For the second week in a row, a non-chaser has spoiled a winning opportunity for one of the eight remaining NASCAR drivers in the hunt for the Sprint Cup championship. Jimmie Johnson, who had been eliminated from the Chase in the second round, took his red No. 48 to victory lane in the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday.
The win gave Johnson his third consecutive win in the fall race at Texas Motor Speedway, and made it Johnson’s fourth overall at the mile and a half track. Johnson showed speed all day after starting the race in third position behind Chase contenders Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth, who was on the pole. Johnson lead 191 of the race’s 341 laps, and ended beating another Chase contender, Kevin Harvick, to the checkered flag by half a second.
A late caution forced the race to be decided by a green-white-checker finish, and it took two attempts at it before Johnson won. The first attempt was thwarted when the No. 2 of Brad Keselowski went three wide to try and take the lead, but he ended up hitting Gordon’s No. 24, spinning him out. On the second G-W-C attempt, Johnson was able to take the lead and leave the field behind to secure the victory.
After the race, Gordon said didn’t mind that Johnson, his Hendrick teammate, won the race. In fact, he was glad Johnson did win.
“I’m proud of Jimmie Johnson for winning that race and not letting that you-know-what win,” Gordon said referring to Keselowski.
As ESPN reported, after Johnson’s victory, Gordon confronted Keselowski after the race and fists flew as the two Chase contenders had at it.
Johnson’s win means that three of the four Chase contenders to race for the championship will get in on points. In last week’s race at Talladega, another driver who had been eliminated from the Chase during the “Contender” round, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., took the checkered flag.
Johnson’s victory will mean that those still vying to try to go to Homestead on November 16 to race for the championship will be driving hard to win next week’s race in Phoenix. While the motto for the entire NASCAR season has been “win and you’re in,” two drivers still vying for a spot in the final round haven’t managed a win all season.
As the Inquisitr reported, both Kenseth and Ryan Newman still have a shot at the Sprint Cup championship, even though neither driver has drove into victory lane this season. The Chase standings fluctuated a bit with Johnson’s victory and Gordon finishing 29th. Newman is now third in points and Gordon, who had been leading in points, is now in fourth. However, Kenseth is still only one point behind Gordon.
The Sporting News reported that Johnson wasn’t surprised by the brawl that left Keselowski bloodied after the race as he called it “intense.”
During a post-race interview, Johnson said, “Emotions run high and when someone does you wrong and you don’t have a chance to repay them on the racetrack, most bring it into the garage area and do something with it there.”
The next race in Phoenix should be just as intense, if not more so, because the many of the Chase contenders are so close in points. “Win and you’re in” should be on all of the contenders’ minds next Sunday, setting up another no holds barred race.
[Image courtesy of Getty Images]