NASCAR

Johnson crash changes title race

Watch highlights of the AdvoCare 500 from Phoenix.
Watch highlights of the AdvoCare 500 from Phoenix.
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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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To steal a quote from a famous baseball announcer: I can’t believe what I just saw.

nascar phoenix gallery

DON’T LOOK BACK

It’s the next-to-last stop of the season for NASCAR. Check out the best shots from Phoenix.

In Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, two of the top three in points had issues. We saw a whole new chapter of “Boys, have at it” with the retaliation and a fight between the teams of the drivers involved, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer. We had a green-white-checkered finish, and we even had several drivers who finished in the top 10 in a pretty big crash at the checkered flag.

You name it and we almost saw it today.

Of course, a small snapshot of the race is the winner, Kevin Harvick. Here’s a driver who has had a dismal season. He'd had only four top-five finishes this season before Sunday.

There are a lot of rumors that Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of next year and, lo and behold, he gets his first win in 44 races. So that, to me, is a pretty unbelievable story. He didn’t qualify that good, qualified 19th, but those guys just never gave up. Obviously, he finally got Richard Childress his 101st Sprint Cup win.

The big snapshot Sunday was that for three-fourths of the race where Brad Keselowski, who entered the race second in the standings, was running and where Jimmie Johnson, who came in as the points leader, was running, Brad seemed to be a little bit better than Johnson but I kept watching the live point tally.

Up until Jimmie hit the wall, those guys were within one or two points of each other, tied in a lot of cases because Brad was running just far enough in front of Jimmie. As Brad also had gotten the point for leading a lap, they pretty much were tied in points. But obviously a blown right front tire for Johnson and several laps in the garage undergoing repairs added a whole new complexity to this points battle.

NASCAR Cup standings

WHAT A DAY!

Brad Keselowski won the title — but how did the rest of the Chase field end up? NASCAR Standings

We were hoping we were going to head to Homestead this Sunday with a similar situation to the one that we had last year when Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart were in a tight battle, but now Brad Keselowski only has to finish 15th or better to seal his first Sprint Cup championship.

If indeed he can do that — and we still have a full weekend of activity and 400 miles at a racetrack that we’ve not been to in a year — just look at the storylines there.

Brad Keselowski in only his third full-time season in Sprint Cup is on the brink of winning his first championship.

He’s on the brink of giving team owner Roger Penske, a man who has won 15 Indianapolis 500s and has won championships in everything imaginable that has four wheels on it, his first Sprint Cup championship.

Manufacturer Dodge is leaving the sport, and it might go away with a Sprint Cup championship in its pocket. It would be the first Sprint Cup championship the manufacturer has had since Richard Petty in 1975.

Almost everybody on Keselowski’s race team would be getting their first championship. It would be quite a story.

On a kind of a sad note from Sunday, Kyle Busch absolutely dominated this weekend. He led all three practice sessions, he won the pole position and he led 237 laps in this race, but he failed to go to Victory Lane.

You hate it for him. He’s racing his guts out right now, but it just seems like for whatever reason, they are a little off at the end of the race. I know they’re proud of the way they are running right now, there’s another top-five finish, they just keep clicking them off.

Still, with one race to go, there are a lot of storylines leaving Phoenix and certainly a lot of storylines heading to Homestead.

Tagged: Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski

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