FORT WORTH, TX – NOV. 03: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas.
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When the Chase rolled into Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were tied atop the standings.
From the drop of the green flag on Sunday afternoon, Johnson made it his mission to earn max points, score the win, and take command of the championship battle.
Leading 255 of the 335 laps, Johnson and the No. 48 team were simply in a league of their own.
"This was an awesome, awesome race car," Johnson said. "I have to go back to the test session we had last week or the week before. We did a nice job of developing a plan on how we wanted to show up in qualifying trim and in race trim. We had an awesome, awesome race car. And we needed it."
Kenseth, on the other hand, was forced to overcome a pit road speeding penalty during green flag stops. Battling a loose handling car for much of the race, Kenseth was able to recover and finish the day in fourth.
While some are ready to give Johnson his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, this title fight is far from over. When Johnson won this race in 2012, he left with a seven-point advantage over Brad Keselowski. Johnson went on to have a tire issue at Phoenix and broke a rear end gear in Homestead, ultimately losing the title to Keselowski.
"I have been watching a lot of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting lately, and you’ll fall into a rhythm and think that somebody has got the fight won, and it doesn’t end that way. That’s how this is going to be," Johnson said. "Matt didn’t have maybe the best day and still finished fourth. This thing is going to go to the last lap at Homestead, and it is going to come down to mistakes. I’m very excited about our performance and what we did here. We’ll enjoy this, but there is still two weeks of very hard racing ahead of us."
Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. So goes it for Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After another solid run, Earnhardt Jr. scored his fifth second place finish of the season. The runner-up finish was also his third top-five and sixth top-10 in the last seven races. Since his engine failure to open the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. has moved from 13th to seventh in the Chase standings.
"We’re not running second by making mistakes. We’re not giving away wins," Earnhardt Jr. said. "So I feel like we’re just really getting close to cracking through and just trying to maintain momentum with two races to go is going to be tough. But that’s what we’re focused on."
One week after winning at Martinsville and moving to third in the standings, Jeff Gordon’s title hopes went up in smoke when the No. 24 Chevrolet blew a left front tire and slammed the outside wall. With heavy damage to the right side, Gordon took the car behind the wall for repairs. Gordon eventually rejoined the race, but finished the day in 38th.
Nationwide Series regular Parker Kligerman made his Sprint Cup Series debut Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway piloting the No. 30 Swan Racing entry. Impressing many, Kligerman recorded an 18th-place finish after starting the day 23rd. Not a bad way to start, not a bad way at all.
Booom.. That was a good debut. So grateful of the oppurtunity from @SwanRacingCo .. Hopefully will get more chances in the future!