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Johnson almost assured of title with Phoenix win

Comes back from crash last weekend
Sunday, November 15, 2009

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Jimmie Johnson led a race-high 238 laps of the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

From his fiasco in Forth Worth, Jimmie Johnson rose like a phoenix in—where else?—Phoenix.

A week after teasing his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors with a 38th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway—his worst of the season—Johnson regained control of his championship run by winning Sunday’s Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

In a dominating performance in which he led 238 of 312 laps, Johnson increased his advantage over fourth-place finisher Mark Martin (second in the standings) to 108 points. With a finish of 25th or better in the season finale next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Johnson will lock up his record fourth straight championship.

Johnson, who won for the seventh time this season and scored the maximum 195 points (winning and leading the most laps) for the fourth time in the Chase, will eliminate the other 10 Chase competitors as soon as he takes the green flag at Homestead.

The victory was the 47th of Johnson’s career, breaking a tie with Buck Baker for 13th on the career win list.

“First of all, I have to thank this race team for having the strength and mental attitude and everything that they do to bounce back from last week and show up and just put a butt-kicking on everybody today,” Johnson said.

“At the start of the race, we were a little loose but still running second or third. As soon as we put new tires on, the car came to life. We made a couple of small adjustments that really, really helped it, and I could get out to a nice comfortable lead, ride, protect what I had, work my way through traffic—not with ease, but better than other guys.”

The race ran caution-free for the final 134 laps. Johnson lost the lead briefly when he pitted for four tires and fuel on Lap 243 at the 1-mile track, but he regained it on Lap 248 when Matt Kenseth came to pit road.

Johnson kept his No. 48 Chevrolet out front the rest of the way, as third-place finisher Denny Hamlin and runner-up Jeff Burton, who passed Hamlin for second on Lap 284, took turns in pursuit. Johnson’s only anxious moments came when Hamlin teammate rookie Joey Logano made Johnson work especially hard to complete a pass.

“I was trying to be smart through traffic,” Johnson said, “and the 20 car (Logano)—I’m not sure if he was just trying to stay two laps down and didn’t want to go three laps down, or if he was really trying to help his teammate out—but, either way, the 11 car (Hamlin) caught me. Once I cleared him (Logano), I got back going, and everything was fine. But the 20 car wasn’t being all that friendly.”

Johnson, who started third Sunday, plans to take an aggressive approach to qualifying at Homestead to try to avoid a repeat of the early crash that took him out at Texas.

“I think qualifying 12th (at Texas)—even though that’s a good qualifying spot—put us in harm’s way, and I was a little cautious, maybe, in qualifying,” Johnson said. “We need to show up down there and treat it like any other race.

“The farther forward we start, the better off we’re going to be, track-position-wise, the better pit stall selection we’re going to have. Until we get in the race and see what we really have, we’re going to treat it like any other race and just go as fast as we can.”

Notes: Johnson’s margin of victory over Burton was 1.033 seconds. … Polesitter Martin Truex Jr. finished fifth, his first top five of the year in his next-to-last race for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Truex will drive Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 56 Toyota next year. … Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon and David Reutimann finished sixth through 10th, respectively.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 3 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 195/10 312 Running
2 36 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Cat Financial 170/0 312 Running
3 5 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 165/0 312 Running
4 10 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Kellogg's / Carquest 160/0 312 Running
5 1 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Rain-X 155/0 312 Running
6 2 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 155/5 312 Running
7 13 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 146/0 312 Running
8 17 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 142/0 312 Running
9 14 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 138/0 312 Running
10 15 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 134/0 312 Running
11 21 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Little Debbie / Kingsford / Clorox 130/0 312 Running
12 7 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Pedigree 127/0 312 Running
13 16 44 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Ford. Drive one. 124/0 312 Running
14 6 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 121/0 312 Running
15 4 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 118/0 312 Running
16 25 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 115/0 312 Running
17 12 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 112/0 312 Running
18 28 17 Matt Kenseth Ford USG Sheetrock 114/5 312 Running
19 30 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Irwin Marathon Saw Blades 106/0 312 Running
20 24 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 108/5 312 Running
21 27 20 Joey Logano * Toyota Home Depot 100/0 310 Running
22 22 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Jim Beam 97/0 310 Running
23 33 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 94/0 310 Running
24 31 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 91/0 310 Running
25 8 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Old Spice / Office Depot 88/0 310 Running
26 40 43 Reed Sorenson Dodge Paralyzed Veterans of America 85/0 310 Running
27 9 07 Casey Mears Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 82/0 308 Running
28 35 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Insignia 79/0 308 Running
29 41 98 Paul Menard Ford Johns Manville / Menards 76/0 308 Running
30 29 09 David Gilliland Chevrolet Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 73/0 308 Running
31 39 96 Erik Darnell Ford Valvoline 70/0 306 Running
32 23 113 Max Papis * Toyota GEICO 67/0 304 Running
33 37 82 Scott Speed * Toyota Red Bull 64/0 303 Running
34 42 34 John Andretti Chevrolet Taco Bell 61/0 268 Running
35 18 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy / National Guard 58/0 256 Running
36 11 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 55/0 251 Running
37 26 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Penske Racing 52/0 239 Running
38 19 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 49/0 170 Running
39 20 171 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet TRG Motorsports 46/0 169 Running
40 34 187 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 43/0 47 In Pit
41 38 36 Michael McDowell Toyota Wave Energy Drink 40/0 36 In Pit
42 32 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 37/0 9 In Pit
43 43 37 Tony Raines Chevrolet Long John Silver's 34/0 6 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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