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Johnson leads chase after Martinsville win

"We were on the outside and I mean we were sitting ducks on the outside," he continued. "I was just trying to get down. I felt like I got down in front of him but maybe I didn't, I don't know - I haven't seen the video."

Bowyer held on to finish in fifth place, while the incident saw Gordon lose sixth place to Brad Keselowski - who had done what he needed to in turns of damage limitation in the Chase.

"We probably had more like a tenth or eleventh-place car," was Keselowski's honest evaluation of the #2 at Martinsville. Despite coming back from 32nd place on the grid, he disagreed that such a successful display of damage limitation at his least-liked track in the Chase must feel almost as good as a win. "No, it just feels like you live another day," he said honestly. "It's like being in a war and surviving a battle. It's not necessarily a win, you're just happy to still be living."

Johnson's win puts him on top in the Sprint Cup standings, albeit by just 2pts over Keselowski. Given that there are just the three races to go before the end of the season, it's looking very much like a two-horse race between the pair now, with Clint Bowyer next in the standings but a hefty 26pts off the lead. Kasey Kahne is also just about in touch 3pts further back, but after that the rest of the Chase contenders are now effectively - if by no means mathematically - out of the running.

Of course, one disastrous multi-car wreck wiping out Johnson, Keselowski, Bowyer and Kahne early in one of the remaining races could yet turn this whole season upside down. But at this point, the smart money has to be that the the five-time champion Jimmie Johnson is favourite to make it an impressive six-pack three weeks hence.

"Anything can happen. We've done a very nice job over these seven races to put ourselves in the points lead," said Johnson. "But we could both wad it up next week and Clint Bowyer is your champion. You never know. You got to go race the race.

"We'll have a dog fight for these final three," he added.

Full race results and Sprint Cup Championship standings are available.




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