Jimmie Johnson wins TUMS Fast Relief 500
The victory, combined with Brad Keselowski's sixth place finish, gave Johnson a two-point lead in the championship points race with just three races remaining in the season.
"I think in order to be the champion, you have to win at the tracks where you are good and we did that today," Johnson said after his 59th career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory. "This was a strong performance for the team."
Johnson took the lead for good on lap 486 passing Keselowski for the lead. Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were the only lead-lap drivers who didn't pit for tires during a late caution period. The gamble didn't pay off as both were quickly passed by Johnson.
Keselowski, who led the points when the day started, wound up sixth. Earnhardt was involved in a late spin and finished 21st.
It was a solid day for Keselowski, even though he dropped several spots down the stretch. He had a poor qualifying effort and started 32nd, but fought his way back all day.
"This means you can't count this team out. This team has a tremendous heart," said Keselowski.
Busch, who is out of the points race, finished second, followed by Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.
Denny Hamlin was the big loser of the day. He was third in the points when the green flag flew, but suffered mechanical woes after the halfway point and wound up all the way back in 33rd position. He dropped two spots on the points race.
"It ended in disappointment," Hamlin said of his day. "We overcame the pit road penalties, things like that. We had a great car. When these things happen, you just got to suck it up and move on."
There were 22 lead changes among nine drivers. The caution flag flew 11 times for 64 laps.
Racing returns to Martinsville Speedway with the Virginia 500 on April 7, 2013. The Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race will be on April 6. Tickets are on sale and may be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX.