Sports

Jimmie Johnson denies wall-banging ploy

KANSAS CITY, Kansas - Jimmie Johnson wasn't already planning what to do for his burnout after winning the Camping World RV 400 or anything, but on the final lap of Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway he did believe he was in pretty good shape.

Johnson was zipping down the backstretch trying to set up the final two turns and fend off any final push from Carl Edwards.

"I was thinking through what I needed to do," Johnson said. "And the next thing you know, that car goes flying by."

That car was Edwards' No. 99 Ford, and it was open for business.

"Where did he come from?" Johnson said.

Edwards had waited until the closing laps to slide all the way up within a foot of the outside wall trying to find enough grip to let him catch Johnson, who'd taken the lead on their final pit stops before a restart with 39 laps remaining.

The plan had worked well enough to give Edwards, a native of Missouri who considers this 1.5-mile track his home course, one last shot at winning a race he said he wants to win more than any other race on the Cup schedule.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," Edwards said of the move he wound up trying, "but I had to try."

Try Edwards did, so hard that he slapped the wall on the outside of Turn 4 after powering into the previous corner so hard that even he knew he couldn't make his car stick and make the turn.

Edwards said he went far enough that he thought he wouldn't take Johnson with him when he slid up toward - and ultimately into - the wall. His hope was he could glance off the barrier and still keep going fast enough to get back on the gas and beat Johnson to the checkered flag.

Johnson, though, also was doing what he had to win.

He slowed just enough to let Edwards go flying across his line and then gassed his No. 48 Chevrolet back up in time to win for the fifth time this year and the first time in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup.

"I knew, instantly, there was no damn way he was making that turn," Johnson said with a chuckle. "But I was in awe of how fast he drove it in. I watched him pound the wall and jump back on the gas. I thought, 'Man, he's serious about this win. I'd better get back on it myself.' "

Behind them, Greg Biffle was making his move off Turn 4 to pass Jeff Gordon and finish third and keep pace in this year's Sprint Cup playoff.

Johnson, the two-time defending champion, came out of the sunny afternoon with a 10-point edge over Edwards and a 30-point cushion over Biffle, who had his two-race Chase-opening win streak snapped.

Four other Chase drivers - Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton - finished next but none could make significant gains on the trio that has separated itself from the pack. Burton is fourth in the standings but trails Johnson by 121 points.

It was also another dismal day for Kyle Busch, who led as the Chase opened but now is 12th in the standings and a seemingly hopeless 311 points back after finishing 28th, his best finish in three Chase attempts.

Edwards was pulling away from Johnson before a caution brought the leaders in for their final stops. Johnson won the race off pit road, but Edwards said he wasn't too worried because he thought his car was fast enough to remedy that.

It didn't happen that way, though, and it wasn't until Edwards went to the very rim of the racing surface with the laps running out that he made the frantic final charge.

The only way he could have pulled out a win, Edwards decided, was to try a combo platter, pairing a paved version of the old dirt-track "slide job" with the Darlington-style version of using the wall to redirect his car from sliding sideways to heading toward the finish.

"I always wanted to try that," Edwards said. "Now I know it doesn't work quite the same as a video game."

Edwards remembered somebody trying the same move on him at a dirt track in Missouri years ago.

"A guy named Danny Crane did that to me," he said. "I thought, 'Wow, he's going to make that work.' Then he went right off the race track into the woods. I felt like my buddy Danny Crane today.

"I'm sure for a second Jimmie thought, 'Oh, my God,' he's going to win this thing.' Then he went, 'Nope, physics wins again.'

"But you know, that's the way it goes."

Johnson said that when he saw what Edwards was doing he eased off just enough to let Edwards go across in front of him. It was one part reaction and one part amazement.

"He took it in there way beyond any sense of normal thinking," Johnson said. "I can't explain to you how surprised I was, but in some ways I thought it was pretty cool to see him bomb it in there and see it skipping off the wall. ...I didn't expect him to come in there and put the slide job on me with that much conviction."

Edwards was out of his car as Johnson was coming to victory lane and they had a brief conversation.

"He stuck his head in and goes, 'How far did I clear you by?' " Johnson said. "I said, 'Seven car lengths or so.'

"He said, 'Damn it, I got in there too hard.'

"I said, 'You think?' "

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