Johnson, Kenseth in fierce battle

Jimmie Johnson (left) and Matt Kenseth (right) are tied for the Sprint Cup Series lead.
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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.


If you look at Texas Motor Speedway these last four or five years in the Chase, there have been some incredible races. In 2007, we saw Jimmie Johnson run down Matt Kenseth in the closing laps of the fall race. We had the crazy fall race in 2010 when Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton got into a fight and Jimmie Johnson completely changed pit crews. Then, just one year ago, Jimmie and Brad Keselowski put on a heck of a battle in the final laps.

There is just something about racing at Texas and especially the Texas Chase race that lends itself to some incredible battles. Plus, I think we have to remember that when we come back here the second time each November, the weather is cooler, so this track produces a pretty good amount of grip.

Race-car drivers get really brave when they feel like and trust that their race cars are under them. I think that was really apparent last year in the closing-lap battle between Jimmie and Brad because there was so much on the line that night. We saw Brad being molded into a champion at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jimmie had a better car that night. Brad, however, showed his heart and passion for winning the championship, and I think Texas was the place he served notice that he wasn’t going anywhere. Basically, he was sending the message that “you may be Jimmie Johnson, but I am not scared of you.”

You always hear us talk about, “How bad do you want it?” Well, one year ago at this very race, Brad served noticed he wanted it pretty darn badly. Then he backed it up in the final two races and came out as our champion.

The other thing that was really impressive to me was that Brad was willing to lay it all right there on the line, but he never crossed that line. He showed the garage area and all our fans that he wasn’t willing to cheap-shot anyone to get it. Jimmie Johnson is a hard-nosed racer who is also our sport’s only five-time champion, and I think he gained a lot of respect for Brad and the way he raced.

I think we are going to see one heck of a battle between Jimmie and Matt. Jimmie qualified third and Matt qualified sixth. They’ve just got to keep the pressure on each other for three more races, and the one who makes the fewest mistakes is going to come out the champion.

I still believe you have to throw Jeff Gordon back in there. He starts ninth. I still maintain that if Jimmie and Matt get caught up too much with each other, Jeff could slide right in there and upset both their apple carts. If he were to do that, 2013 would wind up being one of the most bizarre seasons in NASCAR history.

Just think of the irony if the 13th guy in the Chase winds up winning the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup title. Remember, Jeff wasn’t in the Chase until NASCAR handed down their penalty on Michael Waltrip Racing and put Jeff in the Chase. To go through all that, to start dead last in the Chase with no bonus points but to come back and win the whole shooting match would be epic in my book.

Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski

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