It took Jimmie Johnson 270 laps to get to the front yesterday, but that was soon enough.
Johnson took advantage of a late-race caution flag, catching and passing Matt Kenseth in a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish yesterday in the NASCAR Nextel Cup UAW-
Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet surged past Kenseth's No. 17 Ford on the outside after the two sped side-by-side through the third and fourth turns on the 1.5-mile oval for the final time. The winner crossed by the finish line 0.115 seconds -- about half a car-length -- ahead as he led a lap for the only time in the race.
Carl Edwards beat Johnson last spring at Atlanta with the same move and then beat Kurt Busch with an outside pass last fall at Charlotte.
''I was slowly catching Matt before that last caution," Johnson said. ''I think we could have got up there to race with him but, if it stayed green, I believe Matt had it in the bag. Then we got that last yellow.
''I thought long and hard about what I would do if I was protecting the lead. I knew I wanted to be on the outside. I faked kind of to the bottom and he kind of bought it."
Johnson is off to a great start in 2006, winning the Daytona 500 and finishing second two weeks ago in California before taking his 20th career win yesterday. And he's doing it without crew chief Chad Knaus, banned by NASCAR for the first four races of the season after making unapproved modifications to Johnson's car in Daytona qualifying.
With lead engineer Darian Grubb stepping in for Knaus, Johnson will head to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week with a 52-point lead over Kenseth in the standings.
It was Johnson's second straight win here, but this one was a lot harder than 2005 when he led 107 laps.
It appeared through most of the race that Kenseth was going to get an easy win after being handed a victory in California when front-runners Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart succumbed to late-race engine problems.
Kenseth, who won here in 2003 and 2004, led a race-high 146 laps and was out front and almost assured of victory before a collision between rookie Denny Hamlin and Kenny Wallace brought out the last of seven caution flags on lap 264 of the race scheduled to go 267 laps.
Formula One -- Defending Formula One champion Fernando Alonso of Renault won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, holding off Michael Schumacher at Sakhir, Bahrain.
The 24-year-old Spaniard, who led from the 40th lap, thwarted an attempt by Ferrari's Schumacher to overtake him after his second pit stop on the 57-lap Bahrain International Circuit.