RICHMOND, Va. - Jimmie Johnson's celebration seemed a bit subdued. Maybe all these trips to Victory Lane are becoming routine for the Hendrick Motorsports crew.

Johnson gave Hendrick its seventh win in the past eight Nextel Cup races by leading teammate Kyle Busch to a 1-2 finish yesterday at Richmond International Raceway. It was the third consecutive victory for Hendrick, which remained undefeated in the four races 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 past 2 weeks, settled for fourth as Chevrolets took the top four spots in the race that began briefly Saturday night with 12 laps run under caution before it was halted because of rain. It started fresh yesterday.

But there was no gloating for a team all too aware how quickly the competition can catch up.

"Our team is in full stride, but this is a very circular sport," said Chad Knaus, the winning crew chief. "You get your time at the top and you fall to some degree. What you've got to do is make sure when you are taking your time at the top, you don't get too full of yourself that when it's your turn to fall, it doesn't break you apart."

Johnson, who was second to Gordon last week at Talladega, finally broke through on one of the worst tracks on his resume. The .75-mile oval had given Johnson fits through his career, and he came in with just one top-10 finish in 15 previous visits.

Johnson used the victory to pull into second place in the standings, where he now trails Gordon by 211 points. *