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Las Vegas recap: Johnson wins, Gordon and Martin round out top four

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 28, 2010) – Jimmie Johnson wrestled the lead away from teammate Jeff Gordon with 17 laps to go to earn his second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the 2010 season and his fourth overall at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Gordon followed Johnson across the finish line in third, and Mark Martin was close behind in fourth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished the 267-lap event 16th.

Gordon opened the race from the outside pole position and immediately led the first 52 laps in his No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Max Chevrolet. Gordon never dropped out of the top three and appeared poised for his first win of the season when Johnson struck in his No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet.

Like most of the field, the teammates took advantage of a late-race caution to pick up extra tires and fuel. Gordon’s team put two fresh tires on his Chevrolet, while Johnson took four.

Johnson battled with Gordon and finally slipped by on Lap 251. 

“He was really, really good,” said Johnson, who jumped seven spots to fifth in the driver standings. “I guess he got too tight there at the end. Man, I did all I could for the three runs before that, and I had nothing for him. I could get close, then I couldn’t get the pass pulled off. … We had a great race car all day long. I think he really showed the strength of Hendrick (Motorsports’) cars when Jeff and I checked out from everyone.”

Gordon held onto a spot in the top three and led seven times for a race-high 219 laps. The third-place finish catapulted the NASCAR veteran nine spots in the driver standings to 13th, but the finish still was disappointing.

“It is tough,” Gordon said. “We came here to win, and I felt like every decision that we made today on the track and in the pits was to try to win the race. When you are leading sometimes that tough call can go against you. We were thinking more guys were going to take two tires. We aren’t going to beat ourselves up over this one; we had an awesome, awesome DuPont/Pepsi Max Chevrolet. That thing was just strolling today. It was so incredible to be out there driving a car that was that fast and be able to maintain the lead and be able to do the things that we did today. We certainly showed them that we were here. I think that you are going to see a lot more out of us this year.”

Martin lined up eighth in his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet and joined his Hendrick Motorsports teammates in the top five. Martin never dropped any lower than 16th in the field, but really started making a charge during the final 40 laps. Then he climbed from ninth to fourth.

“It was a great finish,” said Martin, who improved three spots in the driver standings to third. “Just a great job by everybody on the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. I want to thank my buddy Bob Parsons (Go Daddy CEO) and everybody at GoDaddy.com. Awesome race car at the end. We were off a little bit at the beginning; we weren’t prepared for that sunshine and struggled for a long time. Then we got the car good there at the end. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys just did a great job. We were pretty competitive there at the last.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. experienced some handling issues with his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet and fought to stay in the top 10 during Sunday’s race. He crossed the finish line 16th and improved one spot to 15th in the driver standings.

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