Johnson Wins Texas Shootout
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on November 4, 2012 | 7:05 P.M. EST
It was the fifth victory of the season for Johnson and the 60th of his Sprint Cup Series career. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson outran championship contender Brad Keselowski on a green-white-checkered finish to win Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Johnson worked his way around Keselowski as the duo raced through turn one on the overtime restart and drove away for his second consecutive victory after his Martinsville win a week ago.
"It was an awesome race," Johnson said. "The gloves are off, and it's bare-knuckle fighting. I have a lot of respect for that 2 team, those guys are doing a great job. Today I think our cars were pretty equal throughout the course of the race. At the end of the race we were on four (tires) and had to take advantage of it.
"That second-to-last restart was pretty sketchy a couple of times, how close we were and how hard we were racing."
It was the fifth victory of the season for Johnson and the 60th of his Sprint Cup Series career.
He moved seven points ahead of Keselowski in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship standings with only two races remaining.
"I expect a lot of hard racing,” said Johnson. “That's what we've seen all year long, all Chase long. You can't count those guys out.
"They're keeping us honest. They're pressing us hard."
The thrilling finish also included another restart with eight laps to go that saw Keselowski and Johnson bang off one another battling for position.
A late call by crew chief Paul Wolfe to take two tires while the rest of the leaders took two gave Keselowski the top spot, which he held in the second to last restart but finally gave up to Johnson in overtime.
“I thought I had it but we kept getting all those yellows and just kept giving him more shots,” Keselowski said of the closing laps fight. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to execute every restart and Jimmie did a great job on the last one.
“I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race and it didn’t seem right to wreck ‘em. Ran ‘em hard and we’re going to keep him honest. I know if we keep running like this that we won’t be beat.”
Despite losing five points to Johnson’s lead, Keselowski remains confident about what he can accomplish in the next two weeks.
“Nothing; it doesn’t really change anything,” he said. “I know that if we keep running like this, we’ll beat ‘em.”
Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five.
“I thought it was a good night for us,” said Busch, who has run very strong during the Chase portion of the schedule. “We had a really fast race car, just not quite fast enough. We've seen the 2 (Keselowski) and the 48 (Johnson) and the 15 (Bowyer), I think were the best cars in practice. We knew we were going to have to deal with those guys tonight, which we did. They were right up there all night long, and we were right there pressuring them all.”
Kenseth had to fight back from early race damage that dropped him back in the field for the top five finish.
“It was (crew chief) Jimmy (Fennig) and those guys that made some really good decisions for adjustments and pit stops and we had some fairly decent restarts and got back in it,” he said. “I didn’t think we would ever be standing here with a top-five the way our day started. We started way off and these guys never gave up. They battled hard all day long and got me a good finish.”
Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle completed the top 10.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Phoenix Int’l Raceway next Sunday afternoon.