Who’s in the headline? – Jimmie Johnson saved his best for last Sunday and spoiled Brad Keselowski‘s party as the laps wound down. Johnson led six laps during the event, including the final four to steal the win from Keselowski, who led 312 of the posted 334 laps of the event. Johnson proved, once again, that the fall race at Texas is his race, everyone else is just a squirrel trying to get a nut. Johnson has won four straight fall races in Ft. Worth and has done it five of the last nine times the event has been held. Johnson has twice as many wins as Carl Edwards, second among all drivers ever at Texas Motor Speedway.
What happened – The race began with a very green race track and Joey Logano blew a tire 10 laps into the event. The tire severely damaged Logano’s ride and put him in the garage for an extensive amount of time. Logano’s teammate Keselowski started on the pole and absolutely dominated the event, only relinquishing the lead during a couple of early race restarts and some green flag pit stop sequences. Johnson spent the vast majority of the race running in the back end of the top five, but found the cornering ability after the final pit stop to drive past Keselowski with four to go and lead to the finish. Kevin Harvick overcame two flat tires and a gear shift that was popping out of fourth gear to finish in the top three and set himself up for what could be an exciting race in Phoenix next weekend.
Why you should care – Johnson’s win put Keselowski in the situation to have to most likely win at Phoenix to advance to Homestead along with his teammate Logano who absolutely has to win to advance. The end result is at least one strong contender to prevent Johnson’s teammate Jeff Gordon from winning a title will not make it to Miami with a shot at the title. Not mentioned is the fact that Kyle Busch methodically ran the race and has himself positioned 11 points ahead of Edwards in the fifth points position. When it was all said and done, the only change in the championship standings between last week and this week is Harvick is in third in points and Martin Truex Jr. is in fourth.
What your friends are talking about – The aftermath of Martinsville unfolded quickly and decisively over the days following the race. Matt Kenseth was suspended for two races after wrecking Logano from the lead while running multiple laps down. Kenseth was in the position after being wrecked by Keselowski on a restart while running for the lead. NASCAR stated that Kenseth’s position outside of the Chase affecting a car in the Chase was a significant factor in the suspension. Apparently the fact that the car he took out had severely impacted Kenseth’s chance to continue in the Chase two weeks earlier was not a factor at all. This was just another example of how everything is about the Chase in NASCAR and no drivers outside of the Chase matter.
The beginning of the race was marred by several tire issues. Fans were very worried that there was going to be another tire disaster like the series saw at Indianapolis in 2008. Fortunately, after three distinctly different issues hit Logano, Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the race settled down a bit and unfolded more like a typical 1.5-mile Cup race. Goodyear takes a lot of flack, and rightfully so, for making tire production for the Cup series into something far more complex than it needs to be. This time around it does not appear as though it was an issue for them. A handful of drivers had issues but more than 30 drivers ran the whole race without a tire problem. That said, it will not be surprising if the multi-zone tire compound is officially put to bed after Homestead in two weeks.
Listening to all of the talking heads after Texas, you’d think Harvick is all but assured of winning Phoenix barring a catastrophic disaster. Have they all forgotten that Harvick ended the title hopes of at least three drivers, and destroyed the cars of another 10 at Talladega by intentionally wrecking Trevor Bayne? It is a very real possibility that multiple people (Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr. to name a few) will be looking to drop a Gordon/Bowyer moment on the No. 4 in the desert Southwest.
Kenseth wasn’t involved in the race but he certainly didn’t slip out of the limelight. After the race ended, with Johnson in victory lane after working his way around Keselowski who blocked as best he could, the driver of the No. 20 sent out a tweet heard ’round the world.
— Matt Kenseth (@mattkenseth) November 8, 2015
It was announced this week that Bass Pro Shops and the NRA will be the title sponsors for the night race at Bristol. As if rednecks didn’t already wear enough camouflage to the racetrack, now it will be all but expected.
Who is mad – Logano came into the race knowing that he most likely had to win one of the last two races to advance to the final four. 10 laps into the race the left-rear tire on Logano’s car exploded and caused significant damage to the left rear of the car. Logano’s team affected repairs in the garage, but it cost them 66 laps and put the final nail in the coffin of any hope of advancing to the final round on points.
Keselowski has put his name in the NASCAR books with another new record. It is one that he would rather not have but it is now his. Keselowski led 312 laps and did not win the race. That is the most laps led by a driver who did not win the race in the history of the sport. Not only did that ignominious statistic mar Keselowski’s day, but it also means that he now has to either win at Phoenix or have significant misfortune befall at least three of the other seven drivers in contention to make it to Homestead. Keselowski is 19 points behind the fourth-place cut-off for Homestead.
Kyle Larson started the race on Sunday in the fifth position. During the race he had a left rear quarter panel issue that resulted in a couple of flat tires for his ride during the event. Sadly, the official race report lists a DNF for Larson with the reason of accident. Frustratingly the box score for the race never lists the No. 42 in an accident. So not only did Larson’s race not go according to plan, but his accident that knocked him from the event was not even recognized by NASCAR as having taken place.
Who is happy – Harvick had more than enough opportunity to have his day ruined on Sunday with not one but two flat tires. He also had the gear shift popping out of fourth gear which resulted in him having to race with one hand on the wheel and one on the gear shift. In the end he managed to finish the race in third place and was closing on Keselowski for second as the checkered flag flew. That is the kind of mettle that it takes for a team to win a championship. Harvick proved that a Cup car isn’t that hard to drive by wheeling it for 100 laps with one hand.
Truex Jr. started on the outside of the front row on the final restart of the race but quickly developed a vibration in the right front which prevented him from competing for the win over the final 16 laps. Truex did manage to hold onto a top-10 run, coming home in eighth position. As a result, Truex is seven points ahead of Edwards for the final transfer spot for Homestead and a shot at the 2015 Cup series title.
Earnhardt Jr. had the fastest car on the racetrack multiple times during Sunday’s race at Texas. Unfortunately he pushed it too hard on a mid-race restart and bounced his car off of the wall, suffering significant damage to the right rear of the car. Not only did his team get his car repaired but they patched it up enough to have him moving forward at the end of the race, culminating in a sixth-place finish. Earnhardt received two lucky dogs during the event which aided in his strong run to the checkered flag.
When the checkered flag flew
Johnson went to victory lane for the 75th time in his career on Sunday. It was Johnson’s 505th career start.
Johnson is still eighth on the all-time win list, one behind Dale Earnhardt for seventh. He is second among active drivers, 18 behind Gordon, who is third on the list.
This was Johnson’s fifth triumph of 2015.
Johnson has six career wins at Texas Motor Speedway, most all-time. He is the first driver to win three consecutive races at Texas.
This is the third time that a driver has swept both races at Texas in a season. Edwards (2008) and Hamlin (2010) were the previous two drivers to accomplish the feat.
Keselowski came home second for the second time in his career at Texas.
This is Keselowski’s sixth top-two run of 2015.
Keselowski is tied with Speedy Thompson on the all-time second-place finish list for 52nd with 15 runner-up runs.
Harvick’s podium run was his 18th of 2015.
Harvick has come home in the top three four times in 26 starts in Ft. Worth.
On the all-time podium list Harvick is 22nd with 97 in his career. He is one behind Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett for 21st.
Brett Moffitt finished 30th to take home Rookie of the Race honors.
With all of the racing at the 1.5-mile in Texas, it ended up that no one locked in a spot in Homestead to join Gordon for the run for the title. Gordon will be joined by at least two drivers advancing on points to the final race and at least one strong contender on the outside looking in thanks to his teammate Johnson’s victory. The remainder of the eight Chase contenders and their points position after Texas:
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Carl Edwards
- Brad Keselowski
- Kurt Busch
- Joey Logano
Takin’ it to the Bank
Cup winners this year have pocketed $11,339,149 in 34 races while the last-place finisher (43rd) has taken home $2,633,486.
In the Xfinity series it has been $2,142,274 for the winners and $391,155 for 40th place in 31 races.
After 21 Truck races, the winner has $1,037,750 in his coffers and the 36th-place finisher has banked $195,045.
What is in the cooler – In a race where one driver led 312 of 334 laps there was a bit of excitement late that saved it from being a complete snoozer. Johnson’s late-race run for the victory became one of two legitimate on-track passes for the lead, stunning considering the multiple grooves Texas offered throughout the weekend. At least the heart-pounding ending combined with tire problems early to leave a shred of unpredictability in an otherwise awful event. We’ll give it three cold Buffalo Butt Amber Lagers from Rahr and Sons Brewing down in Fort Worth, Texas.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – The penultimate race of Sprint Cup’s 2015 season unfolds at Phoenix on Sunday, November 15th at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. When the checkered flag flies on this 1-mile oval, the Final Four will be set to compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami.
Phoenix’s 500-kilometer event, while live on television can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90. The race is also streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra.