Archive for Monday, March 12, 2007

Track changes don’t slow Johnson

Reigning Nextel Cup champ wins third straight Vegas race

March 12, 2007


— New track configuration, same old results for Jimmie Johnson.

The defending series champion beat teammate Jeff Gordon on Sunday to win his third straight Nextel Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Johnson had few problems navigating his way around the track that was under intense scrutiny all weekend because of changes owner Bruton Smith made to the 1.5-mile speedway. It included an increase in the banking from 12 degrees to 20, and a curved pit lane unlike anything the drivers had seen before.

But it didn't bother Johnson, who overcame a pit-road penalty and a minor brush with the wall to lead 89 of the 267 laps en route to the 150th NASCAR victory for Hendrick Motorsports.

It came at Gordon's expense, though.

Gordon dominated the race by leading 111 laps, and appeared poised to tie the late Dale Earnhardt for sixth place on the career list with 76 victories. But Gordon thought he had a flat left-rear tire following a late round of pit stops, and gave up the lead with 32 laps to go when Jeff Burton passed him.

Johnson got by both of them five laps later and held on after a final restart with 11 to go. Gordon finished second for a 1-2 finish for Hendrick.

Denny Hamlin finished third and was followed by Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards.

Martin is still on top of the points standings, up six over Gordon.


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