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Phoenix recap: Johnson wins, Martin and Gordon in top 10

AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 15, 2009)—Jimmie Johnson led a race-high 238 laps on his way to Victory Lane in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Phoenix International Raceway, while his teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon also scored top-10 finishes.

This is Johnson’s third straight win in the fall event at Phoenix, and the sixth straight at the one-mile oval for Hendrick Motorsports. The three-time defending Cup champion enters the season finale at Homestead, Fla., with a 108-point lead in the driver standings. Johnson needs to finish 25th or better next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch the championship and become the first driver to win four straight NASCAR Sprint Cup titles.

“I’m very proud of these guys,” said Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. “We obviously have one more race to go. We saw in Texas anything can happen so I’m not going to get too excited just yet.”

Martin, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet, climbed from his 10th-place starting spot to cross the finish line in fourth. Martin ranks second in the driver standings and remains in the hunt for the championship. The NASCAR veteran can claim his first Cup title next week if he leads the most laps and wins, and Johnson finishes 26th or worse.

“We gave it everything we had today,” Martin said. “The car was a little vulnerable on the restarts, and we lost some spots and had to battle back from that. But on the long run our car was very, very good. I really thought we could get to Jimmie with 35 to go, and then the car just got too tight. But it was a strong car and a great effort by this team.”

Gordon scored the ninth-place finish in Sunday’s 312-lap event and remains ranked third in the driver standings.

“I was real excited when we started the race,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. “But it just got away from us. We weren’t very good on the restarts. It was a ninth-place day for us, which was a little disappointing because I thought we were going to be better than that. The (No.) 48 did what they needed to do. That’s why they’re three-time champs.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet 18th for Sunday’s race, but suffered an issue on Lap 171 that resulted in a multi-car accident in Turn 4. His team worked to repair the damage, and Earnhardt returned to the track to finish 35th.

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