CONCORD, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson completed the perfect weekend with a win at Lowe’s Motor Speedway to take control of the championship standings.
The three-time defending series champion raced to his third victory in the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Saturday night, extending his lead to 90 points over teammate Mark Martin.
Seeking a NASCAR-record fourth consecutive Cup championship, Johnson led every practice session and won the pole to complete yet another dominating run at Lowe’s. He has been the driver to beat at the suburban Charlotte track since early in his career, and the victory was the Lowe’s-sponsored driver’s sixth on the 1.5-mile oval.
“Man, we pulled off a perfect weekend and we’ve always wanted to do that,” Johnson said in his first Victory Lane visit at the track since 2005.
Matt Kenseth was second, followed by Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.
Martin, who started the race 12 points behind his teammate in the standings, finished 17th in part because of front-end damage received when he ran into the back of Juan Pablo Montoya on an early restart.
It was that kind of night for several title contenders, as eight of the 12 finished outside the top 10 in a rare off night for the Chase drivers.
Montoya, who was third in the standings and just 58 points out of the lead at the start of the race, dropped to sixth and is now 195 points out. He damaged the front and back ends of his car on the restart problem with Martin and Clint Bowyer, and fell two laps down trying to get pit road for repairs.
Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards both blew motors, Greg Biffle was in a late spin and Tony Stewart never contended.
That left it up to Kahne and Gordon to chase down Johnson, and despite some thrilling late restarts, neither came close.
Gordon finished fourth, but lost ground to Johnson in the standings and is now 135 points out as only Martin is within shouting distance of the champion. Johnson will take the cushion into Martinsville, where he’s won five of the last six races.
Johnson has six victories this year and 46 overall — 17 in Chase races.