Chase Wrap: Johnson edges into lead

The eighth race of the Chase didn't dish up much excitement but it did produce a new points leader and serves to tighten the race at the top of the point grid. Matt Kenseth falls one place to second while Jimmie Johnson tops the charts with just...

The eighth race of the Chase didn't dish up much excitement but it did produce a new points leader and serves to tighten the race at the top of the point grid.

Matt Kenseth falls one place to second while Jimmie Johnson tops the charts with just two races left to settle this season's title.

The top five are separated by 105 points; any of them could grab the point lead next week after the Phoenix race is completed. Positions 5-10 have a heavier deficit and are no longer likely contenders in this year's battle.

1. Jimmie Johnson: Leader
Johnson has a mid-race scare when his window netting came down and he had to slip back through the field slightly to get it hooked back up. He lost a few spots but it ultimately made no difference - the No. 48 Chevy ran in the top five for the majority of the race.

"It's great. We just want to keep working, running hard, performing and scoring points," said Johnson of grabbing the lead.

He finished second.

2. Matt Kenseth (-17)
Was in jeopardy of going a lap down when a competition caution waved on lap 41. He managed to avoid that but reported that he thought he had a left rear tire going down on lap 99. It turned out not to be a flat tire but Kenseth continued to complain that his car just felt "weird".

"We just didn't have that good of a car tonight," commented No. 17 crew chief Robbie Reiser. "We were struggling all night long running back there in 25th and the race kind of went the way it was going and it looked like it was gonna go green to the end. We weren't really gonna finish any worse if we took a gamble, so I just decided to come early for tires and see if we could get a better position than where we were at that point. Actually, coming out of this thing 12th was a blessing because we didn't really run that well. Even though we probably would have been eighth or ninth if we could have stayed out of the wreck at the end, it would have been good, but getting 12th was a good run for us."

He finished 12th.

3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-78)
He suffered a bout of the flu all weekend and started to complain to his team on lap 140 that he was concerned he was going to get sick inside the car. He was running second when he made contact with Clint Bowyer and the wall on lap 166. He was also second in the championship at the time.

"I drank so many fluids," said Earnhardt. "It was bad there for awhile. I had heartburn there for awhile and all sorts of things going on in the car. But I started to feel better there towards the end of the race."

His team made repairs on pit road and restarted the last car on the lead lap in 34th on lap 170. With 39 to go, he had worked his way back into the top ten; he wound up sixth.

4. Denny Hamlin (-80)
Hamlin was penalized after the third caution period's ensuing pit stops with taking equipment out of the pit box. He rebounded to a 10th place result.

"It was just a fight all day," explained Hamlin. "We just lost the balance on the car. I don't think the conditions helped us much any. We were counting on sunny weather. It's just one of those things we missed the setup a little bit and we were back in the mid-20's most of the race."

5. Kevin Harvick (-105)
A third place result keeps his championship hopes within possibility but he made need to watch his back. Harvick got into Scott Riggs late in the event while racing for position, sending the No. 10 Dodge into the wall. Later, post race, Riggs crew tripped Harvick's wife Delana as she attempted to exit pit road.

"It was a good day for us. We fought our car all day long trying to make it better. We got track position there and wound up making something out of what we needed to this time of year. So, we just kept fighting and did what we have to do."

6. Jeff Gordon (-157)
Gordon ran a solid race with little issues and grabbed an eighth place result.

"We started off incredible," said Gordon. "I was so pumped about the way we started the day off driving from 23rd up there to inside the top 10. We got in the top five at one time but for some reason after that we were never really that good."

7. Jeff Burton (-184)
All hopes of a series championship ended on lap 89 for Burton when a flat tire sheared the left side of his car. Burton had to pull his car into the garage for repairs.

"That pretty much does it for us as far as the championship goes unless something crazy happens," said Burton. "We put in a good effort. We'll go to the next two races and try and win them. If I had to do anything over that we've done so far, I would change some things in retrospect, but today is something that I don't think was our fault."

He rejoined the pack 67 laps down and wound up 38th.

8. Kyle Busch (-233)
Clever pit strategy gave Busch his best finish in the Chase, with fourth.

"I had to drive this car for all it's worth," said Busch. "I'm just wore out. My hands hurt from just gripping the wheel. I didn't get a good jump on the last restart, but I think the guys in front of me had four tires and I only had two, so I couldn't hold the bottom like they could."

9. Mark Martin (-253)
Martin had a practice accident that forced the team to pull out the back up car. Martin had to start at the rear of the field. He didn't make much progress through the field and on lap 173 was involved in an accident.

"We were behind from the start," said Martin. "The guys worked really hard on the car and we finished better than I thought we would. We got damage in the race and that didn't help us any either, but we did manage to run the whole race and we didn't crash out. I give the guys an A+ for this weekend."

He managed to stay on the lead lap but fell a lap down late in the race and finished 22nd.

10. Kasey Kahne (-290)
His biggest complaint of the race was that his shoe was sticking to the throttle. His Evernham Dodge was one of the top cars all day and the only car to get near Tony Stewart to challenge for the lead. In the end, he couldn't make the pass on Stewart but was poised for a top-five finish when his engine let go on lap 328.

"The engine just broke under caution," said Kahne. "It was a weird deal. I'm surprised that happened."

He ended his day in 33rd.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin