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Fontana recap: Johnson wins, Gordon and Martin finish in top 5

 

FONTANA, Calif. (Oct. 11, 2009)—Jimmie Johnson captured the points lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after pacing a race-high 126 laps and winning Sunday’s Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

But getting to Victory Lane wasn’t easy for the defending race winner. Johnson had to outrun teammates Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin on a final restart that occurred with three laps to go. Although his specially-painted No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet handled better on the long runs, Johnson managed to pull away in the short timeframe.

“What an awesome car, what an awesome day,” said Johnson, who owns a 12-point advantage in the standings. “Those cautions at the end really had me nervous. I didn’t know what to do on those restarts. I’m glad I got a good start.”

Gordon gave Johnson the most competition during the final restarts and led twice for six laps before crossing the finish line second. This is the eighth time this season Gordon has taken runner-up honors and the third time he has followed a teammate for the checkered flag.

“We were just trying to make it interesting because nobody else seemed to be able to do that for the (No.) 48,” said Gordon, who improves two spots to fifth in the standings. “We certainly couldn’t on that last run. It was a great day for the DuPont/Pepsi Chevrolet. We fought hard all day to put ourselves in that position. To come home second today is definitely something we’re proud of.”

Martin started ninth and led five laps early in the race. Previously the points leader, Martin now ranks second in the standings after crossing the finish line fourth behind Johnson. This is Martin’s 12th top-five finish of the season.

“I’m real proud of our Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet and our team,” Martin said. “Man, these guys are so awesome. They brought me all weekend a great race car, great job, great adjustments, and we made progress with the race car. There was a time when we could go out front. We were right there. I’m just proud. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be driving that (No.) 5 car.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. climbed from his 37th starting spot and spent most of the day running in the top 10. But misfortune struck with roughly 25 laps to go when Earnhardt’s No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy was collected in an eight-car accident in Turn 1. After a red-flag period, the No. 88 team doctored the Chevy and sent Earnhardt back to the track. He finished 25th.

“We are doing whatever we can to stay positive,” Earnhardt said. “We had a top 10 car today and it’s unfortunate that a lot of good cars got tore up there at the end.”

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