By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Jimmie Johnson survived a close call and a succession of less-than-stellar restarts.
Matt Kenseth couldn't overcome handling problems that kept his car mired in traffic.
And Kevin Harvick, meanwhile, took advantage of Carl Edwards' fuel shortage to win his fourth race of the season in Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, keeping alive his faint hopes of winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in his final season with Richard Childress Racing.
The net result? Johnson, who finished third, widened his lead over the struggling Kenseth, who ran 23rd, and took a giant step toward his sixth series championship.
Johnson expanded his advantage in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings from seven to 28 points over Kenseth entering next Sunday's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson can clinch the title with a finish of 23rd or better, 24th if he leads one lap and 25th if he leads most laps.
By winning the race and leading the most laps, Harvick, who is third in the standings, narrowed his deficit to Johnson from 40 to 34 points and is still within range of the title, should Johnson have issues at Homestead.
The victory was Harvick's fourth at the one-mile track and the 23rd of his career.
Kasey Kahne ran third, followed by Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch. Edwards, who ran out of gas while leading on the final lap, finished 21st. Edwards slid up into Johnson's car on Lap 163, dropping Johnson back to 24th after Harvick took them three-wide entering Turn 1. Johnson made a spectacular save and spent the rest of the race working his way toward the front.