FORT WORTH, Texas – Jimmie Johnson simply refused to lose Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.
Johnson drove by his championship rival Brad Keselowski during a green-white-checkered restart to score his second-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series triumph Sunday during the AAA Texas 500.
It was far from easy as Johnson and Keselowski spent most of the race battling back and forth for momentum and track position. The momentum shifted in Johnson’s favor under caution on lap 276 when Keselowski dropped from first to ninth thanks to a poor pit stop.
Keselowski slowly moved back to the front, getting all the way to fourth before a caution flag waved on lap 311. All the lead-lap cars came down pit road, but Keselowski’s crew opted for two tires while Johnson and the rest of the field took four.
That strategy call by Keselowski’s No. 2 team gave him the lead while Johnson restarted third. Johnson grabbed second from Kyle Busch shortly after the restart, but Keselowski had pulled away to a comfortable lead. That lead was erased when Kasey Kahne hit the wall on lap 321 to bring out another caution.
The field returned to racing on lap 327 and it was then that things really got interesting. Johnson looked to have Keselowski cleared exiting turn four after the restart, but Keselowski fought back and made contact with Johnson on the front stretch.
When the pair got to turn one Keselowski somehow got Johnson loose, sending Johnson up the track and opening the door for Keselowski to get the lead back. However, a crash on the front stretch by Mark Martin meant Keselowski would have to try once more to hold off Johnson.
The green-white-checkered restart saw Keselowski try his best, but Johnson finally managed to clear him at the exit of turn two. Once out front Johnson slowly pulled away, eventually beating Keselowski to the finish by .808-second.
“It was an awesome race. That is a great way to put it. The gloves are off and it is bare knuckle fighting,” said Johnson, who now leads Keselowski in the championship standings by seven points with two races left. “I have a lot of respect for that No. 2 team. Those guys are doing a great job. Today I think our cars were pretty equal throughout the course of the race and at the end of the race we were on four (fresh tires) and had to take advantage of it.”
Keselowski may have lost the battle on Sunday, but he made it clear that the war for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship is far from over.
“I thought I had it but we kept getting all those yellows and kept giving him (Johnson) more shots,” Keselowski said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to execute every restart, Jimmie did a great job on the last one. I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race. It seemed like the right decision.
“I know if we keep running like this we won’t be beat,” Keselowski said.
Kyle Busch finished third Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, followed by Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart.