Brian Vickers stole his first Nextel Cup victory yesterday by turning teammate Jimmie Johnson into race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., then skirting by the two spinning cars on the last lap at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
The finish robbed Earnhardt of what seemed to be a victory as he headed into the third turn in pursuit of the checkered flag. But Johnson dipped low to attempt a pass, Vickers went with him, and slight contact between the Hendrick Motorsports drivers sent Johnson spinning into Earnhardt.
``That's the last thing I wanted to do was get into Jimmie," Vickers said amid boos in Victory Lane after the UAW-Ford 500. ``But what happened, happened. And it's still nice to get this win."
With Earnhardt chugging along -- and only 20 points out of the championship lead -- the finish seemed secure.
But the two Hendrick drivers had a game plan of hooking up to run down Earnhardt. ``There on the last lap, I knew that Jimmie was going to go and I was going to push him to the front," Vickers said.
Vickers's contact dropped Earnhardt to a 23d-place finish, Johnson to 24th, and prevented either from making any gains in the Chase for the Championship. Although Jeff Burton's lead was cut to six points over Matt Kenseth, Earnhardt is 106 back in sixth place and Johnson is 156 out in eighth place.
Formula One -- Reigning world champion Fernando Alonso won the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzaka and heads into the season's final race with a 10-point lead over Michael Schumacher, who dropped out on the 37th lap with a blown engine. If Alonso finishes in the top eight in the Brazilian GP Oct. 22, thereby securing a point, he will clinch the title.