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Johnson dominates the field for victory at Kansas

October 09, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Jimmie Johnson celebrates a much-needed win at Kansas after leading the race seven times for a total of 197 laps.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Scores second win of 2011, now third in standings as Edwards takes top spot

He's baaaack!

Jimmie Johnson answered all questions about his readiness to contend for a sixth consecutive Sprint Cup title with a dominating performance in Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Johnson held off hard-charging Kasey Kahne in a green-white-checkered finish set up by Jeff Gordon's blown engine on Lap 265. Johnson beat Kahne to the finish line by .548 seconds in a race that went five laps past its scheduled distance of 267 laps.

"We did our part, and we'll just see if we can do it six more times."

--JIMMIE JOHNSON

The victory was Johnson's second of the season, the 55th of his career and the 20th in 74 career Chase races. He left Kansas tied with Rusty Wallace for eighth on the all-time Cup win list.

Brad Keselowski came home third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, who salvaged a top-five finish despite falling a lap down earlier in the event.

Edwards retained the lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by one point over Kevin Harvick, who salvaged a hard-fought sixth-place finish. Johnson moved closer to the top of the standings, leaving Kansas in third place, four points behind Edwards.

With his third top-five finish in four Chase races, Keselowski is fourth, trailing Edwards by 11 points with six races to go. Kenseth is fifth, 12 points back.

"We've been knocking on the door all year long," said Johnson, who led 197 laps. "We've got beat in some cases, and we've beat ourselves in others. ... We did our part, and we'll just see if we can do it six more times."

So is a sixth title in the cards?

"We're doing the right things," Johnson said. "You just don't know. Sure, this is a huge, huge step in the right direction, but in six races a lot can happen. So I don't want to get overly excited. We've got to go out there and race for this thing."

Indeed, Johnson had to race for the win on Sunday. When Gordon's engine exploded, it wiped out a two-second lead. On the restart on Lap 271, Johnson surprised Kahne by hitting the gas early, and Kahne spun his tires trying to regroup. The advantage Johnson gained on the start proved decisive.

"On that restart, Brad kind of gave me a nice push, but I couldn't really get to [Johnson]," Kahne said. "I thought maybe, getting into [Turn] 3, I would go high, and he kind of entered in the middle and creeped his way to the top. I just really didn't have a shot at them there."

A caution for debris on Lap 205 ended a green-flag run that began with a restart on Lap 89 and included two rounds of green-flag pit stops. Before the yellow flew, Johnson had built a lead of more than 12 seconds over second-place Tony Stewart, and Edwards, Chase co-leader entering the event, had fallen one lap down in 16th position.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Jimmie Johnson scores his 55th career win in his 357th start.
• Jimmie Johnson moves into a tie for eighth with Rusty Wallace on NASCAR's all-time win list.
• Jimmie Johnson's 20th Chase win is the most of all drivers.
• Jimmie Johnson started Sunday's race in 19th, the lowest starting position of his 20 Chase wins.
• Kasey Kahne (second) scores his season best finish, his second consecutive top-five finish and is the sest finishing non-chase driver for the second consecutive race.
• Brad Keselowski (third) scores his third top-five finish in the past four races.
• Matt Kenseth (fourth) scores his best finish in four Chase races in 2011 and his third consecutive finish of sixth or better.
• Carl Edwards (fifth) scores his third top-five finish of the Chase and is the only driver to finish in the top-10 in all four Chase races this season.
• Greg Biffle (eighth) recovered from a speeding penalty on Lap 208 to score his sixth consecutive top-10 finish at Kansas.

Edwards got his lap back, however, when Landon Cassill's spin through the tri-oval grass on Lap 220 brought out the fourth caution. Edwards got a free pass back to the lead lap as the highest-scored driver one lap down. Pit stops under the yellow with 47 scheduled laps left took fuel conservation out of the equation and allowed the top drivers to race all-out for the win.

Watch below: Johnson celebrates at Kansas