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Johnson wins in Atlanta, closes on points lead

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Nextel Cup
October 28, 2007

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Jimmie Johnson
CIA Stock Photo

HAMPTON, GA - Jimmie Johnson won a wild-and-wooly Pep Boys Auto 500 here Sunday afternoon.

A bizarre series of circumstances in the final 20 laps of the 325-lap event led to Johnson's storybook finish and eighth win of the year.

Johnson was lined up behind race leader Denny Hamlin for a green-white-checkered flag finish.

The white starting flag waved and every car took off, every car but one.

Hamlin's car was out of gas and he rolled slowly down the center of the track like an unlucky duck at a shooting gallery.

Cars went on both sides and sparks flew. Jeff Burton scraped the outside wall and Martin Truex Jr., unable to see Hamlin's car stalled out until it was too late, buried the nose of his Chevy in Hamlin's rear end.

On the restart after the caution, more trouble ensued. Shortly after the cars took the green, the left rear wheel came flying off Dale Earnhardt's car as he entered the turn. He slid up the track directly in the path of oncoming Jamie McMurray, who delivered a KO punch to both cars at speed. That signaled the end of the race.

Neither driver was hurt but the crazy finish sent NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series officials to the monitors for a scoring rundown. NASCAR uses every tool available in determining the running order at the time the caution flag is displayed, including visual, video and scoring loops around the track to determine the final rundown.


Jimmie Johnson takes the checkered
CIA Stock Photo

When the scoring scrutiny had been completed, the final rundown showed Johnson the winner, Carl Edwards second and Reed Sorensen third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Burton, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers.

Actually, the exciting and totally unexpected ending was created with eight laps remaining when Johnny Sauter suffered a tire failure and hit the wall.

At the time of the caution, Kyle Busch was leading, Kenseth was second, Truex third, Kurt Busch fourth, Johnson fifth, Kahne sixth and Hamlin seventh. Gordon was eighth at the time, Earnhardt ninth and Carl Edwards 10th.

All but Hamlin pitted for tires and a splash of gas. Johnson's team decided to put on two tires instead of four and that put him back on track for the restart in front of everyone but Hamlin.

Once the race was restarted, speedy pit work shuffled the order with Johnson first, followed by Earnhardt, McMurray, Sorensen, Edwards, Burton, Kenseth, Bowyer and Truex.  Young Busch, the leader when the final pit stop began, was 13th when the pit stops were complete.

Johnson gained some points on Gordon in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship by winning the race with Gordon finishing six spots back. Johnson is now nine points behind Gordon in the series standings after entering the race 53 back.

To begin the race, Kurt Busch sped to the front of the field shortly after the start on a crisp, golden day at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Things weren't so pretty, however, for Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 33. Montoya's Dodge had a right front tire go down, putting the former Indianapolis 500 winner into the wall.

Earnhardt was penalized under the caution for a commitment line violation. Another caution slowed things at 42 laps when Dave Blaney's Toyota lost power on the backstretch.

A debris caution on lap 52 gave the drivers another breather, prompting fans to wonder whether the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race was going down the same path as Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series event. The Memphis event tied the caution flag record in that Series, a total of 27 caution periods.

Kurt Busch was still leading at lap 65 when David Gilliland spun on the backstretch, hit the outside retaining wall and slid across the track directly in front of Mark Martin.

Martin's car plowed into Gilliland, which ended the day for both drivers. Their cars were damaged beyond repair. Neither driver was injured.

The elder Busch was still leading when David Stremme spun off turn four. Busch went from first to 13th after the pit stop.

Truex took the lead at that point.

Another caution fell on lap 148 when rookie David Ragan smacked the wall in turn two.

When the race resumed, Truex was still in the lead with Kenseth trailing. Kurt Busch had battled his way back to third. Hamlin was fourth.

Another caution, the sixth of the beautiful afternoon, waved after Bobby Labonte's car cut a tire at lap 163.

The field had barely reached speed again after a restart when David Ragan tagged Jeremy Mayfield, sending Mayfield spinning down the track.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 6 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 190/5 327 Running
2 16 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 170/0 327 Running
3 32 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target / Breast Cancer Awareness 165/0 327 Running
4 17 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT NANO Technology 160/0 327 Running
5 28 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 155/0 327 Running
6 26 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 150/0 327 Running
7 8 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Nicorette Cinnamon Surge / DuPont 146/0 327 Running
8 2 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 147/5 327 Running
9 4 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Dodge Dealers / UAW 143/5 327 Running
10 14 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 134/0 327 Running
11 24 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 130/0 327 Running
12 15 25 Casey Mears Chevrolet National Guard / GMAC 127/0 327 Running
13 39 45 Kyle Petty Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 129/5 327 Running
14 10 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Dodge Dealers / UAW 121/0 327 Running
15 34 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 123/5 327 Running
16 31 84 A.J. Allmendinger * Toyota Red Bull 120/5 327 Running
17 19 5 Kyle Busch Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg's 117/5 327 Running
18 38 88 Ricky Rudd Ford Snickers Halloween 109/0 327 Running
19 43 21 Bill Elliott Ford Little Debbie 106/0 327 Running
20 3 44 Dale Jarrett Toyota The UPS Store / Toys for Tots 103/0 327 Running
21 33 7 Robby Gordon Ford Jim Beam 100/0 326 Running
22 1 16 Greg Biffle Ford Lumber Liquidators 102/5 326 Running
23 40 96 Tony Raines Chevrolet DLP HDTV 94/0 326 Running
24 18 11 Denny Hamlin Chevrolet FedEx Express 96/5 326 Off Track
25 5 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Budweiser 88/0 326 Off Track
26 25 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 85/0 326 Running
27 36 15 Paul Menard * Chevrolet Johns Manville / Menards 87/5 325 Running
28 29 49 John Andretti Dodge Paralyzed Veterans of America 79/0 325 Running
29 27 10 Scott Riggs Dodge Sears Auto Center / Valvoline / Stanley 76/0 325 Running
30 30 20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet The Home Depot 73/0 321 Running
31 20 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 80/10 322 Off Track
32 35 70 Johnny Sauter Chevrolet Radioactive Energy Drink 67/0 319 Running
33 37 6 David Ragan * Ford AAA 64/0 318 Running
34 21 42 Juan Montoya * Dodge Texaco / Havoline 61/0 281 Running
35 22 18 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Interstate Batteries 58/0 273 Running
36 23 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing 55/0 268 Running
37 9 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Mobil 1 52/0 267 Running
38 42 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 49/0 261 Running
39 7 40 David Stremme Dodge Coors Light / St. Jude Hospital 46/0 250 Off Track
40 41 66 Jeremy Mayfield Chevrolet Best Buy 43/0 248 Off Track
41 11 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 40/0 236 Running
42 13 38 David Gilliland Ford M&M's Halloween 37/0 64 Out of Race
43 12 01 Mark Martin Chevrolet U.S. Army 34/0 64 Out of Race

 * Denotes Rookie

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