When it comes to Chase performance, nobody's better than Johnson

Updated: October 6, 2008, 1:55 PM ET

AP Photo/Larry W. Smith

The No. 48 crew had Jimmie Johnson pointed in the right direction Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Something about the Chase brings out the best in Jimmie Johnson. Consider a few of these facts:
    • Johnson has won four of the past eight Chase races, dating back to last season.
    • Johnson has won 28 percent (12 of 43) of the Chase events since the playoff system began in 2004.
    • He has 31 top-10s, including 24 top-5s, in Chase races.
    • Johnson has finished seventh or better in the past eight Chase races.
    • His average finish in Chase races in 8.9, and his average Chase finish in the past two seasons is 4.5.

Someone else can win the 2008 Sprint Cup championship, but he must beat these kinds of playoff numbers to finish ahead of Johnson and the No. 48 Chevrolet team.

"If we do our job and keep finishing in the top five, everything else will fall into place," No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus said.

Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway was an example of why it is so difficult to outrace Johnson. Carl Edwards was fast enough to pass Johnson for the lead twice in the Camping World RV 400, but Johnson's crew enabled him to beat Edwards off pit road both times after he lost the lead.

Johnson was in front of a restart with 47 laps to go, and most observers believed Edwards again would easily pass him on the track. Not this time.

Johnson was as quick as Edwards after Knaus made the right adjustments on the last stop. Edwards finally caught Johnson on the last lap with a risky slide move through the final turn, but Edwards couldn't hold it and hit the wall.

Johnson kept his cool, moved back to the front and won the race.

"This just kind of shows why they're champions," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "I'm really proud of the way they fought [Sunday]."

The other two drivers in the top three also are fighting at a high level. Edwards finished third in the first two Chase races before his runner-up effort at Kansas. Greg Biffle, who finished third Sunday, won the first two Chase races.

The three drivers are separated by only 30 points.

"At this pace, it's going to take somebody having bad luck to get a gap in the standings," Johnson said. "You're not going to outrun people with the way we're all performing right now."

Biffle admits it's a little disheartening to run so well but still be behind Johnson and Edwards in the standings. Biffle is 30 points behind Johnson and 20 behind Edwards.

"We're 1-2-3 in the points and we finish 1-2-3," Biffle said. "That's tough. I won twice and finished third once, and I'm still third. It's going to be a tight points battle the whole way. All you can do is drive your tail off every weekend and see where you end up."

Johnson has done that in the Chase better than anyone else. But Edwards and Biffle are keeping pace for the moment.

-- Terry Blount

Nationwide Series: Hamlin makes it look easy

Sam Ard holds the single-season win mark in the Nationwide Series. He won 10 times in the Howard Thomas-owned No. 00 Oldsmobile (yes, they used to race Oldsmobiles in NASCAR's top series) in 1983. That total is the most wins recorded by a single team in a season as well.

For the longest time this year, it appeared Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 team would shatter the mark. But the team is stalled on nine wins, and with first-year driver Joey Logano behind the wheel the rest of the way, the record may be safe.

Well, safe from the No. 20 team, that is. Alas, Ard's record might still fall to Joe Gibbs Racing. But the No. 18 team might do the honors.

The No. 20 team hasn't won since Denny Hamlin prevailed at Daytona on July 4, while the No. 18 has won five times since then. (Hamlin's win in Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 was the most recent triumph.) Hamlin and Kyle Busch will be in that car plenty as the year winds down, while Marc Davis will drive the car at Memphis as Hamlin and Busch focus on the Sprint Cup race at Atlanta that weekend.

Hamlin again made it look easy at Kansas Speedway, as he beat Clint Bowyer by 1.407 seconds. But it wasn't a wasted homecoming for Bowyer, who extended his points lead and pulled Richard Childress Racing's No. 2 team within 33 points of the No. 20 team in the race for the owners' points title.

Bowyer admitted Saturday that although he has just one win this season, he'll get over failing to win more if he hoists the trophy come season's end. And in the grand scheme of things, races such as Saturday's second-place run are exactly what he needs, although missing out on a win in his home state stung a bit.

"You know, it was a good weekend for us. We came in and ran well," said Bowyer, who leads Carl Edwards by 196 points after Edwards' fourth-place finish. "That's all you can ask for, to hopefully be fast. It means so much to me to be back here and see the support people show me. It's a lot of fun to be able to put on a show for them and try to win. You want to win, and it'd be a hell of a party if we ever did.

"We keep knocking on the door. We're going to get a win here. It's just going to be that much more special. Racing at this level, nothing comes easy. They're not going to give it to you. The 18 and the 20 car have been beating [us] up week in and week out pretty much all season long on these bigger racetracks. I really felt like we were hitting the gap there and we were as good as they were. It's been a long time on a track like this where we were as good as they were."

Kevin Harvick's No. 33 Chevrolet might have been the class of the field. He led three times for 90 laps before a pit stop to replace the battery knocked him out of contention. That made things easier for Hamlin, who said his team steadily improved his Camry as the race went on.

"Our car was not so great at the beginning, it was probably a mid-top-5 car or a mid-top-10 car for the first 75 laps. And then we had one adjustment that really took the car off," Hamlin said. "I think it was the second or third pit stop. Joel [Weidman, crew chief] and Mike [Ford, co-crew chief] got together and did some great adjustments on the car, and it got better each time I came on pit road."

In the end, it was good enough for yet another trip to Victory Lane. The team moved one step closer to the Nationwide Series record books.

-- Mark Ashenfelter

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Jayski Podcast

Jayski Podcast

Mark Garrow recaps the race at Kansas as Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards go back and forth on the thrilling final lap. We look at the Chase with three races down and seven to go.
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Racing Resources Says …

Sprint Cup

Jimmie Johnson

Johnson

  • Jimmie Johnson won the Camping World RV 400 at Kansas Speedway. He posted his 38th victory in his 248th race and notched his fifth win of the 2008 season. It also was his third win in the past five races. It was Johnson's 12th win in 43 Chase races, the most wins of all drivers.
  • Johnson posted his 13th 1.5-mile win. He's tied with Jeff Gordon for most among all current drivers and second to Dale Earnhardt with 14. Johnson posted his sixth 1.5-mile victory in the 43 Chase races, the most of all drivers.
  • Johnson scored his first Kansas victory in his seventh start. He became the seventh different Kansas winner in eight races.
  • Hendrick Motorsports posted its third Kansas victory, the most of all teams. HMS posted its 17th win in 43 Chase races, the most of all teams.
  • Johnson led 124 of the 267 laps, more than all other drivers. He has led 301 of the 967 laps (31 percent) in the three Chase races this season. Johnson has led the most laps in three of the past five races.
  • Johnson won the race from the pole, joining Joe Nemechek (2004) as the only drivers to win at Kansas from the pole. Johnson posted his fifth win from the pole and third of the 2008 season. He leads the Chase by 10 points over Carl Edwards. Johnson took the lead in the points after the Kansas race for the second year in a row.
  • Johnson has led at least one lap in 23 of the 28 races this season, the most of all drivers.
  • Carl Edwards, who finished second, posted his series-leading 22nd top-10 finish of the season.
  • Greg Biffle, who finished third, posted his seventh consecutive top-15 finish.
  • Kevin Harvick, who finished sixth, posted his ninth consecutive top-10 finish, the longest streak of his career. It's also the longest top-10 streak by any driver this season.
  • Seven of the 12 Chase drivers finished in the top 10, and all finished first through seventh.
  • Kyle Busch, who finished 28th, finished outside the top 25 for the third consecutive race.
  • Five of the 12 Chase drivers led at least one lap at Kansas.
  • AJ Allmendinger, who finished ninth, posted his career-best finish.
  • The seven cautions tied the record for the fewest cautions at Kansas, a record that was set in October 2005. The 25 laps of caution tied the record, also set in October 2005, for the fewest caution laps at Kansas.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing drivers are now 10th, 11th and 12th in the NSCS point standings. All three drivers are more than 240 points behind the leader.
  • Patrick Carpentier, who finished 29th, was the highest rookie of the year contender.
  • Three drivers have posted top-5 finishes in all three Chase races (Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle).
  • Eleven of the 12 Chase drivers have scored at least one top-10 finish in the first three Chase races. Kyle Busch is the only Chase driver who has not.
  • The top 10 consisted of four Chevrolets, four Fords, one Toyota and one Dodge.

Nationwide

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin

  • Denny Hamlin won the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway. He posted his ninth career win in his 109th start and his fourth victory in 16 races in 2008. It was Hamlin's first Kansas victory in four races there.
  • Hamlin scored his second victory in the No. 18 and posted the eighth win in 17 races for the No. 18 this season.
  • Hamlin became the eighth different race winner in eight NNS Kansas races. He started 19th in the race, matching the record for the lowest starting position of a Kansas race winner. Joe Nemechek also started 19th in 2004. Hamlin led 99 of the 200 laps, the most of all drivers. He had led only five laps in his three previous Kansas races.
  • This is the first time in eight Kansas races that the driver leading the most laps has gone on to win. Hamlin's 99 laps led all came in the last 107 laps of the race.
  • Hamlin is the fifth different 1.5-mile winner this season.
  • With Hamlin's win, Toyota locked up the 2008 manufacturer's championship.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing posted its 25th NNS victory and 17th of the 2008 season. JGR has scored 26 combined victories in 2008 -- 17 in NNS, nine in NSCS.
  • Points leader Clint Bowyer finished second and posted his 25th top-10 finish of the season. His lead is now 196 points over second-place Carl Edwards.
  • David Ragan, who finished third, posted his best finish of the season and matched his career-best finish. Ragan posted his 19th top-10 of the season, ranking second to only Clint Bowyer.
  • Kevin Harvick finished 13th, the last car on the lead lap, after experiencing a battery problem on Lap 138. Harvick led 88 of the first 93 laps.
  • Bryan Clauson, who finished 21st, was the highest-finishing rookie of the year contender.
  • The top 10 consisted of three Toyotas, two Chevrolets, four Fords and one Dodge.
  • Only 13 cars finished on the lead lap, the fewest of all Kansas races.
  • Bobby Hillin Jr. finished 36th in his first race since August 2000. Hillin went 279 races between starts.

-- Racing Resources