Trouble finally found Jeff Burton at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, and Jimmie Johnson and a handful of other championship chasers found themselves back in title contention as NASCAR's Chase for the Championship was scrambled yesterday, setting up what is likely to be a wild four-race finish.
Johnson took the lead from Bobby Labonte with 55 laps to go and held it through several restarts to win the crash-filled Subway 500, while 2003 champion Matt Kenseth replaced Burton atop the standings.
"I'm just happy to finish where we should have," said Johnson, who moved from seventh to third in the points race. "We've been running up front the last three of four races and haven't been able to close the deal. Today we did."
Kenseth assumed the points lead when Burton pulled his car into the garage after just 217 laps because of engine trouble, and nearly everyone took advantage.
Next week in Atlanta, seven drivers will start within 99 points of Kenseth, who finished 11th.
Kevin Harvick is now second, 36 points back, and Johnson is 41 points behind. Denny Hamlin moved into fourth, 47 back. Burton dropped to 48 points off the pace, marking the first time the points leader has changed in the second half of the Chase.
"By no means do I think we are out of this thing," Burton said. "We won't lay down. We'll go to Atlanta feeling like we have as good a shot as anybody."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (94 points back), Mark Martin (96), and Kasey Kahne (99) also are within striking distance of Kenseth.
Formula One -- Fernando Alonso became a Formula One champion again on a day when Michael Schumacher retired, ending one of the great careers in sports.
Alonso won his second straight series title with a runner-up finish to Felipe Massa at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paolo.
Schumacher, a seven-time Formula One champ, needed to win his farewell race to keep alive his remote chance of another title. But the German punctured a tire less than 10 laps into the race, dropped out of contention early, and finished fourth.
The 37-year-old driver, racing in his 250th Grand Prix, retires after 16 years in Formula One with most of the driver records, including 91 victories and 68 pole positions.
Champ Car -- Sebastien Bourdais made it three series championships in a row and his French countryman Nelson Philippe picked up his first Champ Car win in an incident-filled Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia.
Bourdais secured his third series title when A.J. Allmendinger, his closest pursuer for the season championship, crashed out on the 19th lap. Nine laps later, Bourdais was penalized for "avoidable contact" after colliding with pole-sitter Will Power.
Power, among the leaders, stalled after the accident and fell back, finishing 12th. Bourdais finished eighth.