CONCORD, N.C. - NASCAR's championship race took another turn Saturday night when Matt Kenseth staked a claim on the title with a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kenseth's victory, his third of the season, was his first win since the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship began five races ago.
It pushed him two spots in the standings to third, and he trails leader Carl Edwards by just seven points at the halfway point of the Chase.
As Kenseth was moving toward the victory, the race took a nasty turn for five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson.
Running seventh with 17 laps to go, contact between Johnson and Ryan Newman sent Johnson spinning into the wall. His hit was so hard, the back wheels on his car lifted off the track surface.
He finished 34th and dropped to eighth in points.
"That one stung for sure. Pretty big impact," Johnson said. "Definitely not the night we wanted. This is not going to help us win a sixth championship."
Kyle Busch had the most dominant car of the race, but was passed by Kenseth on a restart with 25 laps to go and settled for second. It was still a strong comeback - an engine change forced Busch to start last in the 43-car field.
"Just got outdrove," Busch said. "He just flat drove past me."
Edwards finished third and was followed by Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose.
Tony Stewart overcame late contact with Greg Biffle to finish 14th.
Denny Hamlin was ninth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10.