RICHMOND, Va. - Jimmie Johnson led teammate Kyle Busch to a 1-2 finish at Richmond International Raceway yesterday, the third consecutive victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
Hendrick has won seven of the last eight Nextel Cup races and swept all four races in which NASCAR has used its new Car of Tomorrow.
It looked as if Hendrick would finish 1-2-3 for the final 100 laps of the race as Johnson, Busch and pole-sitter Jeff Gordon battled for the lead. But Gordon faded over the final 15 laps and gave up third place to Denny Hamlin.
Gordon, who won the last two weeks, settled for fourth as Chevrolets took the top four spots in the Crown Royal 400, which began briefly Saturday night with 12 laps run under caution before it was halted because of rain. It started fresh yesterday.
Johnson, the defending Nextel Cup champion, won for the fourth time this season. The 0.75-mile track at Richmond has been among the worst on his resume, with Johnson having scored just one top-10 finish in 15 previous visits.
"This means the world to me to win here," Johnson said. "We haven't been that strong here. It reminds me of Indy last year, and we beat a track that's been tough on us. We looked at it as a new opportunity for the team and myself to learn the right setup and for me to learn the right rhythm of the track."
"You can argue that Hendrick has all the best drivers," Hamlin said. "It's tough to beat them when they've got four very, very good teams."
Only Kevin Harvick had a car that could challenge the Hendrick crew, and the Daytona 500 winner led 106 laps midway through the race. He was out front when the sixth caution of the race sent the field into the pits, but as Harvick pulled out, he clipped rookie David Ragan, who was heading into his stall.
Harvick never challenged again. He rallied to finish seventh.