It appeared Jimmie Johnson was set to make another visit to Victory Lane at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
He led Saturday night's Bank of America 500 six times for 95 laps, but a collection of late-race problems spoiled his chance to make up significant ground on Nextel Cup Series points leader Jeff Gordon.
Johnson spun on his own exiting Turn 2 on Lap 231 and did some damage to the left rear of his No. 48 Chevrolet. He made his way back up to sixth before the last restart, but his car had trouble picking up fuel and he was forced to make a last-second pit stop for gas.
He ended up 14th and trails Gordon by 68 points with five races remaining.
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"We had mistakes through the night that kept hurting us on track position. Fortunately we had a good car and I could get back through there," Johnson said. "At the end there we had that problem with a vapor lock and it really hurt me from getting a good finish."
Rudd comeback good for 11th place
Ricky Rudd made it through his first race since separating his shoulder relatively unscathed, with an 11th-place finish tying for his second-best finish of the season.It was his first race back since suffering a separated shoulder in the Sept. 2 race at California Speedway. Rudd said he was uncertain of his status for 500 laps on the short track Sunday at Martinsville, Va.
"This is different than Martinsville. I'll have to work it a whole lot more. It's going to have to get in a little bit better shape," Rudd said. "I don't want to start Martinsville and get out at the halfway point because you just lose too much time."
Waltrip nabs 2nd top-10 of season
One week after earning his first pole of the season, Michael Waltrip matched his best finish of the season.
Although he was caught up in an early wreck, Waltrip finished 10th, matching his finish from the June race at Michigan.
"It's a good thing they're not drawing a picture by our night because it wouldn't have been pretty," he said. "We couldn't get the car to do anything right.
"Toward the end of the race I got to run in the top groove. I wasn't going to come to pit road because I could run solid lap times up top and get a better finish. I'm real proud of my team for the effort."
A.J. Allmendinger finished 15th, his best finish in 14 Cup races. He was the highest finishing rookie.