Jimmie Johnson dominated the NASCAR Sprint Cup field for the second consecutive week, and this time he came away with the victory at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.
The five-time defending champion led 197 of 272 laps in the Hollywood Casino 400 and held off Kasey Kahne on a green-white-checkered restart to earn his second victory of 2011.
When the engine of Johnson's Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon blew with three laps to go, the field was bunched up for the two-lap dash to the finish. Seven cars chose not to pit, with Johnson and Kahne—who will be Johnson's teammate beginning in 2012—on the front row. When the green flag flew, Johnson got an excellent restart while Kahne spun his tires. Johnson opened up a two-car length advantage and Kahne never had a chance to get to Johnson's bumper before the race was over.
Brad Keselowski finished third after gambling late and staying out while the leaders pitted for tires with about 50 laps to go. The move payed off as Keselowski gained two positions in the points and moved up to fourth in the standings. Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards finished fourth and fifth, but took far different road to their finishes. Kenseth led 26 laps early and ran in the top 10 all day, while Edwards battled an ill-handling race car all afternoon, even falling off the lead lap for a while. He used a series of late cautions to get back on the lead lap and gain track position to get a top-5 finish.
Kevin Harvick came home sixth after running in the mid-teens all day, playing the late cautions to his advantage. Clint Bowyer finished seventh and Greg Biffle was eighth after winning the pole and leading
23 laps early. Marcos Ambrose and Mark Martin rounded out the top 10, each earning their 10th top-10s of 2011.
Despite starting in 19th, Johnson dominated almost the entire race. He took two tires during the first caution about 20 laps into the race to take the lead. After leading for a while, Johnson fell to third but regained the lead after taking four tires on the next round of green flag pit stops. From there, he never looked back until a late flurry of cautions threw a wrench into his dominating afternoon.
At times Johnson's lead stretched to nearly 10 seconds over Tony Stewart, who ran second for much of the race. But both Stewart ran into trouble late in the day after running in the top 5 for the majority of the event, as did Jeff Gordon, whose blown engine led to the final caution.
With four races of the Chase in the books and six to go before the championship is decided, here are the current standings after Kansas:
1. Carl Edwards
2. Kevin Harvick, -1 point
3. Jimmie Johnson, -4
4. Brad Keselowski, -11
5. Matt Kenseth, -12
6. Kurt Busch, -16
7. Tony Stewart, -19
8. Kyle Busch, -20
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr., -43
10. Jeff Gordon, -47
11. Ryan Newman, -54
12. Denny Hamlin, -79
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