By NASCAR Wire Service
No. 48 team extends Chase points lead to seven with two races remaining
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 Sprint Cup Series championship.
Johnson finished .808 seconds ahead of Keselowski, the race runner-up, and increased his lead in the standings 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 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 – Clint 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.”
- Jimmie Johnson earned his 60th career win in his 397th race
- Jimmie Johnson became the eighth driver in history to reach 60 career wins
- It is the 12th time in Jimmie Johnson’s career that he has won back-to-back races
- It is the seventh time Jimmie Johnson has won back-to-back races in the Chase
- Jimmie Johnson garnered his 11th career win from the pole
- Second Texas win of Jimmie Johnson’s career, previous was during the 2007 Chase
- Jimmie Johnson became the seventh different multiple-race winner at Texas
- Jimmie Johnson became the second driver to win from the pole at Texas; Kasey Kahne in April 2006 is the other.
- Jimmie Johnson captured his fifth victory of 2012, tied for the most with Brad Keselowski
- This marks the seventh season that Jimmie Johnson has reached five wins, won five races in each of his five Championship years – 2006 – 2010
- Jimmie Johnson garnered his 17th career win on a 1.5-mile tracks, most of all drivers
- Jimmie Johnson earned his 22nd Chase win, most of all drivers
- This was the 13th Chase race won from the polesitter, eight have been by Johnson
- Jimmie Johnson’s victory marks the first time a driver won back-to-back races from the pole since Jeff Gordon in 2007
- Jimmie Johnson led seven times for 168 laps including the final two of the race
- Hendrick Motorsports picked up its 208th career win, including its fourth at Texas
- Hendrick Motorsports earned its 11th victory of 2012, most of all organizations
- Hendrick Motorsports captured its 28th Chase win, most of all organizations
- Chevrolet earned its 14th win of 2012, most of all makes
- This marks the 700th career victory for Chevrolet
- Brad Keselowski – second – had his best Texas finish in his ninth start, has now had or matched his best track finish 17 times this season; seven points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, his largest points deficit of the Chase
- Kyle Busch – third – matched his best Texas finish for the third time in his 15th race; has now posted top-ten finishes in five of the last six races.
- Matt Kenseth – fourth – posted his track-leading 15th top-ten finish at Texas; ran as low as 27th in the race
- Tony Stewart – fifth – garnered only his second top-five finish in the 2012 Chase, ran as low as 25th in the race
- Clint Bowyer – sixth – has now finished in the top-ten in eight of the last nine races
- Dale Earnhardt Jr – seventh – has compiled top-ten finishes in five of the last six Texas races; only top-ten finish in his last five starts
- Kurt Busch – eighth – picked up only his third top-ten finish of 2012
- Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr are eliminated from Championship contention.
From Racing Resources and Services, Statistics by Racing Recall