Jimmie Johnson has done it again. He won the NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte Saturday night, extending his lead over teammate Mark Martin to 90 points in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Johnson drove away from the field after dicing with teammate Jeff Gordon in the closing laps of the 334-lap race. It was Johnson's sixth win at LMS and put him another step closer to a fourth consecutive championship, which would be a first in NASCAR history.
Trailing Johnson at the finish line were Matt Kenseth, with his best finish since winning at Auto Club Speedway in February, Kasey Kahne, Gordon, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex and Kurt Busch.
Martin had his worst night of the Chase thus far after accidentally hitting the rear of Juan Pablo Montoya's car on a restart. The accident ended Montoya's streak of top-five finishes at four, and relegated Martin to a 17th-place finish. Montoya didn't fare so well. He wound up 35th.
It was not a good night for other Chase drivers as well. Denny Hamlin ran with the leaders before losing an engine. Carl Edwards was the victim of an accident and his damaged car lost an engine when he returned to the track in an attempt to get as many points as possible. Edwards was 39th. Brian Vickers had another terrible run, finishing 34th.
Other drivers in the Chase wound up better with Ryan Newman finishing 11th; Tony Stewart 13th and Greg Biffle 16th.
The race was delayed several minutes by a cold, spitting rain but it stopped and Johnson took off from the pole in quest of another win at LMS, a track he owns in recent statistics.
Sam Hornish Jr. brought out a caution on Lap 3 when he spun and barely glazed the second Turn 2 wall. The race was back underway at Lap 7 and Hornish spun again, this time off the fourth turn. Once again, the former Indy 500 winner escaped with no serious damage to his car.
When the race resumed on Lap 13, it was Johnson out front, followed by Martin, Kyle Busch, Newman, Kahne, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Montoya, Kenseth and Hamlin. Montoya had gained 10 spots in just a few laps from his 18th starting position.
Rain prompted NASCAR officials to throw a caution again on Lap 35. Following pit stops, Kenseth was the leader on the 42nd lap restart with Johnson and Kyle Busch right behind him. Rounding out the top 10 were Hamlin, Biffle, Kahne, Montoya, Gordon and Newman.
Johnson eventually regained the lead with Hamlin in second and Kenseth third. By Lap 70, Johnson had built nearly a full-second lead, showing everyone why he has been so successful at this 1.5-mile hometown track.
However, just a few laps later, Hamlim zoomed to the front in his FedEx Toyota owned by Joe Gibbs.
All of the frontrunners pitted under green between Laps 93 and 96 and when the smoke cleared, it was Kenseth in front briefly before Hamlin took back over, followed by Kyle Busch, Johnson, Montoya, Mears, Martin, Bowyer, Kahne and David Reutimann.
Kyle Busch spun in Turn 4 at 120 laps to bring out another caution. Gordon was the leader on the 124th lap restart with Biffle, Newman and Hamlin in tow.
Martin got into the back of Montoya on the restart, causing considerable damage to Montoya's Chevrolet. Montoya dropped well back in the pack due to the accident because his right rear fender was bent outwards, acting like a parachute catching the wind.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled into the garage shortly after the restart with transmission problems.
At the halfway mark (162 laps), the top 10 were Gordon, Hamlin, Johnson, Kahne, Kenseth, Biffle, Newman, Bowyer and Bill Elliott.
Montoya brought out a caution when his ill-handling car spun shortly before the halfway point. He lost two laps while his crew made repairs.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 334
2. Matt Kenseth Ford 334
3. Kasey Kahne Dodge 334
4. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 334
5. Joey Logano Toyota 334
6. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 334
7. Casey Mears Chevrolet 334
8. Kyle Busch Toyota 334
9. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 334
10. Kurt Busch Dodge 334
11. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 334
12. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 334
13. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 334
14. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 334
15. David Reutimann Toyota 334
16. Greg Biffle Ford 334
17. Mark Martin Chevrolet 334
18. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 334
19. David Stremme Dodge 334
20. David Ragan Ford 334
21. Reed Sorenson Dodge 334
22. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 333
23. AJ Allmendinger Dodge 333
24. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 333
25. David Gilliland Toyota 333
26. Elliott Sadler Dodge 332
27. Paul Menard Ford 332
28. Scott Speed Toyota 332
29. Bill Elliott Ford 332
30. Robby Gordon Toyota 332
31. Bobby Labonte Ford 331
32. Michael Waltrip Toyota 331
33. Jamie McMurray Ford 331
34. Brian Vickers Toyota 330
35. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 330
36. John Andretti Chevrolet 330
37. Terry Labonte Toyota 329
38. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 304
39. Carl Edwards Ford 299
40. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 298
41. Max Papis Toyota 286
42. Denny Hamlin Toyota 192
43. Joe Nemechek Toyota 26