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Fuel run boosts Bowyer, bumps Keselowski

"Those last two runs, I ran half-throttle," signed Johnson. "I probably ran 80 laps saving fuel here at the end, just to put us in this position ... We ran around in circles and were done.

"It's a tough way to race, for sure, but I'm happy that as a group and a team, we've figured out how to get better at fuel-mileage racing," he added. "I'm very pleased with the progress we've made, that I've made in the car. My driving style just eats up fuel. Making good changes, and playing the game the way it needs to be played right now, and closed in a little bit on that #2 car."

With Keselowski never recovering from that 11th place he inherited after the final round of splash-and-dash stops, the championship standings have tightened up at the top: Keselowski is still out on front but with his lead trimmed to just 7pts over Johnson and Hamlin just 8pts further back. Bowyer's race win puts him 28pts off the Chase lead and Kasey Kahne (who held on to a solid eighth place at the chequered flag) is 35pts off the top.

Greg Biffle is up three positions to sixth but that's still 43pts away from Keselowski with just five races remaining in the 2012 Chase. Dropping places as a result of their Charlotte outings were Tony Stewart (who drove commendably in a heavily damaged #14 to finish in 13th place) and Jeff Gordon (ending his recent surge of comeback performances with a poor 18th this weekend.)

Other notable drives this weekend include Kurt Busch finishing in 21st place in his debut with Furniture Row Racing, and AJ Allmendinger who was able to claim 24th as a last-minute stand-in in Busch's old race seat at Phoenix Racing.

"Finishing 21st might not appear that we made progress, but the fact of the matter is that we did in our first three days together at the track," explained Busch. "But we're also realistic, knowing that there will be more kinks along the way to work out in the final five races of the season.

"It initially appeared that we had the #78 hooked up and all systems looked solid," Busch added. "But then we ran into a binding problem with the car and it started to slow down ... We also had handling problems later in the race and never could get in the lucky dog position and back on the lead lap.

"We have some things to work on, and having two days of testing in Kansas next week will give us additional time to sort things out," he finished. "I was pumped before our first practice session on Thursday and I am even more pumped as we move forward."

Allmendinger had been set for an even better finish that 24th until a tyre got away from the pit crew during the final stop, earning the #51 a drive-thru penalty.

"I questioned whether or not I could even do 500 miles at Charlotte, but then we were competitive up until we lost that tyre - we were looking at a top 17 finish, beating some really good race teams," said Allmendinger. "I just want to thank [Phoenix Racing owner] James Finch for this opportunity and we'll see if we're racing at Kansas next weekend."




Related Pictures

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Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Best Buy Ford, spins during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M/IDG Ford, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk-Pool/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-Hour Energy Benefiting Avon Foundation for Women Toyota, celebrates with team owner Michael Waltrip after Bowyer won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
David Ragan, driver of the #34 Taco Bell Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, are seen on the track after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, loses control of the car after making contact with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates setting the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, speaks at a press conference following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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