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Jimmie Johnson dominates Kansas NASCAR Sprint Cup race

Jimmie Johnson wins at KansasJimmie Johnson took a dominant second win of the season at Kansas, strongly enhancing his quest for a sixth consecutive title.

The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion probably produced his most emphatic display of the whole season, leading 197 out the 272 laps run, only looking under threat on the green-white-chequered finish, when the charging Red Bull Toyota of Kasey Kahne challenged him.

Johnson was more than 12 seconds ahead of the field when the third caution of the day waved for debris 61 laps from the end, apparently turning the race into yet another fuel-saving contest. However a further caution on lap 219 allowed the leaders the chance to pit, Johnson going for a splash while others like Tony Stewart, his main rival at the time, took on new right-side tyres also.

The Hendrick driver restarted from third behind Penske's Kurt Busch and Richard Childress' Kevin Harvick, both of whom stayed out during the caution to gain track position, but it took Johnson just a couple of laps to put things back in order at the front of the field.

Just when he looked under control once again, yet another caution waved only 27 laps from the end. Johnson and his team were aggressive with their strategy and pitted once again for two new tyres, while Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin gambled on staying out.

Again Johnson lost no time in jumping to the front, passing both drivers on the inside as soon as the green flag waved. As he pulled away from his rivals Kahne started to make up ground, getting an unexpected break to challenge Johnson in a two-lap sprint when the final caution waved due to fluid being spilled on the track from Jeff Gordon's failing engine.

Kahne spun his tyres on the final restart, then got pushed by Keselowski as a consequence, while Johnson pulled a couple of car-lengths ahead. The Red Bull Toyota reeled in the leader on the last lap but Johnson held Kahne off to win for the first time in the last 21 races, ending his longest win drought in Cup.

Johnson is now third in the points, only four points off the Chase lead. His victory also ensures he is the only Cup driver to have won at least one race in every Chase since 2004, Sunday's being his 20th victory in a play-off event.

"There are just days when you have the strength across the board and you can control the race," said Johnson, whose victory was the 199th for Hendrick Motorsports and gave yet another manufacturers' title to Chevrolet in the process. "It's just one of those days when we had the strength in all areas and we could capitalise on it."

Kahne's second-place finish kept momentum rolling for Red Bull Racing as the team remains amid the uncertainty of trying to secure funding to keep it rolling into 2012, once Red Bull pulls the plug on its backing.

Keselowski managed a strong third-place finish which allows him to move back up to fourth in the standings as the leading Penske driver, following a tough day for his team-mate Kurt Busch, who came back from a lap down to challenge at the front through strategy, but dropped down to 13th at the flag.

Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth was fourth, leading the race for 26 laps - the most any other driver but Johnson managed. Behind him his team-mate Carl Edwards kept his top-10 Chase streak rolling with fifth, which vaults him up to the Chase lead. Edwards recovered from being a lap down in the late stages of the race while struggling with handling throughout the day.

"That was very, very bad at the beginning of that race," said Edwards. "I cannot thank my guys enough for sticking with it and working hard all day. I cannot believe we finished fifth. It feels like a win. That is the most we have done with a car that wasn't capable of winning ever."

Harvick charged to sixth in the end and drops to second in the standings, while the rest of the top 10 was filled by non-Chasers, led by RCR's Clint Bowyer.

Stewart, who looked to be Johnson's main threat for a while, finished only 15th after a four-tyre stop during the penultimate caution cost him track position. Although he moved up to seventh following that, he pitted once again under the final caution but slid in his pit-stall, having a long stop that placed him on the tail end of the lead-lap cars. His team-mate Ryan Newman got back on the lead lap during the final caution and finished 18th.

Results - 272 laps:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                         Time/Gap
 1.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet           2h58m27.000s
 2.  Kasey Kahne         Red Bull Toyota                  + 0.548s
 3.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Dodge                     + 0.678s
 4.  Matt Kenseth        Roush Fenway Ford                + 1.173s
 5.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford                + 1.630s
 6.  Kevin Harvick       Childress Chevrolet              + 1.793s
 7.  Clint Bowyer        Childress Chevrolet              + 2.226s
 8.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford                + 2.597s
 9.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford                       + 3.131s
10.  Mark Martin         Hendrick Chevrolet               + 3.203s
11.  Kyle Busch          Gibbs Toyota                     + 3.207s
12.  Paul Menard         Childress Chevrolet              + 3.229s
13.  Kurt Busch          Penske Dodge                     + 3.275s
14.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet               + 3.414s
15.  Tony Stewart        Stewart Haas Chevrolet           + 3.441s
16.  Denny Hamlin        Gibbs Toyota                     + 3.525s
17.  Landon Cassill      Phoenix Chevrolet                + 3.566s
18.  Ryan Newman         Stewart Haas Chevrolet           + 4.342s
19.  Brian Vickers       Red Bull Toyota                   + 1 lap
20.  David Ragan         Roush Fenway Ford                 + 1 lap
21.  Jeff Burton         Childress Chevrolet               + 1 lap
22.  Jamie McMurray      Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet       + 1 lap
23.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet       + 1 lap
24.  Regan Smith         Furniture Row Chevrolet           + 1 lap
25.  AJ Allmendinger     Petty Ford                       + 2 laps
26.  Austin Dillon       Childress Chevrolet              + 2 laps
27.  Travis Kvapil       Front Row Ford                   + 2 laps
28.  Mike Bliss          FAS Lane Ford                    + 2 laps
29.  Joey Logano         Gibbs Toyota                     + 2 laps
30.  Bobby Labonte       JTG Daugherty Toyota             + 3 laps
31.  Dave Blaney         Baldwin Chevrolet                + 3 laps
32.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford                   + 4 laps
33.  Scott Speed         Whitney Ford                     + 6 laps
34.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet               + 8 laps
35.  David Reutimann     Waltrip Toyota                   + 8 laps
36.  Martin Truex Jr     Waltrip Toyota                  + 31 laps


     Andy Lally          TRG Ford                          72 laps
     Reed Sorenson       Gordon Dodge                      37 laps
     Michael McDowell    HP Toyota                         30 laps
     David Stremme       Inception Chevrolet               27 laps
     Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota                      18 laps
     Casey Mears         Germain Toyota                    16 laps
     JJ Yeley            Front Row Ford                    12 laps
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