Carl Edwards added to his victory in the Nationwide Series at Memphis with victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Atlanta Motor Speedway - the 33rd race of the 2008 campaign.

Edwards took the lead on lap 310 of the Pep Boys Auto 500 and took the flag 2.684secs clear of Jimmie Johnson, who rebounded from a pit-lane penalty to secure second place and keep his position at the head of the Chase standings.

Victory for Edwards in the #99 Office Depot Ford saw him jump up to second in the Chase standings, but he remains 183 behind Johnson after he fought back to follow Edwards home.

"Are you kidding me?" Edwards reflected after discovering that a fine pit call by crew chief Chad Knaus had allowed Johnson to blast through to second place. "Man, Jimmie's magic. We've got to win those next three and hope for the best."

Edwards took the lead from third-place finisher Denny Hamlin moments after a restart on lap 310 of 325. Hamlin spun his tyres coming to the start/finish line allowing Edwards to pass to the outside through turns one and two.

"Man, the second-to-last restart, Denny spun his tyres and I spun mine a little bit and then he spun them again and I pushed his bumper and then he spun them again and he went to the inside," Edwards, who won his seventh race of the year and the 14th of his career, said. "I thought inside, 'Man, here's my chance to get to the outside.'

"I really didn't think he was going to spin them that second time. I thought I was going to bump him and he was going to keep on going and I figured I'd follow him for a while, but it just worked out great."

Edwards held the lead through a caution for debris in turn two on lap 312, but Johnson gave up three positions when Knaus called him to pit road for new tyres on lap 314. Johnson restarted eleventh on lap 318, but by the end of that lap and on new rubber, he had passed four cars.

Working his way toward the front, Johnson passed Hamlin for second through the third turn on the final lap to cut his points loss to Edwards to a minimum.

Matt Kenseth, who led a race-high 128 laps, finished fourth, followed by Kyle Busch and his brother Kurt. Jamie McMurray was seventh, David Ragan eighth, Jeff Gordon ninth and Greg Biffle tenth. Biffle overcame an ill-handling car to claim the place and holds third in the Chase standings - now 185 points behind Johnson and just two off Edwards.

It was Johnson's resilience that enabled him to take another significant step toward a third straight championship. On Lap 89, he smoked his tyres entering pit road and was nailed with a speeding penalty. The punishment was a pass-throug down pit road that dropped him to 30th in the running order, one lap down.

By the time the field restarted on lap 115, after a caution for debris in turn two, Johnson was 20th, the first car one lap down. When caution flew again on lap 131 for Kasey Kahne's spin off turn four, Johnson got a free pass to the lead lap and spent the rest of the race using his talents and Knaus' strategy to claim the runner-up spot.

"Having those new tyres versus those other guys, that was a great call," Johnson said. "It was a risky call, but that shows you how Chad is, that we're here to race."

After the race, NASCAR confiscated the rear-end housing of the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Kyle Busch and will take it to its research and development centre in Concord to check its measurements. NASCAR officials said, however, they do not anticipate a problem.

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