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Edwards wins at Atlanta; Johnson moves closer to title

Oct 26, 2008 - 10:56 PM HAMPTON, Georgia (Ticker) -- Carl Edwards is doing all he can to get back in the "Chase for the Championship." But Jimmie Johnson moved a step closer to his third straight title.

Edwards won Sunday's NASCAR Pep Boys 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway to claim the seventh race of the Chase, only to have Johnson rally to finish second.

Based on his runner-up finish, Johnson actually increased his lead over Edwards to 183 points with three races remaining.

"I could have done without that," said Edwards, who recorded his seventh win of the season. "Jimmie is just awesome. It's unbelievable.

"Jimmie is just magic. ... I just have to win the next three races and hope for the best."

Denny Hamlin was third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.

Edwards took the lead for good on lap 309 when he passed Hamlin on a restart.

"On that second-to-last restart, Denny spun his tires, then I spun mine, then he spun his again," Edwards said. "When he did that, I knew it was my chance."

From there, Edwards survived another caution and broke away for the easy victory by almost three seconds.

While Edwards was cruising to the finish line, Johnson was moving through the field after taking four fresh tires during the final caution on lap 313.

Over the final eight laps, Johnson passed nine cars and caught Hamlin on the final lap to take second place.

"I feel like I went 12 rounds with (Mike) Tyson today," Johnson said. "That was just a great call, a risky call, but it just goes to show that Chad (crew chief Chad Knaus) is out there racing.

"He's not trying to ride around and get points. He's out there to earn them. He called me in for tires and told me to put my cape on and off we went. We just fought and fought and fought. I leave here very happy - it's almost like a win today."

Things did not look good for Johnson early on. On lap 91, he spun his tires entering pit road and was caught speeding. NASCAR assessed him a drive-through penalty, dropping him a lap down and 30th.

But it did not take long for Johnson to get back on the lead lap as he got the free pass on lap 131 when Kasey Kahne spun, bringing out the caution.

Greg Biffle, Edwards' Roush Fenway Racing teammate, finished 10th and dropped to third in the standings, 185 points behind Johnson.

"We don't even care about that," Biffle said. "We're just running as good as we can, and whatever happens happens.

"I'm tired of people asking me how we're gonna catch (Johnson). We're just gonna race as hard as we can every week. We've got three more chances and then we're gonna start over next year."

Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Jeff Gordon and Biffle rounded out the top 10.

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