Johnson Three-Peats At Las Vegas
Sunday, March 11th 2007, 6:19 pm
News On 6
LAS VEGAS (AP) New track configuration, same old results for Jimmie Johnson.
The defending series champion beat teammate Jeff Gordon on Sunday to win his third straight Nextel Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Johnson had few problems navigating his way around the track that was under intense scrutiny all weekend because of changes owner Bruton Smith made to the 1.5-mile speedway. It included an increase in the banking from 12 degrees to 20, and a curved pit lane unlike anything the drivers had seen before.
Because the new surface produced such fast speeds, Goodyear had to bring a very hard left-side tire that was capable of withstanding the loads. The drivers didn't like that, either, and spent the entire weekend complaining about the conditions.
But it didn't bother Johnson, who overcame a pit-road penalty and a minor brush with the wall to lead 89 of the 267 laps en route to the 150th NASCAR victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
It came at Gordon's expense, though.
Gordon dominated the race by leading 111 laps, and appeared poised to tie the late Dale Earnhardt's mark of 76 career victories. But he thought he had a flat left-rear tire following a late round of pit stops, and gave up the lead with 32 laps to go when Jeff Burton passed him.
Johnson got by both of them five laps later and held on after a final restart with 11 to go. Gordon finished second for a 1-2 finish for Hendrick.
"I thought we had this won here," Gordon said. "We just got beat. We keep bringing cars like this, we'll win some."
Denny Hamlin finished third and was followed by Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards.
Martin is still on top of the points standings, up six over Gordon. Martin, who has never won a Nextel Cup title, is planning to run only 23 races this season and is expected to sit out of the race at Bristol later this month.
"The plans haven't changed," Martin said, "Yet."