On a day filled with late-race wrecks, including one that took out championship contenders and fan favorites, Jimmie Johnson returned to championship form today as he led the most laps and cruised to victory in the Pepsi 500 at California's Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Additionally, Johnson assumed the overall points lead in 'The Chase for the Sprint Cup' by 12 points over second place Mark Martin, who held a 16 point lead coming into today's race.
With six laps remaining a wreck involving eight cars, including fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., as well as championship contenders Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne, brought the field to a stop under a red flag. As the race resumed, Johnson pulled away from the field and took his third consecutive victory in the Autumn race at the track closest to his hometown of El Cajon, California.
Runner-up Jeff Gordon led laps for the first time since the 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' began four races ago, and in doing so moved up two places in the standings to 5th. Third place today was taken by former Formula One champion and Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who also holds 3rd in the Chase standings, trailing Johnson by 58 points. Mark Martin, now second in the standings just 12 behind Johnson, and Tony Stewart, who holds 4th in the Chase points, rounded out the top five in today's race.
Next Saturday night, NASCAR's premiere series takes the show to Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Last year's winner at Charlotte was Jeff Burton.