In the first 100 laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, which were caution free, drivers cycled through two sets of green-flag pit stops and it looked like Jimmie Johnson was in his own zip code.
But as was probably to be expected, in the last 55 laps there were four cautions and that just was enough to give guys opportunities to make adjustments on their cars and to take fuel mileage out of it, especially with that caution that came with 24 laps to go. It bunched the drivers up enough and came late enough in the race that we saw some pretty aggressive racing.
I think now we can honestly say, even though there’s only two drivers mathematically eliminated – that’s Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – we’ve got two drivers and two races and we only have one championship trophy.
To see these two guys, it’s almost a rerun of a year ago just with two different players. Last year, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were finishing first and second race after race, battling to the bitter end for that championship and I see the potential here with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.
They’re both sitting here with five wins apiece, which we all know how important wins are if this thing comes down to a tie like it did last year.
There’s a seven-point differential.
I find it so interesting, and I truly applaud them for it, that crew chief Paul Wolfe and Brad Keselowski are not afraid to gamble. It wasn’t necessarily a bad call that they made to take two tires on their final pit stop when the other leaders took four tires and it sounds like they made it together.
I can’t say it was a bad call, but obviously it was not a call that worked out to win the race. If they had not gotten that last caution when Mark Martin spun out with five to go, Brad Keselowski was going to win the race with 28 more laps on his left-side tires.
These guys, they’re racing to win. Yeah they’re racing to win the championship, but they’re racing to win because they know the importance of winning races and they know how strong each is running right now. They went to Texas with a two-point differential. Even with leading the most laps like Jimmie Johnson did in the race, he knew that if he watched Brad Keselowski take that checkered flag first, then he leaves Texas with Keselowski being the points leader.
So that was a four-point swing for Johnson, him winning the race while Keselowski finished second. One point for one position ahead and three bonus points for the win. So I don’t see anything changing in these last two races.
These guys raced each other for the win at Chicago, the first race of the Chase. They raced each other door handle to door handle for eighth at Kansas three weeks ago and they raced each other door handle to door handle for the Texas win and I don’t see that being any different these final two races.
If you go back to the Phoenix race, race No. 2 of this year, they raced each other door handle to door handle with Johnson finishing fourth and Keselowski finishing fifth and we did not know the position these two guys would be in now with two races to go – and returning to that same track.