NSCS: Four-In-A-Row; Johnson Spoils Chase Party with Another Texas Victory

Kyle Magda Featured, MidSouth, NASCAR 0 Comments

FORT WORTH, Tex. — Recap by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America photo —

Brad Keselowski showed the way most of Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.

He won the pole, led 312 of the race’s 334 laps and appeared to be punching his ticket to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Six-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson thought otherwise, as he gave Keselowski a run for his money in the closing laps of the AAA Texas 500. Johnson passed the 2012 Cup champ with four laps to go to score another victory at Texas and lock out another Chaser from advancing into the next round.

“At the end, the way the restarts unfolded, the 2 car looked most vulnerable there that last restart, looked really tight and couldn’t stay on the bottom in [Turns] 1 and 2, giving me my opportunity,” Johnson told NBC Sports Network post-race. “I kept pressure on him and finally he slipped off of Turn 2 and kind of broke his momentum down the back and I came off the top lane with a big run and got by him. Thankfully, I can find different lanes to work and run, but was able to get it done. I made the top work two-to-three laps before he spotted it.”

Keselowski dominated Sunday’s race and held the upper hand by lapping to the 11th-place car at one point. Debris from the No. 20 Toyota of Erik Jones brought out the race final’s caution with 25 laps to go to set up final pit stops. Every¬† time the leaders came into pit, Keselowski came out with the lead by virtue of the No. 1 pit stall. The strong effort wasn’t enough for Saturday’s NXS winner to come home in second.

“The 48 car had mega-turn that last run and I couldn’t keep it turning,” Keselowski said. “I kept pushing real bad and he just kept turning and turning and doing everything I could to hold him off, but he was way faster that last run. Their team did a hell of a job in finding a lot of speed. Still a lot to be proud of withthe WURTH Ford Fusion and we’ll have a great shot of winning next week as well. We really needed to win this one, but I know I gave it my all and feel good about that.”

Kevin Harvick rallied from two flat tires and a gear issue to finish third in Sunday’s race before going to a track where he’s won the last four races at in Phoenix. Harvick took the lead from Keselowski early on until the first tire went down while running second on lap 36. When the second tire punctured on lap 281, Harvick cycled back to the lead with 36 laps to go until the No. 2 powered passed the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet on 16-lap fresher tires to re-take the lead.

“We just hung in there and fought like we’ve done the last two years and we’re able to make something out of the day there at the end,” Harvick said. “I’ve never had to drive with one arm that long. I’ve had to drive with one arm on occasion, but never for a hundred laps. Got lucky today that the two flat two tires didn’t tear the back of the car off and the motor didn’t blow up when it popped out of gear.”

After the checkered flag flew, Gordon remains the only one locked into the championship round finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks. Kyle Busch stays second in points with a fourth-place run and is 11 points above fifth-place points man Carl Edwards.

“We didn’t get very good short-run speed and we just couldn’t get going and fire off,” Ky. Busch said. “As the race would go and as the runs progress, especially those long runs, green-flag stops, our car was really good. We could make up some time and get rolling a little bit. I can’t but say thanks to Jimmie. Superman got the job done, I certainly can feel for Brad though. That’s heart-breaking to be that fast, lead that many laps, get beat late in the game like that; I know the pain, but probably not at that magnitude.”

Several Chase drivers ran into trouble during Sunday’s AAA 500. After being taken out in a late-race accident last week at Martinsville, Joey Logano entered the race eighth in points, but the bad luck continued not even 10 laps into today’s event. His left-rear tire went flat on the No. 22 AAA Ford and the damage forced the 2015 Daytona 500 winner to go behind the wall en route to a 40th-place finish.

“I just blew a part off of Turn 2 and the left-rear tire just came apart,” Logano said. “I just shredded everything inside the car, so it did a lot more damage than just a left-rear tire blowing apart. It ripped everything apart, so not what we needed to do, we need to win. We’re not out of it. This team’s not quitting yet. We’re going to go to Phoenix and try to win that one.”

Logano remains eighth in points, but now 63 points behind fourth-place Martin Truex Jr. for the bubble spot. In order to compete for the 2015 championship, it looks like the 25-year-old driver is in a must-win situation at Phoenix as Penske Racing has the threat of neither car making the championship round in Homestead. Another Chase driver in Kurt Busch came back from pitting issues in his stall early on to salvage a seventh-place finish at the end. Edwards (-7), Keselowski (-19) Ku. Busch (-28) and Logano (-63) are the drivers in the bottom four going into Phoenix.

Logano wasn’t the only driver bit by tire troubles. Non-Chaser Dale Earnhardt Jr. had two flat-tires, the first of which came on lap 48 until tagging the wall around the race’s half-way point in his No. 88 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet. Kyle Larson ran as high as second in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates machine before losing a tire on lap 163 and didn’t finish the race to place 37th.

Johnson’s 75th-career victory makes it four-in-a-row in the Fall Texas race and becomes the first driver to sweep both events at TMS since Denny Hamlin did in 2010. It was also the second-consecutive victory for Hendrick Motorsports as Jeff Gordon punched his ticket into the championship round with a Martinsville win last weekend.

“We’ve been working hard, we felt like we were behind a little bit in a lot of areas and we’ve been able to come with better cars, more motor and trying the strategy game,” Johnson said of Hendrick Motorsports. “We’re focused on restarts because they’re so important, so every member of Hendrick Motorsports has brought a little bit more to the table and been able to get two wins in the final races of the year.”

The series heads to Phoenix for the final race in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. When the checkered flag falls on next Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, the four drivers will be set to compete for the 2015 championship in South Florida.

 

RESULTS: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; AAA Texas 500; Texas Motor Speedway; November 8, 2015:

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Brad Keselowski
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Carl Edwards
  6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  7. Kurt Busch
  8. Martin Truex Jr.
  9. Jeff Gordon
  10. Jamie McMurray
  11. Austin Dillon
  12. Erik Jones
  13. Paul Menard
  14. Brian Scott
  15. Clint Bowyer
  16. Danica Patrick
  17. A.J. Allmendinger
  18. Aric Almirola
  19. Greg Biffle
  20. Kasey Kahne
  21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  22. Ryan Newman
  23. David Ragan
  24. Sam Hornish Jr.
  25. Landon Cassill
  26. Casey Mears
  27. Cole Whitt
  28. Justin Allgaier
  29. David Gilliland
  30. Brett Moffitt
  31. Michael Annett
  32. Jeb Burton
  33. J.J. Yeley
  34. Michael McDowell
  35. Matt DiBenedetto
  36. Ryan Preece
  37. Kyle Larson
  38. Denny Hamlin
  39. Trevor Bayne
  40. Joey Logano
  41. Alex Bowman
  42. Tony Stewart
  43. Ryan Blaney

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