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Johnson Wins Texas; Brawl Follows Testy Finish

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 2 2014

Jimmie Johnson won Sunday at Texas. That was the second biggest story. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Jimmie Johnson became the second straight non-Chase driver to win a race in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship Sunday when he beat the field at Texas Motor Speedway.

Johnson’s victory means that none of the remaining eight Chase drivers have yet won and, hence, have not locked themselves into the final four-driver Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.

The win was Johnson’s fourth of the year. It was the 70th of his career. It broke an 18-race winless skid.

The bad news for his Hendrick Motorsports organization was that Jeff Gordon, apparently headed to victory with less than five laps to go, made contact with Brad Keselowski on a green/white/checkered restart, cut a tire and finished off the lead lap.

Gordon, now in danger of not making the Championship Race field, caught up to Keselowski on pit road after the race and a huge brawl broke out between them and their teams.

Both drivers emerged from the brawl with bloodied faces.

Keselowski said of the on-track incident, just racing. “He left a hole. Everything you watch in racing, you leave a hole, you’re supposed to pay for it. It closed back up, we made contact. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day. I want to win the race. That was our opportunity.”

Gordon was furious when interviewed. He said Keslowski came out of nowhere and slammed him.

“He’s just a dip shit,” Gordon said of Keselowski. “The way he races, I don’t know how he’s ever won a championship and I’m just sick and tired of it. I mean that’s why everybody is fighting him and running him down. That was a huge, huge race for us. We had the car, we had the position.

“He’s got to pay the consequences.”

Kevin Harvick finished second and Keselowski third.

Keselowski sided with Gordon, saying Keselowski was “in bulldoze mode”.

Rounding out the top five were Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray.

Matt Kenseth started the race from the pole and led the first 53 laps. Taking the lead was Johnson. Once out front, the six-time champion quickly built a lead of over 1.5  seconds. By lap 90, Johnson’s lead over second-place Kasey Kahne was over 3.7 seconds.

Johnson lost the lead briefly during green-flag pit stops which started on Lap 90, but after the stops had cycled through on Lap 94, Johnson was back on top – by over 3 seconds over Kenseth.

Johnson continued to lead until the next set of green-flag stops, which took place at about Lap 136. But, again, when the stops cycled through, Johnson had his lead back and again began to pull away from second-place Harvick.

Johnson finally gave up his lead on Lap 216 when he was passed by Hendrick teammate Gordon.

Gordon held the lead until a caution flag on Lap 222 brought the leaders into the pits. First out was Denny Hamlin, who took just two tires. With four new tires, Gordon quickly passed Hamlin for the lead on the restart, which came on Lap 228 of the 334-lap race.

Johnson took the lead back during yellow flag pit stops on Lap 240. Gordon restarted the race second while Kenseth was third, Newman fourth and Harvick fifth.

On the restart, Gordon, starting on the outside line was passed by both Kenseth and Harvick.

On Lap 251, debris brought out another caution and brought the leaders into the pits. Staying out, however, and taking the lead was Brad Keselowski, who had been racing outside the top 10 most of the day. Behind him on the restart were Johnson, Gordon, Harvick and Newman. Kenseth, because of a slow pit stop, restarted 18th.

On restart, which came with 76 laps to go, the fight was for second place between the Hendrick teammates. Gordon won out on the next lap and began closing on Keselowski.

With 69 laps to go, Gordon pulled even on the low line, beat Keselowski to the line, but could not complete the pass.

Ten laps later, Gordon tried the high side on Keselowski and this time completed the pass. Harvick soon passed Keselowski for second.

Johnson took the lead during pit stops under a caution that came out on Lap 286. Harvick restarted second with 44 laps to go, and Gordon third as a result of the pit stops.

With 39 laps to go, debris brought out another caution. The first six drivers pitted. Kenseth, whose team saw the Keselowski was able to lead for an extended period with older tires, was among the seven lead-lap drivers who opted not pit and took the lead.

With 32 laps to go, the race restarted. At the line, he was passed by Kurt Busch for the lead. But when Joey Logano blew a tire on the same lap, the yellow waved again. When the race restarted with 26 laps to go, Busch led, Kenseth was second, Johnson third and Hamlin fourth. Harvick was seventh and Gordon 10th.

Am with 20 laps to go, the caution flag waved again. On the restart with 17 laps to go, Johnson blew past Busch and Gordon moved to second. But with 14 laps to go, a wreck brought out a record-tying caution No. 11. On the restart with nine laps to go, Johnson had the lead and the coveted inside line. Gordon was next to him and Busch and Stewart were behind in Row 2.

Over the radio, Gordon’s crew chief told his driver he had to “get gone, get by Jimmie” on the restart.

That, with a push from Stewart, is exactly what happened as Gordon when high to the wall and made the pass for the lead. Once in the lead he pulled away to a huge lead and appeared headed to the win.

But with three laps to go, another wreck forced a green/white/checkered finish.

Gordon restarted on the high line. Next to him was Johnson. In the second row were Chase drivers Keselowski and Harvick.

On the restart, Keselowski tried to shoot the gap between Gordon and Johnson. Gordon came down, clipped Keselowski a bit and cut a tire. Keselowski surged to second, Gordon spun and and his shot at a victory was done.

The spin forced a second GWC restart where Johnson took the inside line and Keselowski the outside. Johnson and Keselowski ran side by side for a lap but Keselowski fell back to second at the white flag and Johnson pulled away for the win.

“We’ll always keep fighting and keep trying to make our cars better,” he said. “We’re not in the Chase and not where we want to be – fighting for the championship. But it’s a great day today with this Red Vest Lowe’s Chevrolet. I’m so happy to win this race and say thank you to all the men and women that work in the stores and wear that vest each and every day. It’s just a Chase that was tough for us but to redeem ourselves here and come out with a victory is really cool. Last weekend in Homestead where we were testing, we found some speed we’ve been missing and we found comfort in the car and got it right. We had a great test there and brought that stuff here.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 2 2014
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • docg says:

    I was at the Chicagoland Speedway in 2006. I remember seeing Jeff Gordon intentionally slam a fender into Matt Kenseth on the last lap coming out of Turn Two to spin him and get the win. Was Wonder Boy a dipshit that day?

  • Steven says:

    Nascar is allowing poor behavior and a lack of sportsmanship in exchange for TV ratings. Young racers across the country are watching this and are being wrongly influenced.