While Jimmie Johnson remains winless at Watkins Glen International, tying his career-high third-place finish on Sunday provided the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion with the points lead for the first time this season.
“I look forward to the pressure on my team and myself,” Johnson said. “Every little thing we can do to get prepared for the Chase (for the Sprint Cup) is helpful. This is another step in that direction. Excited about that.”
Johnson, who qualified third, failed to lead a lap but avoided incident throughout the course of the race. That wasn’t the case for his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who entered the weekend with the points lead. Earnhardt spun out while running 10th with six laps remaining in the race.
“I just got in the corner and made a mistake and that was pretty much all there was to it,” Earnhardt said. “I was just overdriving the car.”
He finished 28th and dropped from first to fourth in the standings. He trails Johnson by 17 points.
Sixth-place finisher Greg Biffle moved up to second in points — one marker behind Johnson. His Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who finished eighth, sits third and one point behind Biffle.