Jimmie Johnson outlasts Brad Keselowski for Texas win

Jimmie Johnson (R), driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane by firing the commemorative Turnbull pistols as Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage (L) looks on after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

FORT WORTH, Tex. — The haymaker Jimmie Johnson delivered Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway turned out to be an eight-point swing.

Taking advantage of a late caution and four fresh tires to Brad Keselowski’s two, Johnson pulled away from Keselowski in a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win the AAA Texas 500 and tighten his grip on a possible sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Johnson finished .808 seconds ahead of Keselowski, the race runner-up, and increased his lead in the standings to from two points to seven. The victory was Johnson’s fifth of the season, his second at Texas and the 60th of his career. For the second straight week, Johnson won a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race from the pole.

Kyle Busch ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer. Keselowski held the lead on two previous restarts — one a breathtaking side-by-side battle with the five-time champion — but Johnson pulled ahead in the one that counted.

As hard as the top two Chase drivers raced each other on Sunday, Johnson felt it took the level of competition between them to new heights.

“The way we raced this afternoon, this evening — that’s what’s different,” Johnson said. “That’s the first time that we’ve really engaged at that level and raced each other that hard.

“To his credit, he did a nice job of getting right to the edge, and we brought home race cars. We weren’t wadded up looking like a bunch of fools over there, handing the 5 (Kasey Kahne) and the 15 (Bowyer) a big gift.”

Had Keselowski held on to the lead for the final two laps, he would have been the Chase leader by one point.

Johnson, however, saved his best restart for the two-lap finish that sent the race one lap beyond its scheduled distance of 334 laps.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to execute every restart, and Jimmie did a great job on the last one,” Keselowski said. “I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race, and it didn’t seem right to wreck him.

“Ran him hard, and we’re going to keep him honest. I know if we keep running like this that we won’t be beat.”

After NASCAR called the sixth caution of the race on lap 274, for debris on the backstretch, Keselowski entered the pits as the leader but dropped eight spots on the exchange of stops.

First, Keselowski slid to the front of his pit stall on the stop. Compounding the problem, the No. 10 Chevrolet of Danica Patrick, whose pit stall was immediately in front of Keselowski’s, stopped at the top of her box, blocking Keselowski’s exit.

By the time the No. 2 crew pushed the Blue Deuce back to give Keselowski clearance, he had lost the eight spots, as other lead-lap cars rolled past.

Keselowski spent the subsequent 30-lap green-flag run making up ground. On Lap 307, he passed Matt Kenseth for the fourth position, with Johnson running second behind Kyle Busch.

Three laps later, Marcos Ambrose’s accident in Turn 2 brought out caution No. 7, and Keselowski regained the lead with a two-tire stop. Busch was second off pit road, ahead of Johnson, who restarted third on Lap 316.

Keselowski surged to the lead, clearing Busch on the backstretch, and held the top spot until the caution on Lap 321 for an incident involving Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle in Turn 2 slowed the field. Kahne got the worst of the contact, lost a lap and saw his title hopes all but evaporate.

Keselowski and Johnson raced side-by-side and a hairbreadth from losing control after the restart on lap 327, with Keselowski pulling out to an eight-car-length lead, but Mark Martin’s wreck on the frontstretch two laps later set up the two-lap dash to the finish.

Busch, who had a ringside seat from his third-place finishing position, was impressed by the intensity of the racing in front of him.

“It was exciting,” he said. “Those guys up there, man, they were battling, and they battled hard, giving it everything they’ve got. That’s what they’ve got to do. (If) you’re going to win a championship in the Sprint Cup Series, that’s what you’re going to have to make of it.”

RACE RESULTS
1. (1) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 335, $492086.
2. (8) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 335, $353830.
3. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 335, $268143.
4. (10) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 335, $241021.
5. (21) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 335, $212935.
6. (4) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 335, $180149.
7. (19) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 335, $148085.
8. (18) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 335, $155493.
9. (23) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 335, $168971.
10. (2) Greg Biffle, Ford, 335, $128560.
11. (6) Joey Logano, Toyota, 335, $121585.
12. (36) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 335, $155443.
13. (5) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 335, $134249.
14. (16) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 335, $148021.
15. (14) Aric Alrmirola, Ford, 335, $141221.
16. (9) Carl Edwards, Ford, 335, $145051.
17. (17) Sam Hornish Jr.(i), Dodge, 335, $142785.
18. (24) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 335, $132543.
19. (22) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 335, $139210.
20. (12) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 335, $143051.
21. (20) Casey Mears, Ford, 335, $116343.
22. (7) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, 335, $99810.
23. (38) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 335, $121943.
24. (32) Danica Patrick(i), Chevrolet, 335, $99210.
25. (13) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 334, $107185.
26. (41) Landon Cassill, Toyota, 333, $125755.
27. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 332, $106585.
28. (33) David Ragan, Ford, 331, $109668.
29. (11) Mark Martin, Toyota, Accident, 329, $97710.
30. (31) Scott Speed, Ford, 328, $96000.
31. (42) Ken Schrader, Ford, 328, $105560.
32. (15) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, Accident, 310, $124743.
33. (29) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 284, $111682.
34. (25) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 279, $123926.
35. (30) David Gilliland, Ford, Engine, 225, $93460.
36. (26) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 107, $101510.
37. (35) Josh Wise #, Ford, Vibration, 41, $93030.
38. (37) Michael McDowell, Ford, Overheating, 37, $92803.
39. (40) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, Brakes, 37, $89900.
40. (43) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, Vibration, 33, $89700.
41. (34) Mike Bliss(i), Toyota, Brakes, 32, $89475.
42. (28) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Overheating, 10, $89275.
43. (39) Reed Sorenson(i), Toyota, Electrical, 6, $89561.

RACE STATISTICS
Average Speed of Race Winner:  136.117 mph.
Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 41 Mins, 30 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.808 Seconds.
Caution Flags:  9 for 49 laps.
Lead Changes:  20 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders:   J. Johnson 1-48; R. Newman 49-50; J. Johnson 51-101; R. Newman 102-105; B. Keselowski 106-118; J. Johnson 119-165; Kyle Busch 166; M. Kenseth 167; T. Bayne(i) 168-171; T. Kvapil 172; J. Johnson 173-190; Kyle Busch 191-223; B. Keselowski 224; Kyle Busch 225-235; B. Keselowski 236-276; Kyle Busch 277-311; J. Johnson 312; B. Keselowski 313-326; J. Johnson 327; B. Keselowski 328-333; J. Johnson 334-335.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  J. Johnson 7 times for 168 laps; Kyle Busch 4 times for 80 laps; B. Keselowski 5 times for 75 laps; R. Newman 2 times for 6 laps; T. Bayne(i) 1 time for 4 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 1 lap; T. Kvapil 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 12 in Points: J. Johnson – 2,339; B. Keselowski – 2,332; C. Bowyer – 2,303; K. Kahne – 2,281; M. Kenseth – 2,267; J. Gordon – 2,267; D. Hamlin – 2,266; T. Stewart – 2,259; M. Truex Jr. – 2,259; G. Biffle – 2,256; K. Harvick – 2,238; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 2,188.

 

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