Johnson wins with an economy run at Loudon

LOUDON, N.H. - Pit strategies were once again the story of the day, and the team with the best line of attack was the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson. Johnson took the lead at lap 264, and led to the end to score his second point's win of the season.

LOUDON, N.H. - Pit strategies were once again the story of the day, and the team with the best line of attack was the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson. Johnson took the lead at lap 264, and led to the end to score his second point's win of the season. Johnson led 58 of 300 laps to land his fifth career win.

"Chad (Knaus, crew chief) said at first we were plus one lap," said Johnson. "Then as we got further, and further into the run he told me to conserve (fuel) more and more, and I started to get worried. But, all in all a great run. We had a great racecar."

"When fuel strategy came in to win a race, and we were able to win one like that; we build great horsepower, but usually to get the horsepower it costs you the fuel. We were able to save it, have a great racecar.I'm very happy to be here."

"This is great. It's what we needed in the points, and everything. So look out for this Lowe's team we're ready for the rest of the year."

Kevin Harvick was second, scoring his seventh top-ten finish this season.

"We were kinda reeling him (Knaus) in there," said Harvick. "We'd run a tenth-and-a-half and then we'd run the same lap, but just real proud of this Goodwrench team. We've been in the top five for a little over a month, and it's important for us to run good."

Series point leader Matt Kenseth brought the No. 17 across the line in third.

"I wasn't real worried about it (fuel)," commented Kenseth. "Once I knew we couldn't catch the Kevin (Harvick) or the 48.I just started slowing down and saving. My guys did a great job today; we had a great handling car. It wasn't very fast on new tires; we saw that at the beginning of the race. Fortunately we led a lap, and finished third. We had a good day overall, I didn't do the best job.I messed up and cost us some positions today."

When asked about how the No. 17 Roush Ford team continues to be so consistent week in and week out, Kenseth mused, "I don't know. I guess that's the four million dollar question. I hope we can keep doing it. All you can do is show up every week and do the best job you can."

"This week I feel real fortunate to get out of here and gain points. I thought we had a good car all day, but the 24 was really stout all day. I thought it looked like he was either gonna win or run second, but I don't know what happened to him there at the end. All you can do is go and run as hard as you can every week and try to gather as many points as you can and see how it shakes out at the end of the year. We're not doing anything different than we ever did, things are just falling into place more than what maybe they have in the past."

Despite some worries that the No. 12 Penske Dodge of Ryan Newman could not make it until the end on fuel, Newman held on to score a fourth place result. It is Newman's seventh top five in 2003, and moves him from 16th to 13th in championship points.

"We can think we've got things turned around all we want," said Newman. "But the bottom line is we've got to buckle down and keep our nose to the grindstone. That'll take care of it. My car was really tight there at the end, and we were in a fuel strategy mode. We did about all we could do. We moved up a little in the standings, and we're getting closer to the top 10, so all-in-all, it was a pretty good day."

Robby Gordon charts his sixth top ten of the year, rounding out Sunday's top five finishers.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was sixth, followed by two drivers who desperately needed to score good results, and who both also gambled on fuel mileage to work their ways into the top ten: Dale Jarrett and Steve Park. Jeff Burton was ninth, followed by Greg Biffle, the highest finishing Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

The fuel mileage strategies began to play out at lap 208, when Jeff Gordon and Ricky Craven both stayed because they simply couldn't complete the rest of the distance without a stop for gas. Other contenders including Johnson and Harvick opted to pit at that time, because they felt that could be their last pit stop. Kenseth also came in to top off for fuel before the green flag waved for the restart.

A lap 133 spin by Christian Fittipaldi brought the cars that needed fuel to pit lane. As pit stratagems played out up and down pit road, the No. 24 team took four tires while other players in the race at that time had a variety of approaches themselves; some teams taking two tires, and others just fuel. The lengthy four tire stop for Gordon mired him back in traffic. He was unable to fight his way back to the front of the field. Gordon finished 24th, after leading a race high 133 laps.

Kenseth pulls out to a 234-point lead in the race for the championship over second-place rival Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. remains in third, now 273 points behind Kenseth, with Bobby Labonte in fourth and Jimmie Johnson up a spot in fifth.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman , Christian Fittipaldi , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven , Steve Park.