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Fourth Indianapolis win for Johnson

The off-sync Keselowski was into the pits by this time, some ten laps ahead of the leaders Once the rest of the field did come in, Keselowski was back in front ahead of Johnson, Gordon and Biffle, with the only significant problem of that round going to Kurt Busch whose crew missed a lugnut. Busch was as calm, laid back and understanding about this mishap as you'd expect him to be (or to put it another way: the team comms got an instant adult rating for strong language.)

Little had changed as the race passed the halfway point, perhaps the biggest surprise being that Johnson's seemingly irresistible surge back to the front past Keselowski has seemingly stalled for the time being. Johnson had to wait until Keselowski came in for his next stop, still ten laps out of step with the rest of the field, on lap 91.

A caution came out just minutes later: Casey Mears had hit the wall in turn 2. That essentially put an end to Keselowski's off-sync strategy as everyone else now pitted, but it had worked out well for the #2 car as he stayed out for the lead, finding himself joined on the front row for the restart by Regan Smith who was working a fuel-only gambit.

It was not a good start for Keselowski, who nearly spun while battling Smith for the lead. He did well to save it, but he tumbled down the running order to seventh place. Smith briefly took the lead, but Johnson was on hand to pounce and take charge again, with Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle all quickly streaming past the #78 which plummeted out of the top ten on its worn tyres.

Gordon was concerned about debris on the grille sending his water temperature skyhigh, but once that was cleared up he was past Busch for second place, making it a Hendrick 1-2 at the front, followed by a Joe Gibbs Racing pairing of Busch and Hamlin in third and fourth. The status quo largely held until the next round of pit stops loomed, at which point the fourth caution was out for a blown left front tyre on Jeff Burton's car, allowing everyone to come in for a stop under yellow.

Greg Biffle won the race off pit road with a two-tyre-only call and was ahead of Johnson, Busch and Hamlin; Jeff Gordon meanwhile had suffered a poor stop and fallen back to sixth behind Earnhardt, leaving Gordon scratching his head about what had gone wrong.

"I have no idea, I have to review it," he said. "The one thing about this pit road is that if you get a little bit behind, once you get up here, you're way behind because they pull out in front of you and the next one pulls out in front of you and that's what happened. We lost more than we should have but that wasn't so bad.

"The worst thing was when you start on the outside lane - my car would just not go on that outside lane," he added. "And then they got all jumbled up and we lost even more spots. And then we had another caution on the outside lane again, so it just wasn't our day."

Biffle got a terrific start and shot clear of the pack, leaving Johnson and Busch to get physical in their battle for second spot in turn 2; but once Johnson cleared the #18 it took him no time at all to catch and flash past Biffle for the lead again down the backstretch a couple of laps later.

And then the race was under yellow again, for a multi-car wreck in turns 1 and 2 on lap 132. Joey Logano had been racing side-by-side with Trevor Bayne when he had got loose, slammed into the side of Bobby Labonte and then started to spin down the racetrack - which had been right in front of Sprint Cup championship points leader Matt Kenseth who had been minding his own business in the midfield pack. Kenseth ran straight into the #20 and suffered serious damage that left the #17 on fire as Kenseth scrambled clear. Logano managed to limp back to pit lane but his day was also pretty much over, while Bobby Labonte escaped relatively lightly from the fracas and was able to continue uncompromised.




Related Pictures

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Joey Logano, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, Bobby Labonte, driver of the #47 Scott Products Toyota, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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