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Late tTack Incident Opens the Door for Hamlin

Johnson, who trailed Hamlin to the finish line by .152 seconds, thought a 20- minute, 28-second red-flag period for a nine-car wreck on Lap 318 might have ruined his chances.

"I think we sat too long and the front tire pressures dropped," said Johnson, who stretched his lead in the standings to 108 points over 20th-place finisher Matt Kenseth. "I lost a few spots. I almost hit the wall down in (Turns) 1 and 2, trying to work the top. Once those front tire pressures came in and the splitter got off the ground, I started coming—but it was like a lap too late."

Johnson and Gordon raced more like rivals than Hendrick Motorsports teammates. When Gordon, who led a race-high 124 laps, passed Johnson for second place off Turn 4 on Lap 240, contact between their Chevrolets left a tire mark on the right side of Gordon's No. 24.

On a restart on Lap 317 following the sixth caution, however, Gordon's day ended after contact from polesitter Tony Stewart's Chevy turned Gordon into the wall, triggering a melee that also eliminated the cars of Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.

"I came off of (Turn) 4 there and bounced off of Jeff's right rear," Stewart said. "It was just a pendulum, and I lost it and got into his right rear and then I got us to where neither one of us could get away from it.

"Somebody (Earnhardt) put me three-wide in Turns 1 and 2, and that got me up to where I got a lot of crap on my tires, and that started it. It was my fault. Feel bad about it, about doing something stupid like that. I didn't plan on getting loose, but it is 100 percent my fault."

Notes: The race featured a record-tying 29 lead changes (among 12 drivers). … Hamlin, Martin and Kurt Busch all cracked the top 12 in the standings. … Track officials estimated the crowd at 90,000. The Nationwide Series race, rain-delayed from Saturday, began about an hour after the Cup race.




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