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J.J. dominates at Pocono to increase series lead

Jimmie Johnson gets his third Sprint Cup victory of the year by pulling away for the title at Pocono.

Jimmie Johnson gets his third Sprint Cup victory of the year by pulling away for the title at Pocono.

LONG POND, Pa. — Jimmie Johnson turned in a dominating performance at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, starting on the pole and leading most of the way en route to a victory at the Party in the Poconos 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup series race.

Johnson’s win was the 63rd of his career and his third at Pocono. It was also Johnson’s third victory of the season, equaling Matt Kenseth’s 2013 series-leading total.

“That’s the best car I’ve had in a long, long, long time,” Johnson said. “What a race car. Not just a race car, but also engine.”

Greg Biffle finished second, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third, Tony Stewart took fourth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.

“We’ve been running good all year and just had troubles,” Earnhardt said. “It’s good to be running good again. If we can keep getting close, we’re going to get one.”

The yellow flag waved only once in the first 100 laps of the race, but a rash of four cautions allowed drivers to increase their fuel mileage and go the remainder of the 160 laps without another stop.

Johnson retook the lead from Newman on the restart that followed a caution with 35 laps to go.

“Fortunately, I was able to get out in the lead at the end,” Johnson said.

Then, on a restart after a caution with 23 laps to go, Earnhardt and Kyle Busch got by Newman to move into second and third behind Johnson.

Earnhardt and Busch ran second and third until Biffle passed them both on the final restart of the race after a caution with six laps to go. Earnhardt held on for third and Busch dropped back to sixth at the end.

“I didn’t really have anything for Jimmie,” Biffle said. “I just wanted to get up to his bumper and ruffle him up a little bit.”

Johnson lost several positions at the start of the race when Carl Edwards and Kenseth both passed him on the first lap. But on Lap 10, Johnson moved back into the lead and stayed at the front for most of the remainder of the race.

Newman moved up front for a while based on pit strategy, staying out while other cars headed down pit road during a caution on lap 65. But when the race went back to green, Johnson reclaimed the lead.

Staying out during the caution put Newman off sequence from the rest of the front-runners, necessitating a green-flag stop earlier than his competitors on lap 91. Others made their stops around lap 100.

Kurt Busch finished seventh Denny Hamlin eighth, Kevin Harvick ninth and Joey Logano 10th.