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Johnson in total control at Pocono

Behind Biffle, Johnson's Hendrick team mate Earnhardt Jr. locked up third place ahead of Tony Stewart, who just pipped his own team mate Ryan Newman whose mid-race off-sync gambit had paid off with a strong fifth place finish.

"Strategy worked out to our benefit with the yellows there at the end," said Newman after the chequered flag. "Just a good rebound day for us. That is something we definitely needed as a team."

Newman had to hold off the Busch brothers in that final green flag stint, Kyle Busch leading home his older brother Kurt in sixth and seventh positions respectively. Just behind them came Kyle's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin, who had popped up near the front after a flawless final pit stop by the team.

However, Hamlin was still troubled by the fact that the team's Toyota engines has been 'depowered' this weekend, a response by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) to a troubling number of unit blow-ups over the past year. Hamlin wasn't in favour of this and indicated he'd prefer to risk blowing up so long as he was in with a chance of winning races.

“It's a tough compromise, because in my opinion, I'm a racer. I'd rather blow up leading than run 15th all day,” Hamlin said. “That's just my mentality. We'd rather know we have a chance to win. Today, that was out of the question.”

Asked if the reduced horsepower had been a factor in why the JGR stable hadn't been able to seriously challenge Johnson all afternoon, Hamlin concurred: "Had we had all the horsepower back today, I maybe could have given them a run," he said.

"It definitely cost us spots today, but it didn't cost me a win, I don't think," he continued. "Any horsepower change is going to be a difficult thing to overcome, especially this week and next week, our two horsepower race tracks," he said, referring to next weekend's race at Michigan.

"I wouldn't be opposed to say that other guys probably stepped up coming to this race track, and we took a step back," he added. "It's kind of a double whammy, but it's something TRD's going to work through."

Hamlin's view on the issue is coloured by his urgent need to make up points in the NASCAR championship standings, after missing four full races due to a broken vertebra in his lower back suffered in a last-lap crash at Fontana just before Easter. He's still languishing in 25th place in the standings 14 races into the 26-race regular season: it's highly unlikely that he'll make it back into the top ten in the remaining dozen races before the Chase cut-off at Richmond in September. Instead he needs wins, plain and simple, to try and make it in to the championship play-offs via a most-wins wildcard.

Such concerns don't impinge on Jimmie Johnson at the moment, but he has his own reasons for hustling at this stage of the season and locking up a Chase place as soon as is humanely possible. Currently his lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship is a massive 51 points - more than the maximum haul for winning a race, which is just the sort of big advantage Johnson is gunning for.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 9, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 9, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane with his wife Chandra and daughter Genevieve Marie after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 9, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS won the Party In The Poconos 400 Sunday, June 9, 2013 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Extending his lead in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, this was Johnson`s third win of the season and his third Poconos Raceway victory. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevrolet)
Marcos Ambrose in the Richard Petty Motorsport garage at Sonoma Raceway on June 20, 2014 (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field after a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, places his name in the top twelve on The Chase Grid after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, puts the winner`s sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cars race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Eckrich Ford, races Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates with his son, Keelan, in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Jimmy John`s Freaky Fast 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, crosses the finishline to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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