CONCORD, N.C. - Jimmie Johnson raced to his third victory in the Chase for the Championship to take control of the Sprint Cup standings.
Johnson held off teammate Jeff Gordon on a handful of late restarts Saturday night to win the Banking 500 for his sixth victory at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Though Johnson has long dominated at the track, the win was the Lowe's-sponsored driver's first since 2005.
It came at the perfect time for Johnson, who extended his lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin as they head next week to Martinsville Speedway, where Johnson has won five of the past six races.
Matt Kenseth was second, followed by Kasey Kahne, Gordon and rookie Joey Logano.
Johnson, in pursuit of an unprecedented fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup title, leads Martin by 90 points and Gordon by 135. Juan Montoya, who was third coming in, fell to sixth, 195 points out, after finishing 35th.
Childress plans with or without Harvick
Richard Childress doesn't appear to be too concerned about Kevin Harvick's possible departure at the end of the 2010 season.
Childress said Saturday at LMS that he's focused on helping his struggling team move on following an awful 2009, not Harvick's status.
Harvick hinted in a recent television interview that he has no plans to remain at Richard Childress Racing when his contract expires next year.
"We'll just see how everything plays out in the future," Childress said. "I didn't see Kevin's interview. I've heard some comments on it but whatever happens, happens."
Childress is more concerned about turning around a program which failed to land any of its four cars in the Chase for the Championship. Last year RCR's Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer made the NASCAR playoffs. Harvick came into Saturday 21st in points, the lowest on the four-car team; Bowyer was 15th, Burton 18th and Casey Mears 19th.
The longtime owner admitted he's a little baffled by the stunning drop-off for one of the series' most successful teams.
"It's such a fine line with this car," Childress said. "If you look at it, other than three, four or five cars people can be off and on and when you get off sometimes it's hard to get back on."
Childress has made several changes this year. He let Harvick and Mears switch crew chiefs and promoted Burton's crew chief, Scott Miller, to director of competition.
THINKING PINK: A handful of Sprint Cup drivers traded paint in the fight against breast cancer. The Cup cars of Kyle Busch, Michael Waltrip, Elliott Sadler, Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte were outfitted in pink in Saturday's Banking 500 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.
LATE FRIDAY: Who needs a flu shot when you can take the checkered flag instead?
Kyle Busch, still dealing with a flu that developed into walking pneumonia, dominated Friday's Dollar General 300 Nationwide race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, picking up his seventh win this year to move closer to his first series title.
After a week of bed rest and antibiotics, Busch looked like his regular self on a chilly night at the 1.5-mile oval, leading 137 of 200 laps to push his push his advantage over Carl Edwards to 195 points with four races remaining.
"I felt like we were in another zip code," Busch said.
It certainly looked like it at times, as his No.18 Toyota had little trouble. He avoided a couple of early race wrecks that took out a handful contenders then zoomed away from the field to collect his 28th series win, beating Mike Bliss by 1.712 seconds.
Edwards, who started on the pole, finished fifth.