Johnson's win stretches lead

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. --- Jimmie Johnson is on a roll again, and whether or not he's willing to admit it, while everyone else in NASCAR is chasing him, he's chasing history.

Johnson led 339 laps Sunday as he and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates again dominated at Martinsville Speedway. The two-time defending Sprint Cup champion padded his lead in his bid for a record-tying third championship in a row with four races left.

Only Cale Yarborough, from 1976-78, has won three consecutive championships in stock car racing's premier series.

"I'm going to have to answer those questions one of these days, aren't I?" Johnson said of the ones about Yarborough and taking a position beside him in history.

Johnson's sixth victory of the year extended his points lead from 69 to 149, and while his closest challengers vowed that the Chase for the Championship isn't over, the praise keeps coming.

"There's a lot of great teams that were huge in the sport," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, lumping Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus in with his father and Richard Petty, both seven-time champions, and Hall of Famers David Pearson, Yarborough and Junior Johnson.

"To pack it in three years and just dominate like that, there's only a half a dozen teams that have ever done anything like that, been that strong consistently," Earnhardt said.

And to think, it could be just the beginning of another big finish for Johnson.

It was a year ago that this race started a four-race winning streak for Johnson, a run that he said left him thinking, "I cannot believe I'm experiencing this."

Experiencing it again, he's not planning on letting up at all.

"As long as I can stay scared and on my heels and worried about losing this thing, the better this team's going to be. If we start getting comfortable and complacent, we're going to stub our toes, make mistakes," he said. "We're trying to keep our eye on the prize."

So are the other contenders, even if it's getting further away.

"We're going to come and get them," said Greg Biffle, who climbed to second in points. "We've got four more chances and we're going to some of our best places, so they better be on their 'A' game. ... I'm still confident we can catch him, for sure."

So are Jeff Burton, 152 points back, and Carl Edwards, fourth and 198 behind.

"He could have any sort of trouble the next two races and be right back there with us," Edwards said, lumping himself with Biffle and Burton. "It can happen to anyone."

But at Martinsville, as always, none of them had a way to stop Johnson. It was his third consecutive fall victory here, and fourth in the past five races on NASCAR's shortest oval.

Earnhardt was second, followed by Edwards and Jeff Gordon, giving Hendrick three of the top four spots. Denny Hamlin was fifth and Casey Mears, the fourth Hendrick driver, was sixth.

The 1-2 finish was the 23rd for the multicar team, and third at Martinsville. It was sealed in a two-lap sprint to the finish after the 12th caution flew on the 499th lap.

"I didn't have anything for Jimmie. That car was so awesome," Earnhardt said.

Johnson led seven times in all, passing Gordon for the top spot with 209 laps to go.

Johnson heads to Atlanta with the largest lead in the history of the Chase at this point.

CHASE STANDINGS

Points through 6 of 10 races

DRIVER POINTS

1. Jimmie Johnson 6,073

2. Greg Biffle 5,924

3. Jeff Burton 5,921

4. Carl Edwards 5,875

5. Clint Bowyer 5,831

6. Kevin Harvick 5,817

7. Jeff Gordon 5,798

8. Tony Stewart 5,735

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

5,694

10. Matt Kenseth 5,665

11. Denny Hamlin 5,653

12. Kyle Busch 5,628

UP NEXT

WHAT: Pep Boys Auto 500

WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday

WHERE/TV: Atlanta Motor Speedway/ABC-Ch. 6

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Jimmie Johnson


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