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Johnson latest to join Chase contenders

May 25, 2014, Staff report,

Defending Sprint Cup Series champ moves up to sixth in points standings

MORE: Full race results | Series standings
RELATED: Full coverage of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format changes | Official news release | Changes explained | Chase Facts and FAQ | Chase Grid (PDF)

As the most dominant driver on the NASCAR circuit for nearly a decade, it was just a matter of time before Jimmie Johnson celebrated in Victory Lane this season.

After failing to win in his first 11 starts this season, Johnson's drought ended on Sunday when he won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the fourth time in his career.

He now has 67 wins in the premier series.

Johnson averaged just over five wins in his first 13 full-time seasons on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, including 10 in 2007. His winless start of 11 races matched his start in his second full-time season in 2003, when he started off the season winless in his first 11 races.

Sunday's victory was Johnson's fourth top-five finish of the season and he now has 186 of them in his career.

Johnson, who led a race-high 164 laps on Sunday, moved up a spot to sixth in the points standings.

Points leader Jeff Gordon remains the most consistent driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year.

Gordon, who won the 5-hour Energy 400 benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation at Kansas Speedway earlier this month, placed seventh on Sunday; it was his ninth top-10 in 12 starts this season.

Gordon (432 points) holds an 11-point lead over second-place Matt Kenseth in the standings. Kenseth has four top-fives in 2014 but no wins. Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards are tied for third (408 points each) in the standings, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks fifth (394).

Six of the top seven drivers in the standings have at least one win.

Logano (Texas and Richmond) and Kevin Harvick (Phoenix and Darlington) are the only two-time winners in the Sprint Cup Series this season; Earnhardt Jr. (Daytona), Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas), Edwards (Bristol), Kyle Busch (Fontana), Kurt Busch (Martinsville), Denny Hamlin (Talladega), Gordon (Kansas) and Johnson each have one win.

Logano is seventh in the standings while Harvick is 12th.

Drivers with at least two wins will gain one of the 16 spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, assuming they rank among the top 30 in the standings and attempt to qualify for all 26 races. A medical exemption can be granted to a driver who misses a race for a valid medical reason.

Any driver with one win through the first 26 races, and a top-30 ranking in the points standings, could also potentially qualify for the Chase. If the points leader does not have a win, that driver will also qualify for the Chase.

The Sprint Cup Series moves to Delaware this week. The FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks will be run at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, June 1.

After the 12th points race of NASCAR's regular season, here is how the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings look:


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