It shouldn’t come as a shock anymore during this Chase that a race once again came down to Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski battling for the win. But, each and every time, it still seems to amaze what these two drivers can do on the track while battling for wins and the championship.
Starting from the pole, Johnson jumped out to a quick lead over the field by setting a torrid pace, clinching the most laps led 188 laps into the 334 lap race.
But, much like last weekend’s race at Martinsville, there was a changing of the guard towards the middle half of the race.
As the sun went down, Keselowski’s car began to pick up, asserting himself as the car to beat in terms of speed and also—maybe more importantly—fuel mileage. For the time being, it was Keselowski’s race to lose while he battled with Kyle Busch.
However, we’ve seen in this Chase that it’s never that simple when it comes to the end of the end of the race. Something has to come into play and put a twist into the finish.
Today, the twist of the race came on a lap 270 debris caution which set up a round of pit stops for the leaders.
On that exchange of pit stops, it was Busch and Johnson coming out with the top-two spots and Keselowski dropping back to the ninth position after overshooting his pit box, causing him to be blocked by the No.10 of Danica Patrick.
That wasn’t about to stop Keselowski, though. Charging up through the field, Keselowski worked his way back up into the fourth position when the right-front tire blew on the Ford of Marcos Ambrose with around 20 laps to go.
On what turned out to be the final pit stop, the No.2 team of Keselowski took a gamble and took two right-side tires while the rest of the field took four.
Lining up next to Johnson on the restart, Keselowski looked to be outmatched by the five-time champion as the No.48 drew alongside the No.2 down the backstretch.
When the two drivers flashed back on the front stretch, they made contact coming to the start/finish line with Keselowski coming out with the upper and off the second corner and continued to pull out to a sizable lead.
But when Mark Martin spun on the front stretch with five laps to go, setting up a green-white-checkered finish, the complexity of the race changed yet again.
On the restart, Johnson got the jump on Keselowski before the two exited the second corner.
Battling to hold on second place, Keselowski was unable to challenge Johnson who went on to win Sunday night’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Just really hard racing,” said Johnson in victory lane. “There weren’t many cautions over the course of the day, but the bulk of the day was spent doing qualifying laps trying to race with the 18 (Busch) or the 2 (Keselowski).
“There were a couple segments there where we weren’t spot , but we adjusted the car and got it right when it counted.”
With the win at Texas, it marks the first time in 2012 that Johnson has won back-to-back races and his fifth win of the season,tying him for the most in 2012 with Keselowski.
“He was driving in way past Elvis, way past anything,” said Johnson about Keselowski on the second-to-last restart of the night.
“He was fully committed. I’m glad we didn’t wreck.”
Heading into next weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, Johnson leads Keselowski by seven points with two races remaining. Two races which both drivers are expected to be a factor in who wins the race.
“I don’t think anything’s changed,” said Keselowski after finishing second talking about his outlook on winning hist Sprint Cup championship.
“Go out and win races, control your own destiny.”
After being in the driver’s seat for the majority of the Chase, it’s now Johnoson that assumes that position in the championship battle’s final stretch. A place where he’s been countless times before.
“This year, it’s a clean sheet of paper for the 48 team,” said Johnson. “What’s happened in the past is amazing and great, but it’s about looking forward and trying to start a new streak or win another championship.”
AAA Texas 500 Unofficial Results
- Jimmie Johnson
- Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Busch
- Matt Kenseth
- Tony Stewart
- Clint Bowyer
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Kurt Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Greg Biffle
- Joey Logano
- Ryan Newman
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Jeff Gordon
- Aric Almirola
- Carl Edwards
- Sam Hornish Jr.
- Jamie McMurray
- Jeff Burton
- Denny Hamlin
- Casey Mears
- Trevor Bayne
- Travis Kvapil
- Danica Patrick
- Kasey Kahne
- Landon Cassill
- Paul Menard
- David Ragan
- Mark Martin
- Scott Speed
- Ken Schrader
- Marcos Ambrose
- Bobby Labonte
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- David Gilliland
- AJ Allmendinger
- Josh Wise
- Michael McDowell
- Dave Blaney
- Joe Nemechek
- Mike Bliss
- JJ Yeley
- Reed Sorenson