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Gordon tried to hold off Johnson, but he finally scooted past with 17 laps to go. He quickly pulled away, and Gordon was unable to hold off Harvick as he faded to third.
"If we won the race, we'd look like geniuses, Steve would have. The fact that we lost the race, now Chad looks like a genius," Gordon said. "I talked to Steve briefly after the race. He's pretty upset obviously. I think he just felt like more people were going to take two tires. Shoot, we were thinking for a split second to stay out.
"I felt like we needed to come in and get some tires, but I felt like two tires was the right call, too. We just needed (Johnson) to take two. They did the opposite of us. That won the race for them."
Knaus quickly defended Letarte. The two work closely at Hendrick Motorsports, and waged a classic 2007 battle for the championship.
"I didn't outsmart him. He did not make the wrong call," Knaus said. "There wasn't a wrong call to make. They came in first. They wanted to maintain track position because track position is so critical. Only way for us to beat them was to do something different.
"Steve is a fantastic crew chief. He did what he thought was right to try to win that race. They came up a little bit short. Just a little bit."
Johnson could sympathize with his teammates.
"In the end it obviously worked out really good for us," he said. "Anytime a caution comes out, if you're the leader, you're bummed, especially if you have a gap. For everyone else, you're excited because it's an opportunity to make your stuff better and hopefully gain positions on pit road."
Once Johnson passed Gordon, Harvick pounced for second place. It was the second straight week Harvick was the runner-up to Johnson. He might have beat him last week in California, but slapped the wall late to fall from contention.
Mark Martin finished fourth to give Hendrick three cars in the top 10. Matt Kenseth was fifth, followed by Joey Logano, Tony Stewart, Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle.
Defending race winner Kyle Busch was flagged for speeding on pit road and finished 15th. Big brother Kurt, who started from the pole, was caught in an early accident with Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya and finished 35th.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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