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Jimmie Johnson extends NASCAR Sprint Cup lead with victory at LMS

Jimmie Johnson celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Banking 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Associated Press

Jimmie Johnson celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Banking 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

CONCORD, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson completed the perfect weekend with a win at Lowe's Motor Speedway to take control of the Sprint Cup standings.

The three-time defending series champion raced to his third victory in four races during the Chase for the Championship, taking the Banking 500 on Saturday night and extending his lead to 90 points over teammate Mark Martin.

Seeking a NASCAR-record fourth consecutive title, Johnson led every practice and earned the pole to complete yet another dominating run at Lowe's. He has been the driver to beat at the suburban Charlotte track since early in his career, and the victory was the Lowe's-sponsored driver's sixth on the 1.5-mile oval.

"Man, we pulled off a perfect weekend and we've always wanted to do that," Johnson said in his first Victory Lane visit at the track since 2005.

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

Martin, who started 12 points behind Johnson, finished 17th in part because of front-end damage received when he ran into the back of Juan 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 points, 58 out of the lead, 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.

Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards both blew motors, Greg Biffle was in a late spin, and Tony Stewart never contended.

That left it up to Kahne and Gordon to chase down Johnson, and despite some thrilling late restarts, neither came close.

Gordon finished fourth, but lost ground to Johnson and is 135 points out. Only Martin is within shouting distance of the champion.

Johnson, who led the final 14 laps, has six victories this year and 46 overall — 17 in Chase races.

And in more bad news for the competition? The series next heads to Martinsville Speedway, where Johnson has won five of the past six races.

"It's definitely not over," Kahne said. "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.

Hamlin was long gone from the track when he posted an apology on his Twitter stream with 60 laps remaining.

"A championship just isn't meant to be for this year," he wrote.

CREWMAN INJURED: A crewman for Michael Waltrip was taken to a hospital after colliding with another crew member Saturday night. Tony Caradamone, who works on Waltrip's No. 55 Toyota, was working during a pit stop when he ran into another crewman. A team spokesman didn't know the nature of the injury.

RACING ARISTOCRACY: The grand marshals for the race were Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Teresa Earnhardt and Brian France. They were chosen to represent the first class of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame, announced last week. The first five inductees are Petty; Johnson; Teresa Earnhardt's late husband, Dale; and France's two predecessors at the head of NASCAR — his grandfather, series founder Bill France Sr., and his father, Bill France Jr.

THINKING PINK: A handful of drivers traded paint in the fight against breast cancer. The cars of Kyle Busch, Michael Waltrip, Elliott Sadler, Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte were outfitted in pink to raise awareness for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The NASCAR Foundation presented Komen organizers with a check for $28,000 donated by fans who participated in a walk Saturday morning at LMS.

Sprint Cup points

With five races to go, only these drivers are eligible in the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jimmie Johnson 5,923—

Mark Martin 5,833 90

Jeff Gordon 5,788 135

Tony Stewart 5,768 155

Kurt Busch 5,746 177

Juan Montoya 5,728 195

Greg Biffle 5,655 268

Ryan Newman 5,635 288

Kasey Kahne 5,592 331

Carl Edwards 5,582 341

Denny Hamlin 5,551 372

Brian Vickers 5,438 485

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official standings Monday

Up next

Tums 500, 2 p.m. Oct. 25, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway TV: Ch. 28

Jimmie Johnson extends NASCAR Sprint Cup lead with victory at LMS 10/18/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 18, 2009 12:39am]
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