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Johnson fights back for Brickyard triumph.

Nextel Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson fought back from a near-disastrous puncture to add the Indianapolis Motor Speedway victory lane to the long list of tracks he has won at.

Johnson's Allstate 400 victory came thanks to a virtuoso performance from the driver and the #48 Hendrick Motorsports team on a day where tyres were a worry all day and track position was key.

After starting fifth and cruising through the opening stages of the 160-lap encounter Johnson's day almost came unravelled when he became the first and only victim of the left front tyre problems that some predicted would blight the race. Running in third place Johnson's left front Goodyear went flat on the front straight and while that was a blessing for the driver who failed to finish last year's Allstate 400 after a far more catastrophic failure, it did mean a full lap of the 2.5-mile IMS quad oval at a greatly reduced pace.

But with every cloud comes a silver lining and on this occasion the timing of Johnson's puncture couldn't have been better. Due to the pre-race tyre worries NASCAR had called for a pair of competition caution periods on lap 15 and 40. With Johnson's failure occurring on lap 39 Johnson was able to change tyres and remedy the light bodywork damage caused by the flailing rubber without losing a lap.

Restarting from 38th position on lap 45 Johnson gained several places before the caution flag flew again on lap 56, which in turn allowed the #48 team to help their man gain several more positions on pit road. By lap 60 Johnson was back up to 18th, which became tenth by lap 75 and sixth following the next round of yellow flag pitstops on lap 86.

By the time the race reached the lap 100 mark Johnson was fifth and within sight of Bud Pole winner and early race dominator Jeff Burton but as Burton's #31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet began to fade it helped to bunch the leaders considerably. Some incisive passing moves allowed Johnson to get Mark Martin and Burton in quick succession and then Kevin Harvick and finally Matt Kenseth for the lead on lap 118.

Keeping the rest of the leaders at arms length Johnson was able to cycle through a round of trouble-free green flag pitstops and retain the lead as the race entered its final 30 laps but when the caution flag waved again on lap 141 all bets were off.

As expected on a day where overtaking was tough several drivers elected not to change tyres while others chose to take just two fresh Goodyears. Johnson, Kenseth and Carl Edwards, running third at the time of the yellow, all took four fresh tyres, a decision that would prove critical.

Johnson took the final restart of the day on lap 146 in eighth position behind four drivers (Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Ryan Newman, Joe Nemechek) who stayed out on old rubber, two drivers (Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer) who took two tyres and one driver (Kenseth) who took four tyres and beat the #48 team off pit road.



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