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CUP: Johnson Scores Second Straight Win

Jimme Johnson definitely is back.

LINK> UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: LENOX TOOL 301 - NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAYPDF> UNOFFICIAL DRIVER POINTS: LENOX TOOL 301 - NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Johnson outdueled Kurt Busch in a tense race over the closing laps and won Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, notching his second straight Sprint Cup victory.

Busch, running in second, executed a perfect bump-and-run maneuver on Johnson, the leader, with eight laps to go, pushing Johnson up the track and taking first.

A few laps later, Johnson returned the favor, bumping Busch aside and moving to the front for the final two laps.

“Kurt knocked me out of the way,” Johnson said. “At that point, I thought, I don’t care if I win or finish. I’m going to run into him one way or the other. I tried once and moved him. I thought, I’ve got to hit him harder. The second time I did and moved him out of the way.”

Tony Stewart pushed past Kurt Busch to take second place at the finish. Busch was third, Jeff Gordon fourth and point leader Kevin Harvick fifth.

The first 200 laps and the final 101 were basically two separate races.

With only one caution slowing the field in the first 240 laps, the cars with the most power and best setups sprinted to the front and stayed there. Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne were strong in the lead pack, but Kahne parked his car with engine trouble after leading 110 laps.

Laps 39 through 240 were run without a caution flag.

Business picked up considerably in the race’s final portion. Juan Pablo Montoya raced the lapped car of Reed Sorensen side by side for several laps before Sorensen hit Montoya and dumped him into the wall with 20 laps to go, producing the third caution.

Burton, then the leader, didn’t pit, while every other front-pack car did.

Johnson passed Burton immediately on the restart to take the lead.

A few laps later, Burton lost control of his car and crashed into Kyle Busch, sending him into a spin and causing the fourth caution.

The final green flag fell with eight laps to go with Johnson, Kurt Busch, Harvick and Gordon in front.

Busch bumped Johnson out of the lead to run to first place for the first time all day, but Johnson put a target on Busch’s bumper and soon retaliated.

“You’ll have that kind of racing on the short tracks,” Johnson said. “We had so much green-flag running. I knew we’d all get bunched up and it would happen sooner or later.”

Busch said he gave the late-race run his best effort.

“Battling with Jimmie Johnson, we did what we could to get the lead,” he said. “We battled as best we could. It would have been great to hold those guys off. You just do the best with what you’ve got.”

The victory was Johnson’s fifth of the year. He was strong in the season’s early weeks but had been in what – for him – was a mini-slump before last week’s victory at Infineon Raceway.

LINK> UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: LENOX TOOL 301 - NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAYPDF> UNOFFICIAL DRIVER POINTS: LENOX TOOL 301 - NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEEDtv.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.