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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., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualified for second position, Friday, May 29, 2015, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Truex, Jr. is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, lead the field into turn one during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser PrecisionChevrolet SS, qualifies for tenth position, Thursday, May 21, 2015, for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Truex, Jr. is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. All 43 drivers will be participating in
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, May 8, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Truex, Jr. is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for sixth position Friday, April 24, 2015 for Saturday evening`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. Truex, Jr. is third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, has an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in sixth place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for third position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Truex, Jr. is third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row / Visser Precision Chevrolet, stands in the garage area prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, leads Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 8, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS races to victory Sunday, March 8, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet SS finishes second. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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