Four Score For Johnson

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Jimmie Johnson is racing for a title but he hasn't backed off trying to get to victory lane as well.

Johnson took his fourth straight NEXTEL Cup Series race and a step closer to a second consecutive championship when he picked up the checkered flag in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Johnson passed Martin Truex Jr. for the lead with 24 laps left and went on to the win to become the first driver to win four straight Cup races since Jeff Gordon in 1998.

While Johnson was taking his tenth win of the season and 33rd career NEXTEL Cup triumph, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon finished tenth.

That helped Johnson extend his lead in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup standings to 86 points as the series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for next Sunday's season-ending Ford 400.

"I just go out and do my job and give it all I can," Johnson said. "I couldn't be more proud of this race team. We will just have to go to Homestead and be smart and see how it shakes out."

Gordon struggled again Sunday, dodging a disaster late in the race when he had a fender rubbing on his right front tire. But the four-time champion all but handed the trophy to his teammate after the race.

"It's over. It's over," said Gordon. "Even if we win it, it's because they have problems. While we'll accept it, we don't want to do it that way."

"Those guys have flat-out killed everybody. And you've got to give credit where credit is due."

No driver has ever overcome a margin as large 86 points with one race to go.

"Unless you lead every lap and beat Jimmie Johnson to win the race, we don't have a shot," Gordon said. "We're just coming up short at a crucial time. Those guys have just knocked it out of the ballpark, and it would be tough to beat that even if we were hitting on all eight cylinders."

But Johnson isn't counting on anything - yet.

"Homestead is going to be a stressful weekend," he said. "We've got seven more days, I'm just going to try to keep my mind clear and focus on the things we need to do. This is kind of where we were last year. We just have to go down there and be smart and see how it shakes out."

Greg Biffle put on a furious charge in the closing laps to finish second.

"I thank Matt Kenseth for pulling over," Biffle said. "He pulled over and let me have a crack at him. We just needed Jimmie to make a little mistake and we would have been on him, but those guys are pretty good at not making mistakes."

Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.

Kevin Harvick, Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton and Gordon completed the first ten finishers.

Next Sunday's Ford 400 is slated for a 3:30 p.m. ET green flag.

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