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Back-To-Back Top Finishes

Jimmie Johnson and his Lowe’s Racing team know what it takes to win championships, having won five consecutive titles from 2006-10. And while current point leader Matt Kenseth is showing some mettle after earning his second consecutive win in as many Chase for the Sprint Cup races this year, Johnson and crew know that slow and steady wins the championship.

The team was just that in the Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Consistent pit stops and an error-free race helped Johnson bring home his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports in fourth place. It was his second top-five finish in the as many races, allowing him to maintain his third-place standing in the points, keeping Kenseth in sight, just 18 points out of first.

It was Johnson’s ninth top-five finish in 24 Sprint Cup starts at the 1.058-mile oval and his 11th top-five of the season.

Johnson ran in the top-10 nearly all 300 laps of the event. Crew chief Chad Knaus took right- and left-side tires at various times throughout the race, allowing Johnson to maintain precious track position. While he never led, Johnson was running in third with just less than 100 laps to go. Knaus called Johnson to pit road after a caution on lap 247, calling for right sides only on the Lowe’s machine. Johnson stayed up front in the closing laps but didn’t have enough to track down the leader.

“Definitely wanted more,” said Johnson, who has three wins at New Hampshire (July 2010, July and September 2003). “I think we had a great racecar. There at the end, I was in the inside lane on those restarts, and I would lose two or three (spots) each time. Just part of it, one of those things, but a great performance. Great start to the Chase. Our 5-4 (finishes) isn’t too bad. It’s hard to beat a 1-1 that Matt (Kenseth) has right now, but we will keep plugging along. We are getting into the meat of the Chase and where there are some great tracks for this Chevrolet that I am driving and all these Lowe’s guys working so hard to make it fast.”

Kenseth won the Sylvania 300 to score his 31st career Sprint Cup victory, his series-best seventh of the season and his first at New Hampshire.

Kyle Busch finished .533 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Greg Biffle, Johnson and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were seven caution periods for 37 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 300-lap race.

With eight 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 (2,111 points) +/-0 positions
  2. Kyle Busch (2,097 points, -14) +/-0
  3. Jimmie Johnson (2,093 points, -18) +/-0
  4. Carl Edwards (2,075 points -36) +1
  5. Greg Biffle (2,073 points, -38) +6
  6. Kevin Harvick (2,072 points, -39) -2
  7. Kurt Busch (2,071 points, -40) -1
  8. Jeff Gordon (2,069 points, -42) -1
  9. Ryan Newman (2,064 points, -47) -1
  10. Clint Bowyer (2,063 points, -48) -1
  11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,049 points, -62) +2
  12. Joey Logano (2,042 points, -69) +/-0
  13. Kasey Kahne (2,040 points, -71) -3 

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the third race of the 10-race Chase – is the AAA 400 on Sept. 29 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. 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