Johnson reclaims points lead in Chase with Texas win
Fort Worth, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Jimmie Johnson put himself back on top of the point standings in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by winning Sunday's AAA Texas 500 with a dominating performance at Texas Motor Speedway.
With two races left in the Chase, Johnson holds a seven-point lead over Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth. Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion, led 255 of 334 laps. He crossed the finish line 4.4 seconds ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
Johnson claimed his sixth win of the season and the 66th of his career in the series. He also joined Carl Edwards as the only drivers with three Sprint Cup victories at Texas.
Last week, 10 of the 13 Chase drivers, including Johnson and Kenseth, tested at this fast 1.5-mile racetrack, in preparation for the 500-mile race.
"We tested here and did an awesome job, understanding what I needed in the car and what would create speed," Johnson said. "Then we came back and had a very smooth qualifying session (Friday) and practice session (Saturday). We just kept putting more speed in the car, and it paid off today."
Kenseth rebounded from a pit-road speeding penalty he received just before the halfway point. He was tied with Johnson in points entering this race.
"The 48 (Johnson) was just dominant all weekend," Kenseth said. "That speeding penalty got us behind, and we definitely didn't need that. But I really don't know if it affected our finish that much at the end of the day."
Johnson's total laps led was the second-most dominating performance by a race winner at Texas. Tony Stewart ran in front for 278 laps when he won here in November 2006.
After the Oct. 20 race at Talladega, Johnson held a four-point lead over Kenseth, but both drivers moved into a tie following last weekend's event Martinsville. Phoenix (next Sunday) and Homestead (Nov. 27) are those races remaining.
"Matt maybe didn't have the best day, but he still finished fourth," Johnson said. "This thing will go to the last lap at Homestead, and it will come down to mistakes. I'm very excited about our performance and what we did here. We're going to enjoy this. But it's still two weeks of very hard racing ahead for us."
Johnson won last year's Chase race at Texas as well. Ironically, he held a seven-point lead over Brad Keselowski at the time, but Johnson finished 32nd at Phoenix and then 36th at Homestead. Keselowski went on to claim his first Sprint Cup championship, while Johnson finished third in points.
"I hope history doesn't repeat itself," Johnson said. "This thing isn't over until it's over."
Earnhardt has now finished second in five races this season, including three of the last six.
"We're getting close," said Earnhardt, who has been without a win in the last 53 races. "The team did a good job. We came here and tested, so we thought we would have a good race."
Joey Logano finished third, while Kahne, who also drives for Hendrick, placed fifth. Keselowski took the sixth spot.
Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer completed the top-10.
One week after his Martinsville win, Jeff Gordon took the biggest hit in points after crashing early in the race. Gordon's left-front tire went flat on lap 74, causing the four-time series champion to make contact with the wall. He spent 186 laps in the garage for repairs before returning and then finishing 38th.
Gordon dropped from third to sixth in points (-69), ending his hopes of winning a championship.
"It's so unfortunate," Gordon said. "You just can't have things like this happen if you are going to make a run at a championship or battle with those guys. We had a great race car."
Kyle Busch also made contact with the wall when he experienced a tire issue on lap 57. But Busch bounced back nicely and ran second to Johnson for a short period of time before he was slapped with a speeding penalty on pit road, which led to his 13th-place finish. He is now 52 points out of the lead.
Harvick moved up to third in the Chase standings (-40), and Earnhardt jumped two spots to fifth (-62).
Edwards started on the pole and led 38 laps, but Edwards later suffered engine failure, which ended his race early with a 37th-place finish.
11/03 20:49:15 ET