Johnson in Lowe's sweep

Jimmie Johnson needed a win to put his NASCAR Nextel Cup title chances back on track and he duly took it at the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Saturday night's caution-fest UAW/GM 500

Johnson in Lowe's sweep

The Hendrick Motorsports ace, who is sponsored by Lowe's, became the first driver to take a season's sweep of wins at the Charlotte venue since the late Dale Earnhardt in 1986.

But Johnson's win, which came after misfortune hit the terminally unlucky Kasey Kahne on lap 267, was not enough to help him seriously boost his Nextel Cup points position. Because all three leading title protagonists Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kurt Busch finished in the three positions behind him.

Kahne was clearly in a league of his own, leading 201 of the 267 laps he ran. He had an 8s edge on Ryan Newman when his Evernham Dodge Intrepid suddenly lurched to the right and into the wall with a puncture, ending his night.

It was yet more stunning misfortune for the rookie from Washington State. Kahne also crashed out while leading at Dover in June (spinning in oil from the car of Casey Mears) and at Joliet in July (spun out by Tony Stewart). He has finished second five times this year, twice by less than a car-length.

A few drivers had trouble with wheel camber and right-front tyres, but at the time Kahne was not sure what caused his car to go out of control. The car had developed a vibration midway in the race.

Kahne's departure evened the field. Mark Martin moved to the lead after the pit stops, with points leader Kurt Busch second. Busch and Martin swapped the lead over the next few laps, with Johnson moving steadily up from eighth.

Johnson, took second place from Busch on Lap 290, then blasted by Martin to the lead on Lap 301 (of 334).

Gordon, who reported he had no-handling car early in the race, spun early in the race and was hit by Rusty Wallace. After repairs, Gordon was able to continue, minus the rear fascia on his Chevrolet. He got his lost lap by via procedure on Lap 210, and after further adjustments, the car came to life. He had nothing for Johnson at the end, however. Earnhardt Jr finished third and Busch fourth.

Busch thus maintains the top spot in the 'Chase for Cup' by 24 points over Earnhardt Jr, while Johnson (arguably the most consistently fast man of the year) remains eighth, 217 points off the lead.

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