November 16, 2009 in Sports

Johnson on verge of fourth title

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Jimmie Johnson won for the fourth time in the past five races at Phoenix International Raceway.
(Full-size photo)

When a fluke accident cost Jimmie Johnson a huge chunk of his points lead, he knew there was no more room for error in his bid to win a NASCAR-record fourth consecutive championship.

But when it came time to plot a strategy for Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., playing it safe was never an option.

Johnson cruised to a dominating victory Sunday that moved him to the edge of history, winning the fourth race of this Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in what his rivals considered a “statement” showing.

“I guess in the end it could be looked at like that,” Johnson acknowledged. “It was, ‘Hey, guys, you know, we need to step up and get it done … we need to show what we’re made of, we need to get this done.’

“I guess in the end, it could have been a statement that we’re sending. I’m very proud of the fact we looked each other in the eyes, knew what we had to do, and delivered.”

Johnson was wrecked on the third lap of last week’s race at Texas, and sat inside his disabled race car as his crew did a total rebuild of the Chevrolet. He limped to a 38th-place finish that sliced his lead in the standings to just 73 points over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin.

His win at Phoenix – Johnson’s fourth in the past five races here, and seventh victory of the season – stretched his lead to 108 points over Martin heading into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson needs to finish 25th or better next week to grab a spot in NASCAR’s record books.

“We gave it everything we had,” said Martin, who finished fourth.

Martin has gained 108 points on Johnson nine times in 265 races, including last weekend at Texas. He did it once at Homestead, in 2005.

He’s the only driver still in mathematical contention to catch Johnson. Fellow Hendrick driver Jeff Gordon will be eliminated as soon as Johnson starts next week, and Johnson’s win at Phoenix knocked everyone else out of contention.

Jeff Burton finished second and was followed by Denny Hamlin, Martin and pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr.

NHRA

Tony Schumacher won his sixth straight and seventh overall Top Fuel championship, beating Larry Dixon by two points in the closest season title race in NHRA history.

Schumacher was on deck, sitting on a two-point lead over Dixon, when Dixon was upset in the semifinals at Pomona, Calif., clinching the title for the U.S. Army team.

Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won a championship on the final Sunday of the season; while the other two championships were decided Saturday as Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) clinched their titles in qualifying.

Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

At Phoenix International Raceway; Avondale, Ariz.

Lap length: 1 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (3) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 312 laps, 149.6 rating, 195 points, $267,001. 2. (36) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 312, 101.7, 170, $204,006. 3. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 312, 118.2, 165, $144,825. 4. (10) Mark Martin, Chevrolet, 312, 117.1, 160, $123,500. 5. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 312, 111.4, 155, $159,040. 6. (2) Kurt Busch, Dodge, 312, 122.2, 155, $112,250. 7. (13) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 312, 104, 146, $107,450. 8. (17) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 312, 98.8, 142, $119,148 9. (14) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 312, 103.1, 138, $120,326. 10. (15) David Reutimann, Toyota, 312, 88.8, 134, $109,248. 11. (21) Marcos Ambrose, Toyota, 312, 85.7, 130, $96,948. 12. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 312, 96.8, 127, $121,798. 13. (16) AJ Allmendinger, Ford, 312, 88.3, 124, $77,600. 14. (6) Greg Biffle, Ford, 312, 87.6, 121, $92,150. 15. (4) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 312, 89.7, 118, $113,923. 16. (25) Carl Edwards, Ford, 312, 71, 115, $119,206. 17. (12) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 311, 78.2, 112, $92,510. 18. (28) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 311, 65.9, 114, $115,765. 19. (30) Jamie McMurray, Ford, 311, 61.4, 106, $81,025. 20. (24) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 311, 77.2, 108, $107,329. 21. (27) Joey Logano, Toyota, 310, 58.4, 100, $117,551. 22. (22) Robby Gordon, Toyota, 310, 56.5, 97, $90,810. 23. (33) David Ragan, Ford, 310, 55.6, 94, $80,775. 24. (31) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 310, 55.2, 91, $108,928. 25. (8) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 310, 65.6, 88, $86,423. 26. (40) Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 310, 51.9, 85, $108,476. 27. (9) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 308, 58.5, 82, $85,900. 28. (35) Elliott Sadler, Dodge, 308, 36.9, 79, $78,750. 29. (41) Paul Menard, Ford, 308, 41.7, 76, $101,031. 30. (29) David Gilliland, Chevrolet, 308, 43, 73, $71,500. 31. (39) Erik Darnell, Ford, 306, 40, 70, $95,004. 32. (23) Max Papis, Toyota, 304, 35.1, 67, $67,200. 33. (37) Scott Speed, Toyota, 303, 39.4, 64, $79,148. 34. (42) John Andretti, Chevrolet, 268, 36.5, 61, $75,900. 35. (18) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 256, 59, 58, $84,825. 36. (11) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 251, 53.3, 55, $74,675. 37. (26) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 239, 56.7, 52, $99,040. 38. (19) Brian Vickers, Toyota, accident, 170, 58, 49, $94,748. 39. (20) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, accident, 169, 60.5, 46, $66,300. 40. (34) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, power steering, 47, 32.3, 43, $66,150. 41. (38) Michael McDowell, Toyota, brakes, 36, 31.8, 40, $66,000. 42. (32) Dave Blaney, Toyota, overheating, 9, 28.9, 37, $65,875. 43. (43) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, electrical, 6, 27.1, 34, $66,247.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 110.486 mph. Time of Race: 2 hours, 49 minutes, 26 seconds. Margin of Victory: 1.33 seconds. Caution Flags: 4 for 23 laps. Lead Changes: 9 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Ku.Busch 1-52; J.Johnson 53; Ku.Busch 54-55; J.Johnson 56-73; R.Newman 74; Ku.Busch 75-89; J.Johnson 90-243; M.Kenseth 244-247; J.Johnson 248-312.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): J.Johnson, 4 times for 238 laps; Ku.Busch, 3 times for 69 laps; M.Kenseth, 1 time for 4 laps; R.Newman, 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 12 in Points: 1. J.Johnson, 6,492; 2. M.Martin, 6,384; 3. J.Gordon, 6,323; 4. Ku.Busch, 6,281; 5. T.Stewart, 6,207; 6. J.Montoya, 6,203; 7. G.Biffle, 6,171; 8. D.Hamlin, 6,140; 9. R.Newman, 6,081; 10. K.Kahne, 6,016; 11. C.Edwards, 5,972; 12. B.Vickers, 5,826.

NHRA Automobile Club of Southern California

At Auto Club Raceway at Pomona; Pomona, Calif.

Top Fuel Final — Antron Brown, 3.801 seconds, 316.90 mph def. Spencer Massey, foul. Funny Car Final — Mike Neff, Ford Mustang, 5.131, 285.05 def. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, DQ. Pro Stock Final — Greg Anderson, Pontiac GXP, 6.564, 210.70 def. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, foul.

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