Jimmie Johnson spoiled a Chase clinching win for Brad Keselowski as he made the winning pass with three laps to go to win the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory for Johnson is the fifth of the season and third in a row at Texas.
“I kept working on him, working on him,” Johnson said of Keselowski,” and I could see that he was tight and his car wasn’t ideal. Then he moved up and had the high lane covered. He got real loose off [turn] 2 and I had a big run off the top.”
Though out of Chase contention, Johnson and the No. 48 team will relish their first win since Dover in May.
“I just like to race guys clean any way,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to get this No. 48 back in Victory Lane.”
Keselowski won the pole and broke a track record, leading an impressive 312 laps before losing the battle with Johnson and falling to second place.
“We had a damn-near flawless race,” Keselowski said. “I couldn’t keep the turn in it. I just kept pushing real bad. [Johnson] just kept turning and turning. I did everything I could to hold him off but he was way faster that last run. My team did a hell of a job. We led 300 something laps. Well have a great shot at winning next week as well. We really needed to win this one but I know I gave it my all and I feel good about that.”
Keselowski now sits 19 points behind the cutoff spot of fourth win one race remaining at Phoenix International Raceway.
Martin Truex Jr. was a Chase driver running among the top five all afternoon long and even fought Keselowski for the lead after a restart with 19 laps to go. However, after making slight contact with Keselowski going into turn 1, Truex fell to eighth.
“It was fun. Good, hard racing,” Truex said who sits seven points to the good in points. “We ran a whole lap side-by-side after that restart and then my right front started shaking when I got tight and I couldn’t hang.”
Keselowski says the rub with Truex “probably didn’t help either of us.”
“I didn’t know if I came up into him or if he came down on me,” Keselowski said. “Either way we got together and it probably didn’t help either of us.”
Kevin Harvick single-handedly finished third after the reigning champion had broken shifter which forced him to drive with one hand on the shifter during the event’s longest green-flag runs.
Harvick says blood circulation became an issue during the awkward run.
“I’ve never had to drive one with one arm that long,” Harvick said who now sits 11 points above the cutoff in points. “I had to pay a lot more attention, that’s for sure. The hardest part was my arm started going to sleep as it would cut the circulation off from my shoulder. I had to let off on it a few times to get the blood flowing back through my arm.”
Additionally, Harvick had two blown tires which ended up turning in favor with a couple late-race yellows.
“We just hung in there and fought like we’ve done the last two years,” Harvick said,” and were able to make something out of the day there at the end.”
The day started with a bang for Joey Logano who blew a left-rear tire in spectacular fashion on lap 9, sending the No. 22 to the garage, later finishing 40th.
“Left-rear tire just came apart and shredded everything inside the car,” Logano said in the garage. “It did a lot more damage than just the left-rear tire blowing apart.
“Not what we needed to do, we needed to win but were not out of it.”
Logano and Harvick were far from the lone drivers to suffer a tire issue as the 500-mile race saw drivers like Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Trevor Bayne cut tires from different causes.
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch made a big gain in points as Johnson took the win from Keselowski as that shuffled Keselowski down the order in points.
“I can say thanks to Jimmie. Superman got the job done,” Busch said who sits 11 points to the good points. “I can certainly feel for Brad though. That’s heartbreaking to be that fast, to lead that many laps and to get beat that late in the game like that – I know the pain. Our situation looks good. That’s all we can look at right now.”
Erik Jones subbed for a suspended Matt Kenseth and came home on the lead lap in 12th spot. The 19-year-old caps off the tripleheader weekend with a solid effort as Brian Scott impressed in his No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, finishing 14th after running top 10 throughout the afternoon.