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Charlotte report: Johnson sweeps, Gordon shines.

By Andrew Charman

Jimmie Johnson drives a Chevrolet liveried with the same name as Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, and he loves the place. He won the UAW-GM Quality 500 on Saturday night to complete a 2004 Charlotte sweep, adding to his victory at the Coca-Cola 600 in May. On a night when all 10 Nextel Cup contenders hit trouble of some sort, Jeff Gordon kept his hopes alive with an amazing comeback from a lap one wreck to finish second.

Pole-sitter Ryan Newman's #12 ALLTEL Dodge led the 43 starters to the green flag as dusk fell over Charlotte but the racing was brief, a multi-car shunt erupting down the pack on lap one of 334. Fourth-starter Scott Riggs was the instigator, his #10 Valvoline Chevrolet slowing in the pack, everyone checking up behind and several cars running into each other. “This was my fault,” Riggs said. “I missed a shift on the initial start and not only ruined the engine but ruined the whole night and ruined a great shot at a great car and having a great finish.”

“When the dust settled it looked like the Chase for the Nextel Cup could be shaken up tonight, the #97 Irwin/Sharpie Ford of points leader Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon's #24 Dupont Chevrolet both involved. But damage to both cars was mainly cosmetic, unlike Greg Biffle whose #16 National Guard Ford took a heavy hit on the wall. Both Busch and Gordon would spend the early laps of the race running down the field as their teams fixed the cars' fenders. “We got pretty fortunate down there,” said Robbie Loomis, Gordon's crew chief. “Our biggest concern is temperature. It looks like we got the nose and back end fixed up well. We just need some track position.”

The green flew on lap eight only to turn yellow again as backmarker Jeff Fuller found the wall, and when they eventually got going on lap 13 top of that track position in the early laps was Newman. But what was fast becoming a night of carnage erupted again when Robby Gordon and Brian Vickers clashed, Vickers' #25 GMAC Chevrolet hitting the wall so hard that NASCAR was forced to red flag the race to repair the barrier.

After 20 minutes delay the race got underway again with pit stops under caution, and Elliott Sadler's #38 Combos Ford emerged quickest to take the lead when the green flew on lap 31. Fastest on the track though was Kasey Kahne, this year's dominant rookie moving the #9 Mopar UAW/Dodge Dealers Dodge into the lead by lap 42 and then establishing a gap.

Lap 76 saw the yellow out again, and again it was Gordon involved. All night long he had been struggling with a loose car and he finally lost it in turn four, spinning down the bottom of the track where he was hit in the rear by Rusty Wallace's #2 Miller Lite Dodge. “I came off 4 and locked up the brakes trying to stay off the wall,” Gordon said. “Everything seemed to be okay, and right there at the end, boom! I thought 'Okay, that's it. Our night is over.'”

Kahne led the field to the pits and retained his lead as the green flew on lap 81, his rivals now headed by championship second place holder Dale Earnhardt Jr in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet. When another caution flew on lap 124 following tyre trouble on the #99 Canteen Vending/Kraft Foods Ford of Carl Edwards, Earnhardt timed his restart best to take the lead from the Dodge, earning five vital championship points, but it was a short-lived pleasure and by lap 130 Kahne was back ahead.

Next to feel Charlotte's wrath were championship contenders Jeremy Mayfield and Matt Kenseth. Mayfield's #19 UAW/Dodge Dealers Dodge pitted for a routine stop on lap 171, only to get caught a lap down when just one tour later Kenseth's #17 DeWalt Ford found the wall. Once again Earnhardt beat Kahne away from the restart, but coming fast was the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson, winner of the May Charlotte race. He led on lap 181, but Kahne clearly had the fastest car in the place and was back in front by lap 188.

Another yellow on lap 210, this time for debris, closed up the field again, and proved good news for Gordon, the highest lap-down runner earning the 'lucky dog' pass to regain the lead lap – suddenly he was 16th. Kahne retained his lead through the pit stops, and soon recovered it after being briefly taken by chase contender Mark Martin's #6 Viagra Ford. But Kasey has been the dominant factor in many a race this season only to lose out in the luck stakes, and so it would prove tonight. When Kevin Harvick's engine expired on lap 229 and Kenseth, Mayfield and Edwards all went off on the #29 Goodwrench Chevrolet's oil, Kahne stayed out during the resultant caution. This was despite his being concerned about a vibration that had appeared on his car, and his fears proved justified when with 63 laps to run the red Dodge blew a front tyre and slammed the wall. Another impressive showing ended with nothing – but Kahne will get his maiden win before long.



Related Pictures

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The Lowe`s squad were victorious again at Lowe`s Motor Speedway (Photo: GM Media).
Kurt Busch maintained his title lead with a fourth-place finish (Photo Autostock/Ford Motor Co)
Mark Martin`s title hopes took a dive with a late accident (Photo: Autostock/Ford Motor Co).
Martin Truex Jr., at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 14, 2014. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS finished 4th and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS finished 36th Sunday, March 16, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Stewart is 23rd, Truex Jr. is 29th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, celebrate in Victory Lane after qualifying on the front row for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Austin Dillon qualified for pole position and Martin Truex Jr. qualified second.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Driver Martin Truex is announced as driver of the #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet for 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 1, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(L-R) Driver Martin Truex is presented as the next driver of the #78 Furniture Row / Denver Mattress Chevrolet by Joe Garone, general manager of Furniture Row Racing, at Texas Motor Speedway on November 1, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr. (L) and Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone at Texas Motor Speedway news conference announcing that Truex signed a multiyear contract with Furniture Row Racing to drive the team`s #78 Chevrolet, beginning in 2014. (PHoto Credit: Furniture Row Racing PR)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, and Mark Martin, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2013 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 22, 2013 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Back Row, L-R) Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s American Heritage Chocolate Toyota, Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Kellogg`s / Cheez-It Ford, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Home Depot / Husky Toyota, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet, (Front Row, L-R) Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 Scotchgard Ford, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, Kurt Busch, driver of the #78 Furniture Row / Beautyrest Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, anid Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, pose with the Sprint Cup Trophy after qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 56th Annual Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
NASCAR driver, Mark Martin, who is filling in for an injured Tony Stewart, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, watches the press conference at Stewart-Haas Racing on September 3, 2013 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 53rd Annual IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 24, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
Mark Martin, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS qualified 11th Friday, August 23, 2013 for Saturday`s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Martin is interim driver for Tony Stewart who is out for the season due to injury. (Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, leads a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 18, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 11, 2013 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images))

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