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Johnson Scuttles Keselowski’s Big Day In Texas

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 8 2015
Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson spoiled the day for Chasers at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson spoiled the day for Chasers at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Brad Keselowski appeared to be shaking off a 30-race funk, stepping out of Team Penske teammate Joey Logano’s shadow and earning a berth in the Chase’s final four in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

chase 15 logoBut with four laps to go and having led 312 laps, Keselowski was ambushed by six-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson, ousted from the Chase playoffs weeks ago, passed Keselowski for the lead and forced Keselowski into what is likely a must-win situation next weekend in Phoenix.

“The 48 car (Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) had mega turn in that last run and I couldn’t make the turn and I just kept pushing real bad and he kept turning and turning,” Keselowski, who continually drove away to multi-second leads in the race, said. “I did everything I could to hold him off but he was way faster that last run.”

Keselowski, whose only other victory in 2015 came in Race No. 5 at Auto Club Speedway in March, finished second.

“It isn’t pressure,” Keselowski said about heading to PIR needing to win to advance to the four-driver season-ending, all-deciding championship race in Homestead in two weeks. “It is opportunity and I am happy to have those opportunities with a great team.”

The victory was the fifth of the season for Johnson but first since the 13th race of 2015. It was the 75th of his career.

Afterward he was asked if it eased the pain of not advancing further into the Chase.

“Those emotions were weeks ago now, so we have just been focused on winning races and help our teammates advance through the rounds,” Johnson said. “We got the No. 24 (teammate Jeff Gordon) through last week and now it’s time to go out here and not have to worry about teammates and just go for a win and we got it.  Just very rewarding for the team, this No. 48 team worked all year to be in championship contention.”

Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing finished third while fellow Chasers Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards of Joe Gibbs Racing were fourth and fifth.

That 2 (Keselowski) car,” Busch said, “I don’t know what he had all day, but then the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) seemed to find something there at the end and Superman got the job done today. We fought hard, we did what we needed to do, we finished in the top-five and we got ourselves in a pretty good spot hopefully going to Phoenix.”

Said Edwards, “We needed a win, but this is definitely an okay day with everything that happened. My guys never cheered so hard for Jimmie (Johnson), we needed that for the points going to Homestead. Our Sport Clips Camry – it was fast. It was really fast in the middle of the race. We were up to second and I thought we had something then it fell off at the end. My guys chased it. They had limited practice with the weather. I can’t thank Sport Clips haircuts enough. They’re really cool people and were here. This was a fun race to drive.”

Chasers Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon were seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.

“We are in good shape,” Truex said. “Certainly we would have like to have finished where we should have today. We should have run top-three and should have had a shot at winning. All-in-all, we didn’t beat ourselves. We are still in it. We will have to go to Phoenix and run hard and put together a really good run.”

Joey Logano, at one time the hottest driver in the Chase, ran into trouble just 10 laps into the race when he blew a tire. Logano’s Team Penske Ford had its left rear quarterpanel destroyed by the shredding tire.

Logano, who was crashed out of last weekend’s race at Martinsville by Matt Kenseth, was forced to the garages and will now need to win next weekend at Phoenix to make the four-driver final round of the playoffs at Homestead, Fla. in two weeks.

“It just blew apart off of Turn 2,” Logano said. “The left rear tire came apart and shredded everything inside the car. It did a lot more damage than just the tire blowing apart. I don’t know. We needed to win. We aren’t out of it though. This team isn’t quitting yet. We will go out there and gain a couple points, which don’t mean anything but we will go to Phoenix and try to win that one. It is unfortunate. It just wasn’t in the plans today.”

Polesitter Keselowski led the first 17 laps but was passed on the outside by Harvick on Lap 18 of the 334-lap race.

Keselowski took the lead back when he was first out of the pits after a yellow flag waved on Lap 25.

On Lap 36, Harvick cut a tire while running second and had to pit.  As opposed to the Logano situation, Harvick’s  car was not maimed by whirling rubber and was able to stay on the lead lap. He restarted 27th. But by Lap 60, he was back in the top 10.

Kyle Busch led briefly on the restart lap but Keselowski quickly took the lead back and seven laps later had piled up a 1-second lead over Busch.

On Lap 48, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to pit with a low tire.

By Lap 75, Keslowski’s lead was 2.2 seconds over second-place Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch was third and Truex fourth.

In Lap 101, Larson blew a left rear while running second.

On Lap 145, Ryan Newman lost his left rear and had to pit. The race stayed green and Keslowski kept his 2-plus-second lead over second-place Harvick. That lead did not survive for long, however, as a debris caution came out on Lap 149.

Keselowski was perfect on the Lap 154 restart and by Lap 160, his lead was back up over a second over Jimmie Johnson.

Harvick was running second behind Keselowski on Lap 282 when tire problems again struck. This time it was the right rear that went down and forced the defending series champion to the pits. When he emerged, he was a lap off the pace. Add to that, he had a car which was popping out of gear.

On Lap 296 – that is, with 39 laps to go – teams began making their final scheduled stops. Keselowski, with a 3.5-second lead over second place over Truex Jr. – came in with 38 to go.

Debris on track forced a caution and restart with 18 laps to go. Keselowski was P1 but challenged by Truex. The two bumped doors, slowing Truex but allowing Johnson to mount a rare challenge for the lead.

With 11 to go, Johnson was on Keselowski’s rear bumper.

With four to go, Johnson completed the pass and took the lead.

From there, he cruised to the victory.

“I just kept pressure on him,” Johnson said. “I could see that he was really tight and that was the first I had seen him that vulnerable all day.  I just kept the pressure on him, kept searching for line.  He saw me coming on the top and protected it.  I just kept trying to put pressure on him hoping for a mistake.  He got real loose off of Turn 2 and I had a big run down the backstretch and drove it in really far into Turn 3 hoping to hear clear.  Once I did I knew I was home free.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – AAA Texas 500

Texas Motor Speedway

Fort Worth, Texas

Sunday, November 08, 2015

  1. (8) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 334, $462976.
  2. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 334, $394391.
  3. (2) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 334, $280475.
  4. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 334, $242766.
  5. (13) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 334, $170575.
  6. (10) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 334, $171240.
  7. (7) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 334, $157615.
  8. (23) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 334, $160910.
  9. (18) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 334, $172351.
  10. (27) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 334, $158556.
  11. (26) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 334, $156576.
  12. (6) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 334, $153326.
  13. (20) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 334, $120440.
  14. (21) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, 334, $127748.
  15. (14) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 334, $142973.
  16. (11) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 334, $116140.
  17. (30) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 334, $137398.
  18. (24) Aric Almirola, Ford, 334, $143526.
  19. (12) Greg Biffle, Ford, 333, $137148.
  20. (16) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 333, $120765.
  21. (28) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 333, $113540.
  22. (19) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 333, $137240.
  23. (15) David Ragan, Toyota, 333, $132079.
  24. (32) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 332, $130910.
  25. (36) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 331, $104265.
  26. (17) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 330, $126123.
  27. (39) Cole Whitt, Ford, 330, $115398.
  28. (43) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 330, $120587.
  29. (41) David Gilliland, Ford, 329, $108340.
  30. (35) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, 329, $103130.
  31. (37) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 329, $99915.
  32. (40) Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 329, $99690.
  33. (34) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 329, $99473.
  34. (33) Michael McDowell, Ford, 328, $99240.
  35. (38) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 328, $99040.
  36. (42) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 326, $98810.
  37. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 304, $126510.
  38. (9) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 304, $111852.
  39. (29) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 296, $134355.
  40. (4) Joey Logano, Ford, 268, $132988.
  41. (31) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Engine, 236, $81780.
  42. (22) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, Accident, 52, $104994.
  43. (25) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, Accident, 26, $74280.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  137.49 mph.

Time of Race:  03 Hrs, 38 Mins, 38 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.082 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  9 for 47 laps.

Lead Changes:  15 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   B. Keselowski 1-17; K. Harvick 18-26; M. DiBenedetto # 27; B. Keselowski 28-41; Kyle Busch 42; B. Keselowski 43-53; D. Gilliland 54; J. Yeley(i) 55; B. Keselowski 56-251; J. Johnson 252-253; B. Keselowski 254-297; K. Harvick 298-299; B. Keselowski 300-316; M. Truex Jr. 317; B. Keselowski 318-330; J. Johnson 331-334.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  B. Keselowski 7 times for 312 laps; K. Harvick 2 times for 11 laps; J. Johnson 2 times for 6 laps; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 1 lap; M. DiBenedetto # 1 time for 1 lap; J. Yeley(i) 1 time for 1 lap; D. Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Gordon – 4,082; Kyle Busch – 4,080; K. Harvick – 4,079; M. Truex Jr. – 4,076; C. Edwards – 4,069; B. Keselowski – 4,057; Kurt Busch – 4,048; J. Logano – 4,013; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 2,259; D. Hamlin – 2,257; R. Newman – 2,253; J. Johnson – 2,240; J. Mcmurray – 2,235; P. Menard – 2,208; M. Kenseth – 2,197; C. Bowyer – 2,153.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 8 2015
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