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Johnson Second at California, Leads Points

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 27, 2006) – Jimmie Johnson backed up his season-opening win in the Daytona 500 and strengthened his grip on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points lead with a solid second-place finish at California Speedway on Sunday.

Johnson’s finish was the highlight of what was a productive day for the teams of Hendrick Motorsports.  Jeff Gordon finished 13th in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, Kyle Busch brought the Kellogg’s Chevrolet home 16th and Brian Vickers and the GMAC Chevrolet finished 18th.

Vickers nailed down a top-10 result in Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series event, finishing ninth in the Mountain Dew/Arby’s Chevy, and Busch, who is gunning for the series championship to complement his NEXTEL Cup efforts, came in 23rd.

Johnson leads Casey Mears in the NEXTEL Cup rundown by 39 points, while Vickers sits ninth, 95 points behind his teammate.  Busch jumped nine spots overall to 12th, while Gordon vaulted 10 places, to 15th.

Though only in his second year as a full-time Cup driver, Busch already grasps the importance of even a middle-of-the-pack finish.  Understanding, of course, is one thing; accepting is another.

“We would have liked to have finished a little closer to the front, but we’ll take this,” he said. “It is a good points finish and gets the rest of the season off to a positive start.”

Johnson and his interim crew chief Darian Grubb continue to impress, illustrating the depth of the Hendrick Motorsports organization.

“The communication that we have is amazing,” Johnson said after the race. “We know each other better than I expected. He has obviously been paying close attention to what Chad [Knaus] has been doing and it is showing at the track.”

So much so that Johnson has quickly come to understand that he doesn’t need to make any major adjustments to how he goes about his business on Sunday.

“I found myself not being very descriptive when I described the car to [Grubb],” Johnson said. “One time, I asked him if he understood what I was saying or did I need to describe it more to him. He said, ‘No, no, you’re fine, we will fix you up.’ At that point I thought ‘Wow, Darian has worked with us so long, he knows right what I am talking about,’ and he got it fixed up.”

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