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Jimmie Johnson obliterates field to win Brickyard 400

Jimmie Johnspops cork start celebratiafter his fourth victory Brickyard 400 last seven years. | Tom Strattman~AP

Jimmie Johnson pops the cork to start the celebration after his fourth victory in the Brickyard 400 in the last seven years. | Tom Strattman~AP

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Updated: August 31, 2012 6:15AM

INDIANAPOLIS — No one seemed to have an answer for Jimmie Johnson once he took the lead in the Brickyard 400 on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It appeared the rest of the 42-car field could do nothing but watch as Johnson built a huge advantage. And even after he lost the lead briefly because of pit stops, Johnson
ignored the cars in front of him and picked off the field one by one.

Johnson won his third Sprint Cup Series race of the season and moved into a tie with Hendrick
Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for the most Brickyard 400 victories with four. He also put himself in the same category as IndyCar drivers Al Unser, A.J. Foyt and childhood hero Rick Mears, all of whom won four times at Indy.

‘‘It’s a huge moment,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘I enjoyed the [postrace] lap around in the race car, and the fans were going nuts. I’m able to join racing legends and people I admired my whole life. I knew on the second or third [practice] lap
[Saturday] on the track that we would have a chance of winning.

‘‘I went out there today and put it on them.’’

Crew chief Chad Knaus said his team used the same No. 48 Chevrolet that Johnson drove to victory June 3 in Dover, Del.

Johnson, a five-time Sprint Cup Series champion, previously won the Brickyard 400 in 2006, 2008 and 2009. And although he is fourth in the points standings this season behind leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, it seems his old championship-winning ways have returned.

Johnson said he wishes the Chase for the Sprint Cup title would begin now instead of Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.

‘‘I learned from my mistakes last year,’’ said Johnson, whose five-year reign as Sprint Cup champion was ended last year by Tony Stewart. ‘‘We’re as strong as we’ve ever been. From a performance standpoint, it’s an amazing race car. I feel really good about the Chase, and I’m ready for it to start.’’

Kyle Busch finished a distant second, a whopping 4.758 seconds behind Johnson. Biffle came in third, Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Gordon fifth.

Busch said it felt as though Johnson was ‘‘in another country’’
during most of the race.

‘‘You could see it on the restarts that he could put his car anywhere he wanted and put his foot on the gas pedal and take off from me,’’ Busch said. ‘‘His car was down and digging and definitely really fast.’’

Gordon ran among the top 10 for most of the afternoon and was hoping to capture his fifth Brickyard 400 title after starting ninth. But his car didn’t have the power to catch Johnson.

‘‘My gosh, he had it pretty easy there at the end,’’ Gordon said.

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