Untouchable Johnson Scores In Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas – Jimmie Johnson firmly established himself as the man to beat for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on Sunday, scoring a dominant victory in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Johnson led a race-high 255 laps during the 334-lap event and was rarely challenged en route to his sixth victory of the 2013 season. The victory gives Johnson a seven-point advantage over Matt Kenseth in the championship standings with two races left this year.
“We came here and tested and we did an awesome job understanding what I needed in the car and what would give us great speed,” Johnson said. “We came back and had a very smooth qualifying session and practice sessions yesterday and just kept putting more and more speed in the car. It paid off today.”
The only time Johnson really had to work during Sunday’s race came after a slow green-flag pit stop on lap 240. He came in as the race leader, but a 17-second stop dropped him to fifth as Brad Keselowski inherited the race lead.
It took Johnson only 17 laps to race from fifth back to the race lead, as Johnson bypassed Keselowski just as the caution flag waved for debris from Juan Pablo Montoya’s damaged No. 42.
Johnson led the lead lap cars down pit road under caution and emerged with the race lead. He never gave up the top spot again, eventually beating teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the checkered flag by more than four seconds.
“Obviously we need a lot of speed in the car to win and you’ve got to win to get points because Matt is there in the top five,” Johnson said. “Nice to get a few points on him. Just a dominant day for this Lowe’s team.”
Kenseth finished fourth, but it was a hard fought fourth for the driver of the No. 20 Toyota. Kenseth looked to be the only driver who could keep up with Johnson early during Sunday’s race, but a pit road speeding penalty on lap 173 during green flag pit stops hampered his efforts.
A pass-through penalty left Kenseth stuck back in 15th place, but he caught a fortunate caution flag 20 laps later that allowed him to make up a large portion of the time he lost. It took him the rest of the race to battle his way back through the pack to his eventual fourth-place finish.
“We were just being too aggressive,” Kenseth said about the pit road penalty. “Honestly the 48 (Johnson) had us from the moment they unloaded until the time they put it back on the truck. They were just dominant all weekend.
“That speeding penalty got us behind, we definitely didn’t need that. But really I don’t know at the end of the day if really affected our finish much. We just didn’t have what we needed to get any further forward.”
Ironically, Johnson also left Texas Motor Speedway last year with the winner’s trophy and a seven point lead in the standings over Keselowski. Johnson would prefer to forget how that story ended.
“Matt didn’t have maybe the best day, but he still finished fourth. This thing is going to go to the last lap at Homestead. It is going to come down to mistakes,” Johnson said. “I hope history doesn’t repeat itself. That (last year) is the perfect example that this thing isn’t over until it is over.
“Last year we had eight great races and two bad ones and didn’t get the championship. It is very important to finish strong and there are two very important races left.”
The second-place finish by Earnhardt was his third runner-up finish in the last six races. He has two more races to find his way into victory lane in 2013.
“We’re getting close,” Earnhardt said. “We came here and tested so we thought we’d have a good chance to win here. Obviously our teammate (Johnson) was here testing too so it paid off for him.”
Joey Logano chased Johnson and Earnhardt across the line in third with Kenseth following close behind. Kasey Kahne, Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer completed the top 10.
Carl Edwards started from the pole and led 38 laps before falling out of the race with an engine failure. He finished 37th. Martinsville Speedway race winner Jeff Gordon crashed on lap 75 and was scored 37th at the finish.