Jimmie Johnson fended off polesitter Mark Martin to claim his third win of the season in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
The reigning champion started 16th and systematically moved up in the order to get himself up to third by the time the final pitstops arrived.
Juan Pablo Montoya had been dominant up front, leading the field for most of the distance, but the Colombian was penalised for speeding entering pit road and had to serve a drive-through penalty that dropped him down to 12th place.
That allowed Johnson to move up one place behind Martin, who had been second-best to the Ganassi driver since he lost the lead to him on the first restart as soon as lap five.
Making the most of the recently implemented double-file restart format, Johnson was able to pass Martin on the outside when the green flag waved for the last time with 23 laps remaining.
The 50-year-old remained in hot pursuit of his Hendrick team-mate and although he was able to stay in touch with him, he never got a chance to attempt a pass. Johnson also weaved on the two one-kilometre straights to try to prevent Martin from drafting him on the closing laps, while making the most of running in clean air around the four 90-degree turns.
In the end Johnson's victory, the 43rd for his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career marked also his third visit to Victory Lane at Indianapolis. The result also promotes him to second place in the drivers' standings, overtaking his team-mate Jeff Gordon.
"That was unbelievable," Johnson said. "I knew if I could stay alongside of [Martin] through [Turn] 1 in the short shoot I was going to come out with the lead off of Turn 2. I had a big power slide through [Turn] 1 and was doing everything I could to hang on to it and stayed next to him and then through [Turn] 2 got going. If he had got out in front I would have just chased him and we wouldn't have had anything for him."
Martin was a happy second despite possibly losing out on a fifth win of the year. His result allowed him to move even more further the top twelve in the standings up to ninth place and he is now more than a hundred points clear of 13th place in the championship with six races left before the Chase starts.
"He was better than I was off of [Turn] 4 and I was better than he was off of [Turn] 2, so I knew I had to make it happen off of two but wadding it up wasn't a great idea either," said Martin about his battle with Johnson in the closing laps. "Both of us are driving well for all we are worth and I couldn't get him."
Points leader Tony Stewart completed a solid day finishing third, overtaking Greg Biffle on the final stretch of the race after Biffle had to get into fuel-saving mode. The Roush Fenway driver pitted a few laps before the leaders and despite a final long caution period he still had to conserve fuel in the end. His result allowed him to move back inside the top-twelve in the points after being 13th before this weekend.
Brian Vickers rounded out the top five after running consistently in the top-five all day, while Kevin Harvick finally scored his first top ten in the last sixteen races by finishing sixth. Kasey Kahne, David Reutimann all ran solid races to finish seventh and eighth, while Jeff Gordon made a great recovery from 22nd on the grid to finish ninth ahead of a similarly charging Matt Kenseth.
Juan Pablo Montoya was a disappointed 11th in the end, passing rookie Joey Logano in the closing laps after a tight battle with the 19-year-old rookie.
Kyle Busch was the biggest loser of the day in the standings with yet another bad race. On lap 59 a front tyre on his car blew up, sending him against the barrier. His team-mate Denny Hamlin also had a troubled day with transmission dramas causing a lengthy visit to the garage, which transpired as a 34th place in the end.
Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 160 2. Mark Martin Chevrolet 160 3. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 160 4. Greg Biffle Ford 160 5. Brian Vickers Toyota 160 6. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 160 7. Kasey Kahne Dodge 160 8. David Reutimann Toyota 160 9. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 160 10. Matt Kenseth Ford 160 11. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 160 12. Joey Logano Toyota 160 13. Reed Sorenson Dodge 160 14. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 160 15. Carl Edwards Ford 160 16. David Stremme Dodge 160 17. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 160 18. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 160 19. Casey Mears Chevrolet 160 20. AJ Allmendinger Dodge 160 21. Jamie McMurray Ford 160 22. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 160 23. Bobby Labonte Ford 160 24. David Ragan Ford 160 25. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 160 26. Bill Elliott Ford 160 27. Kurt Busch Dodge 160 28. Robby Gordon Toyota 160 29. Paul Menard Ford 158 30. David Gilliland Chevrolet 158 31. Scott Speed Toyota 157 32. John Andretti Chevrolet 156 33. Terry Labonte Toyota 154 34. Denny Hamlin Toyota 144 35. Michael Waltrip Toyota 139 36. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 127 37. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 118 38. Kyle Busch Toyota 112 39. Regan Smith Chevrolet 108 40. Elliott Sadler Dodge 45 41. Mike Skinner Toyota 35 42. Dave Blaney Toyota 23 43. Joe Nemechek Toyota 21