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Johnson outduels Keselowski in Texas

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sunday, November 04, 2012

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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane by firing the commemorative Turnbull pistols
Getty Images for NASCAR
The haymaker Jimmie Johnson delivered Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway turned out to be an eight-point swing.

Taking advantage of a late caution and four fresh tires to Brad Keselowski's two, Johnson pulled away from Keselowski in a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win the AAA Texas 500 and tighten his grip on a possible sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Johnson finished 0.808 seconds ahead of Keselowski, the race runner-up, and increased his lead in the standings to from two points to seven. The victory was Johnson's fifth of the season, his second at Texas and the 60th of his career. For the second straight week, Johnson won a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race from the pole.

Kyle Busch ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer. Keselowski held the lead on two previous restarts -- one a breathtaking side-by-side battle with the five-time champion -- but Johnson pulled ahead in the one that counted.

As hard as the top two Chase drivers raced each other on Sunday, Johnson felt it took the level of competition between them to new heights.

"The way we raced this afternoon, this evening -- that's what's different," Johnson said. "That's the first time that we've really engaged at that level and raced each other that hard.

"To his credit, he did a nice job of getting right to the edge, and we brought home race cars. We weren't wadded up looking like a bunch of fools over there, handing the 5 (Kasey Kahne) and the 15 (Bowyer) a big gift." 

Had Keselowski held on to the lead for the final two laps, he would have been the Chase leader by one point.

Johnson, however, saved his best restart for the two-lap finish that sent the race one lap beyond its scheduled distance of 334 laps.

"I knew I wasn't going to be able to execute every restart, and Jimmie did a great job on the last one," Keselowski said. "I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race, and it didn't seem right to wreck him.

"Ran him hard, and we're going to keep him honest. I know if we keep running like this that we won't be beat."
After NASCAR called the sixth caution of the race on lap 274, for debris on the backstretch, Keselowski entered the pits as the leader but dropped eight spots on the exchange of stops.

First, Keselowski slid to the front of his pit stall on the stop. Compounding the problem, the No. 10 Chevrolet of Danica Patrick, whose pit stall was immediately in front of Keselowski's, stopped at the top of her box, blocking Keselowski's exit.

By the time the No. 2 crew pushed the Blue Deuce back to give Keselowski clearance, he had lost the eight spots, as other lead-lap cars rolled past.

Keselowski spent the subsequent 30-lap green-flag run making up ground. On Lap 307, he passed Matt Kenseth for the fourth position, with Johnson running second behind Kyle Busch.

Three laps later, Marcos Ambrose's accident in Turn 2 brought out caution No. 7, and Keselowski regained the lead with a two-tire stop. Busch was second off pit road, ahead of Johnson, who restarted third on Lap 316.

Keselowski surged to the lead, clearing Busch on the backstretch, and held the top spot until the caution on Lap 321 for an incident involving Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle in Turn 2 slowed the field. Kahne got the worst of the contact, lost a lap and saw his title hopes all but evaporate.

Keselowski and Johnson raced side-by-side and a hairbreadth from losing control after the restart on lap 327, with Keselowski pulling out to an eight-car-length lead, but Mark Martin's wreck on the frontstretch two laps later set up the two-lap dash to the finish.

Busch, who had a ringside seat from his third-place finishing position, was impressed by the intensity of the racing in front of him.

"It was exciting," he said. "Those guys up there, man, they were battling, and they battled hard, giving it everything they've got. That's what they've got to do. (If) you're going to win a championship in the Sprint Cup Series, that's what you're going to have to make of it."

Results

FIN CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 48/2 335 Running
2 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 43/1 335 Running
3 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Snickers 42/1 335 Running
4 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Ford EcoBoost 41/1 335 Running
5 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 39/0 335 Running
6 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 38/0 335 Running
7 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew 37/0 335 Running
8 78 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Furniture Row 36/0 335 Running
9 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Rheem / Budweiser 35/0 335 Running
10 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 34/0 335 Running
11 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot / redbeacon.com 33/0 335 Running
12 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Quicken Loans 33/1 335 Running
13 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota Carlyle Tools by NAPA 31/0 335 Running
14 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 30/0 335 Running
15 43 Aric Almirola Ford Farmland 29/0 335 Running
16 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 28/0 335 Running
17 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 0 335 Running
18 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 26/0 335 Running
19 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 25/0 335 Running
20 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 24/0 335 Running
21 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 23/0 335 Running
22 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 0 335 Running
23 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Dr Pepper 22/1 335 Running
24 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 0 335 Running
25 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com / Great Clips 19/0 335 Running
26 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King 18/0 333 Running
27 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Quaker State / Menards 17/0 332 Running
28 34 David Ragan Ford CertainTeed / 31-W Insulation 16/0 331 Running
29 55 Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 15/0 329 Running
30 195 Scott Speed Ford B&D Electrical / TWD 14/0 328 Running
31 32 Ken Schrader Ford Federated Auto Parts 13/0 328 Running
32 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Mac Tools 12/0 310 Running
33 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Wounded Warrior Project 11/0 284 Running
34 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Huggies 10/0 279 Running
35 38 David Gilliland Ford Long John Silver's 9/0 225 Out of Race
36 51 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 8/0 107 Running
37 26 Josh Wise * Ford MDS Transport 7/0 41 In Pit
38 98 Michael McDowell Ford Phil Parsons Racing 6/0 37 In Pit
39 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 5/0 37 In Pit
40 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 0 33 In Pit
41 119 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical / MCM Elegante 0 32 In Pit
42 37 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet MaxQworkforce.com 2/0 10 In Pit
43 191 Reed Sorenson Toyota Plinker Tactical / MCM Elegante 0 6 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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