin by 90 points with five races left.

October 18, 2009|Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. — One by one, the championship contenders struggled to stay out of trouble at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Not Jimmie Johnson, though.

In a career of impressive feats, he grabbed yet another one Saturday night by completing a "perfect weekend" to take control of the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. The three-time defending series champion led every practice session, started from the pole and then held off his challengers during several late restarts for his third victory in five Chase race this season.

"We just completed the biggest goal of our lives: Perfect weekend," said crew chief Chad Knaus radioed as Johnson crossed the finish line for his sixth win at Lowe's, but first since 2005.

The win, his sixth of the season and 46th overall, moved the Lowe's-sponsored driver into a tie with Buck Baker for 13th on the career victory list.

More important, it extended his lead in the standings to 90 points over teammate Mark Martin at the halfway point in the 10-race Chase.

And in more bad news for the competition? They head next to Martinsville Speedway, where Johnson has won five of the last six races.

"It's definitely not over," said third-place finisher Kasey Kahne. "I mean, anything can happen the rest of the year. But if it doesn't, I think Jimmie is the guy to beat."

So does everyone else.

Matt Kenseth was second, followed by Kahne and Jeff Gordon, Johnson's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.

Martin, who started the race 12 points behind his teammate in the standings, finished 17th in part because of front-end damage received when he ran into the back of Juan Pablo Montoya on an early restart.

It was that kind of night for several title contenders, as eight of the 12 finished outside the top 10 in a rare off night for the Chase drivers.

Montoya, who was third in the standings and just 58 points out of the lead at the start of the race, dropped to sixth and is now 195 points out.

He damaged the front and back ends of his car on the restart problem with Martin and Clint Bowyer, and fell two laps down trying to get pit road for repairs.




*--* RK. DRIVER PTS. 1. Jimmie Johnson 5,923 2. Mark Martin 5,833 3. Jeff Gordon 5,788 4. Tony Stewart 5,768 5. Kurt Busch 5,746 6. Juan Montoya 5,728 7. Greg Biffle 5,655 8. Ryan Newman 5,635 9. Kasey Kahne 5,592 10. Carl Edwards 5,582 11. Denny Hamlin 5,551 12. Brian Vickers 5,438 *--*

NASCAR Driver Rating Formula: A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race. The formula combines the following categories: wins, finishes, top-15 finishes, average running position while on lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, led most laps, lead-lap finish

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