AP Photo/Dale Davis
Jimmie Johnson (48) avoided this pileup, but fellow Chase contenders Matt Kenseth (17), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) and Greg Biffle (16) didn't.
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Ninth place never looked so good to Jimmie Johnson
He avoided the carnage while his two closest rivals in the Chase -- Carl Edwards
and Greg Biffle
-- wrecked with 15 laps to go.
Johnson now has a 72-point lead over Edwards and a 77-point lead over Biffle with six races remaining.
It pushed Johnson a little closer to joining Cale Yarborough
as the only drivers in NASCAR history to win three consecutive Cup championships.
Johnson asked if he was tired of hearing questions about tying Yarborough's 30-year-old record.
"I didn't say you had to stop asking me about it," Johnson said. "It's cool to talk about it. All I'm trying to say is there's a lot of racing until [the season finale at] Homestead.
"But this is the track I fear the most. To come out of here with a top-10 when the guys close to me had problems made today a good day."
Here comes Burton
may be the sleeper in the Chase. Burton finished fourth Sunday in the No. 31 Chevy, giving him top-10s in all four playoff races and five consecutive events.
Burton is 99 points behind leader Johnson, but only 22 points behind third-place Biffle.
"There is still a lot of good racing left," Burton said. "My [Richard Childress Racing] teammates really helped me out a lot today -- Clint [Bowyer] there at the end and Kevin [Harvick] early in the race.
"I thought all three of us worked really well together. All of us ran well, but more importantly, we came out of here good. Anytime you get a top-5 at Talladega you've got to be happy with it."
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at