With his 13th–place finish and most laps led, Johnson passed Matt Kenseth for the lead in the Chase for the Cup standings with four races remaining.
Johnson now has 2,254 points and leads Kenseth by the same four-point margin by which he trailed Kenseth going into the race. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are in a virtual tie for third, 26 points behind Johnson, was Busch has the position by virtue of his four victories.
“I’m happy to have the points lead and we went through a lot of work to get there,” Johnson said. “We were just getting one point at a time and we got a few more than normal today, and were able to get the lead.
“The races forward now are up to where the competitors go earn it. You don’t have this luck issue that can take place at plate tracks. We just go racing from here, and that’s the thing I’m most excited for. It’s just going to be a dogfight to the end.”
Everybody came into the race with a plan. It was Johnson’s to be near the front at the end, but he “dropped like a rock” when the field got in single-file late in the race. He did, however, succeed in keeping tabs on the drivers in the standings around him.
“Thirteenth isn’t the best finish, but with what we are trying to do and win a championship, we beat the competition today and that is good,” he said.
Kenseth, meanwhile, just couldn’t get anything going. He was struggling with an ill-handling car most of the day, and when he did climb back into contention got shuffled down to the bottom of track.
“It was just an incredibly disappointing day,” he said. “I should have been smarter there and I guess paid attention to points, but I’m not really wired like that. I want to go up and mix it up and try to win the thing.”
Al Muskewitz is a sports writer for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.