NASCAR

Johnson completes sweep at Pocono

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Long Pond, PA (Sports Network) - Pocono 500 winner Jimmie Johnson captured the Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway on Sunday afternoon. The No.48 Lowe's Chevrolet driver crossed the finish line 2.138 seconds ahead of runner-up Mark Martin to complete the season sweep at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

The victory was Johnson's fourth of the season and 10th of his "Cup" career. It wasn't a fluke for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. Johnson led a race-high 124 laps en route to the victory and always had the answer. Johnson started just 14th on the grid, but he and teammate Jeff Gordon charged through the field. Joe Nemechek led the first 31 laps, but a transmission problem led to the No.01 Chevrolet losing first, second and fourth gear. While series points leader Johnson moved quickly to the top of the charts, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was struggling. On lap 29, Nemechek lapped the fan favorite. Following a caution on lap 50, Earnhardt called to his pit crew for a driver change and John Andretti finished out the race. Unlike last week, "Junior" had planned to run the full 200 laps, but numbness in his left leg forced him out of the event. "The bumps hurt a little bit, but my foot was going to sleep," Earnhardt Jr. told NASCAR.com. "I haven't been using it a lot - I haven't been standing on it much and it just goes to sleep and cramps up real easy. "I could have run the rest of the way, but the car was so bad there really wasn't no use of me being in there wasting my time." Johnson led 60 of the first 100 laps and his domination continued throughout. The third-year driver opened up a three-to-four second lead after every caution flag. He had built another big lead by lap 175 when rookie Brian Vickers got into the left-rear of Bobby Labonte and sent the No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the outside SAFER barrier. On the restart, Johnson built a two-second lead over Martin, who despite a successful career at Pocono (24 top-10s in 35 starts) has never won at the 2.5-mile tri-oval. The race should have been over at that point, but a transmission problem in the Kurt Busch Ford gave Martin one last try for the victory. The green flag came out with five laps to go and Martin stayed with Johnson for two laps, but in the end, the outcome was the same. At lap 198 Johnson had expanded his lead to 1.401 seconds and he continued to pull away until he saw the checkered flag. "I just couldn't run with the No.48, but we had a fun time with the rest of them," said Martin. Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Gordon completed the top-five. The victory left Johnson with a 232-point margin over teammate/owner Gordon (3,040-2,808). Earnhardt Jr. (2,773) fell to third place, followed by Matt Kenseth (2,623) and Tony Stewart (2,606). In the race for the 10th and final position in the "Chase for the Championship," Kevin Harvick holds a 40-point lead over Jeremy Mayfield. Kahne is 69 points behind Harvick and Martin is 89 points out of the final slot in the NASCAR's new "playoff system." The next race in the championship is the prestigious Brickyard 400 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, August 8th.

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