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Johnson Grabs Win, Top Seed at Richmond

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by Pete McCole
September 8, 2007

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Jimmie Johnson toys with Tony Stewart
CIA Stock Photo

RICHMOND, Va -- Jimmie Johnson ran away from the field to post his series leading sixth NASCAR Nextel Cup Series win and secure the top spot in the Chase for the Nextel Cup with a victory in Saturday night’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond Int’l Raceway.

Johnson led all but one of the final 100 laps to beat out Tony Stewart by more than three seconds to win for the second week in a row, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fell short on his bid to qualify for the 12-driver Chase lineup, failing to make the Chase field for the second time in three years.

With the Chase standings seeded by number of victories, Johnson will start the 10-race showdown with a 20-point edge over his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon.

“We're happy to be hitting our stride at this point in the season,” said Johnson. “The race was starting off good for us and we ran in the Top-5 all day. At the end the car started to come to life and made some great adjustments. Adjustments were spot on and got me in good track position. 
 

“The last hundred laps the car was as good as it's been. I’m happy that we're able to put that together and win back-to-back weeks like this.”

Dave Ragan finished a career-best third in Saturday’s night race, followed by Jeff Gordon and Johnny Sauter.

Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick raced their way into the Chase field, surviving some tense moments when both got caught up in an incident on lap 242, giving the Red Army a glimmer of hope.

Earnhardt, Jr. had to overcome a 128-point deficit to pass Harvick for 12th in the standings and faced the nearly insurmountable challenge of having to win the race and have Harvick finish 33rd or worse in order to pass Harvick for the final transfer spot.

Earnhardt, Jr. and his team put together a string of top-five finishes in the last two races, and put up a valiant effort on Saturday, running in the top five for much of the second half of the race.

Earnhardt slipped past Jeff Gordon to take second place with 47 laps to go and was gaining ground on Johnson for the lead, but it all became meaningless when Harvick crossed the finish line with 22 laps to go, bypassing Jeff Green, who was 22 laps down in 33rd-place, guaranteeing Harvick a finish of at least 32nd and mathematically eliminating Earnhardt, Jr.


Dale Jr's engine blows five laps from end
CIA Stock Photo

Earnhardt, Jr.’s bid for the victory went up in smoke while running third with five laps to go when the powerplant in his no. 8 Budweiser Impala bit the dust, relegating him to a 30th-place finish. It was the third such engine failure in the last seven races for Earnhardt, Jr.

“It’s just disappointing. These dang motors,” said a dejected Earnhardt, Jr. following the race. “I run good every week, we just haven’t been finishing races. We run in the top five every week. We aren’t in the Chase, we deserve to be in the Chase, I wish we were for my fans, but we’ll give them something to cheer about. We race hard, we don’t quit. We love racing, that’s what we do.”

Tony Stewart, who missed the Chase last season, will start third in the Chase behind Johnson and Gordon in his bid for his third Nextel Cup title, but was still disappointed with his runner-up finish in the race.

“We just didn’t end up where we need to be,” said Stewart. “We had a good night, we kept making changes and kept getting (the car) better, but we felt we let one get away from us tonight.

“I’m really proud of how this team rebounded from missing the Chase last year to this year, ending the 26-week stretch second in points. It just shows that this team never gives up.”

Carl Edwards will start fourth in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, followed by Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 190/5 400 Running
2 7 20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet The Home Depot 175/5 400 Running
3 8 6 David Ragan * Ford AAA 165/0 400 Running
4 2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Nicorette / DuPont 170/10 400 Running
5 35 70 Johnny Sauter Chevrolet Radioactive Energy Drink / Yellow 155/0 400 Running
6 5 11 Denny Hamlin Chevrolet FedEx Express 155/5 400 Running
7 13 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 146/0 400 Running
8 17 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Dodge Dealers / UAW 142/0 400 Running
9 14 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 138/0 400 Running
10 36 18 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Interstate Batteries 134/0 400 Running
11 4 12 Ryan Newman Dodge ALLTEL 135/5 400 Running
12 20 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 132/5 400 Running
13 24 00 David Reutimann * Toyota Burger King 124/0 400 Running
14 18 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 121/0 400 Running
15 40 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 118/0 400 Running
16 10 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / B. Labonte's 500th Career Start 115/0 400 Running
17 23 25 Casey Mears Chevrolet National Guard / GMAC 117/5 400 Running
18 11 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 109/0 400 Running
19 26 40 David Stremme Dodge Energizer e2 Lithium 106/0 400 Running
20 3 5 Kyle Busch Chevrolet Kellogg's / CARQUEST 103/0 400 Running
21 19 01 Mark Martin Chevrolet U.S. Army 100/0 400 Running
22 41 38 David Gilliland Ford M&M's 97/0 400 Running
23 27 84 A.J. Allmendinger * Toyota Red Bull 94/0 400 Running
24 28 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 91/0 400 Running
25 30 45 Kyle Petty Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 93/5 399 Running
26 38 15 Paul Menard * Chevrolet PEAK / Menards 90/5 399 Running
27 9 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Dodge Dealers / UAW 82/0 399 Running
28 22 88 Kenny Wallace Ford Snickers 84/5 399 Running
29 42 21 Bill Elliott Ford U.S. Air Force 76/0 395 Running
30 21 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Elvis Presley / Budweiser 73/0 394 Off Track
31 32 44 Dale Jarrett Toyota UPS 70/0 394 Running
32 25 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 67/0 393 Running
33 33 66 Jeff Green Chevrolet Best Buy 64/0 380 Running
34 29 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 61/0 353 Running
35 34 96 Tony Raines Chevrolet DLP HDTV 58/0 345 Running
36 39 7 Robby Gordon Ford Jim Beam Black 55/0 335 Out of Race
37 43 49 John Andretti Dodge LifeLock 52/0 299 Out of Race
38 12 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 49/0 292 Out of Race
39 37 16 Greg Biffle Ford VoomHD.com / Dish Network 46/0 261 Running
40 16 10 Scott Riggs Dodge Valvoline / Stanley Tools 43/0 251 Running
41 15 42 Juan Montoya * Dodge Texaco / Havoline 40/0 241 Out of Race
42 6 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 42/5 182 Out of Race
43 31 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing 34/0 130 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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