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One Order of Smoke!

Jimmie Johnson earned maximum points in his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS on Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, leading the most laps en route to his record eighth career victory at the 1-mile concrete oval. The win moved him to second in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, just eight points behind leader Matt Kenseth.

“I still think it’s too early to say somebody can make a move,” said Johnson, who has three top-five finishes in the first three Chase races. “You just don’t want to give points up. Today we got max points, so we didn’t leave any on the table, and we will go to Kansas next week and see what we can do.”

Johnson started the 400-lap event from the eighth position and never fell out of the top-10. He had minimal complaints about his car and led five times for a race-high 243 laps. As he cruised around the track with fewer than 50 laps remaining, only a final, green-flag pit stop stood between him and Victory Lane.

“(We had) a very fast race car,” Johnson said. “I think we were a little vulnerable on stickers and new tires to get going for five to eight laps. Then after that, this Kobalt Tools Chevrolet was really strong. I was fearing cautions at the end. Of course, we had one.”

As Johnson led the field around the track with only 29 laps remaining, the yellow flag waved for debris in turn three. Crew chief Chad Knaus had a decision to make: two tires or four. Since Johnson led the field into the pits, the call was a gamble. Knaus decided on two tires. A speedy stop by the 48 crew sent Johnson back to the lead, but only two other teams also chose two tires. Johnson’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., the first car to take four tires, lined up behind Johnson for the restart.

“I felt like two (tires) was good for us," Johnson said. “We knew that it was going to work well for us. I wish that four (tires) was going to start further back. When I saw four was the car right behind me, I knew I was going to be in trouble. Junior drove a whale of a race. He kept me super honest there at the end.”

Johnson managed to hold off Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet for the final 26 laps as he made his way toward history at Dover International Speedway. Johnson’s eighth win made him the all-time win leader at Dover, breaking a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.

“It’s incredible,” Johnson said. “To do anything that Bobby or Richard has done is quite an accomplishment. We’ve had a few sneak away from us here, too, over the years. I’m just so happy to get that done and be the sole leader of race wins here. It’s a very special day.”

Earnhardt finished .446 of a second behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were four caution periods for 21 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race.

With seven races remaining before a champion is crowned after the season finale Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-13 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:

  1. Matt Kenseth (2,149 points) +/-0 positions
  2. Jimmie Johnson (2,141 points, -8) +1
  3. Kyle Busch (2,137 points, -12) -1
  4. Kevin Harvick (2,110 points -39) +2
  5. Jeff Gordon (2,110 points, -39) +3
  6. Greg Biffle (2,108 points, -41) -1
  7. Ryan Newman (2,101 points, -48) +2
  8. Clint Bowyer (2,098 points, -51) +2
  9. Kurt Busch (2,094 points, -55) -2
  10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,092 points, -57) +1
  11. Carl Edwards (2,084 points, -65) -7
  12. Joey Logano (2,083 points, -66) +/-0
  13. Kasey Kahne (2,071 points, -78) +/-0

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the fourth race of the 10-race Chase – is the Hollywood Casino 400 on Oct. 6 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a pre-race show at 1 p.m.

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Jeff Gordon
Denny Hamlin
Ryan Newman
Jimmie Johnson
Started: 8th
Finished: 1st
November 15th, 2015
2:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Kobalt Hot Pass