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Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s crew showed the strength of a championship-caliber team after they turned what could have been a disastrous day into a top-10 finish Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Johnson, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished ninth despite wrecking midway through the Hollywood Casino 400.
Johnson started seventh and led once for 44 laps around the newly paved 1.5-mile oval but spun on lap 137 trying to gain position on another competitor. Crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec guided the team through a meticulous repair job that allowed Johnson to finish the race and not lose points on the leader for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, Brad Keselowski.
Early on, Johnson appeared to have a Lowe’s Chevrolet that might contend for the win. He reported few problems with the car, and Knaus and crew kept him in contention until Johnson spun on lap 137. That crash caused extensive damage to the rear of the Lowe’s Chevrolet, but the team put on a masterful demonstration of repairing a racecar. Strategy put Johnson up front on lap 162 after Knaus kept him on the racetrack even though most of the field pitted. Numerous cautions ensued and strategy continued to change, putting Johnson in 21st after his final stop of the day on lap 218, when he took right-side tires and fuel.
By lap 248, Johnson had cracked the top 10. He gained one more position to finish ninth. It was Johnson’s 22st top-10 result of 2012 and his 11 top 10 in 13 career Sprint Cup starts at Kansas.
"It (the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) is pretty tore up,” said Johnson, who won at Kansas in October 2008 and October 2011. “I'm definitely proud of this team and the fact that we never give up. We continue to fight to try to get every point that we can. I think that yesterday's Nationwide race showed that this thing isn't over until the checkered flag falls on any given Sunday.
“All that said, I'm very proud but also disappointed. I crashed the car. I spun out trying to get inside the No. 56 (Martin Truex Jr.). He bobbled a little in front of me, and I thought that was an opportunity to jump in the gas real hard. When I did that, my car took off, and I couldn't catch it. All in all, a good day. But it could have been a lot better. I think we could have been in Victory Lane and stretched some points on these guys.”
Matt Kenseth won the Hollywood Casino 400 to score his 24th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Kansas.
Truex finished .495 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Regan Smith, Brad Keselowski, Johnson and Jeff Gordon comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were a race-record 14 caution periods for 66 laps, with 16 drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
With the sixth race of the Chase completed, Johnson remains second in the championship point standings. He has 2,243 points, seven behind leader Keselowski. All four Hendrick Motorports drivers made the Chase. Regan Smith is substituting for Dale Earnhardt, who is not running due to medical reasons. Kahne is next behind Johnson among Hendrick drivers in the point standings, fifth with 2,200 points, 30 out of first. Gordon remains eighth with 2,199 points, 51 out of first.
With four races remaining before a champion is crowned following the season finale Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-12 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the seventh race of the 10-race Chase – is the TUMS Fast Relief 500 on Oct. 28 at Martinsville (Va.) 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.