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Bristol recap: Johnson wins 50th career victory

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 21, 2010) – With six laps to go in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson went three-wide to seize the lead. He held on to earn his first victory at the short track and the 50th Cup win of his career.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, led a total of 84 laps to win his third event in the first five races of the season.

“We have worked so hard for this (win at Bristol),” said Johnson, who now ranks third in the driver standings. “I thought we were in trouble there but those four tires (from the last pit stop) were everything, and I was in the outside lane, which was helpful.

“This Chevrolet was awesome. About time, man. I am so proud of this team. I am so proud of us setting a mark and going at it and accomplishing what we wanted to.”

The win moves Johnson to a tie with Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for 10th on NASCAR’s all-time Cup wins list. He needed only 296 starts to hit the 50 mark. Only three drivers have reached 50 victories quicker – teammate Jeff Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his second top-10 finish of the season when he crossed the stripe seventh. Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, improves in the driver standings to eighth.

Gordon and Mark Martin were involved in a mid-race incident in Turn 3. Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, suffered minimal damage and was able to score a 14th-place finish and improve two spots in the driver standings to 11th. Martin, however, was not as fortunate and his team had to repair the upper control arm before he could return to the track in his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. Martin finished 35th and now ranks 16th in the driver standings.

“It is just a shame,” Martin said. “Man, I think we had a car that I really believe could contend to win. I know the No. 2 was leading but we were running easy saving our tires back there, just adjusting our stuff. Mistakes happen, but that is a real bad deal for us. It was just one of those things. I needed to go, I couldn’t be waiting around. I was waiting around long enough on them. I had a fast race car and was going around the outside and just got pinned up against the wall.”

From here, the series travels to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where the Cup cars will trade in the rear wing for the spoiler. NASCAR tested the change last week at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and also will test this week at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

“I’m anxious to see what the spoiler is going to be like,” Gordon said. “I’m really looking forward to it and I don’t know how much change there is going to be but I certainly look forward to trying it.”