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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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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