CONCORD, N.C. (AP) – Jimmie Johnson overcame every problem thrown his way – including tire troubles that turned Saturday night’s event into a laughingstock – to win his fourth consecutive race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and move into a tie with Tony Stewart in the Chase for the championship.

Johnson started 41st, battled a failing alternator, a cut right rear tire and overtime to prove no one can beat him on the track his Lowe’s-sponsored team considers its own private playground. Johnson has won five of the past six events at the suburban Charlotte facility.

He took the lead with nine laps to go and was pulling away until Rusty Wallace brought out the 15th caution of the race with one of the many, many tire problems.

It forced the field to be bunched back up for one final restart and Johnson held off Chase contenders Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle to lock up the victory.

It moved Johnson up three spots in the standings and into a tie with Stewart – who finished 25th after crashing while leading earlier in the race – with five events remaining in the race for the Nextel Cup title.

Johnson’s win was the one bright spot in a race that was marred by tire problems for 16 drivers – including five Chase competitors – because Goodyear’s rubber could not stand up to the increased speeds on the smoothed track surface.

It forced NASCAR to issue a mid-race mandate on the minimum air pressure used on right front tires, and led inspectors to police pit road with a threat of docking points to teams who disobeyed.

Stewart, Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne all lost the lead because of tire problems – three of them crashed after their tires blew while Kahne avoided the wall. Many said the tire concerns left them too scared to push their cars to the limit, choosing instead to race at about 85 percent effort to prevent a possible tire failure.

“I need a renewal of my life insurance policy, to tell you the truth,” Stewart told his crew when asked late in the race what he needed.

“I just can’t wait for this thing to be over so I can get out of here and hopefully not be hurt.”

AP-ES-10-16-05 0013EDT

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