FORT WORTH, Texas (November 8, 2015) – Brad Keselowski owns a track record for most laps led in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway, but Jimmie Johnson owns the cowboy hat.
Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) overtook an extremely dominant Keselowski (No. 2 Wurth Ford) with four laps remaining Sunday to win the AAA Texas 500 for the fourth consecutive year at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory allowed Johnson, who won April’s Duck Commander 500, to become the third driver in speedway history to complete the season sweep, joining Carl Edwards (2008) and Denny Hamlin (’10). It also was his fifth win of the season and 75th of his career, one shy of tying Dale Earnhardt Sr. for seventh in the all-time wins category.
It was an utterly dominant performance by Keselowski, but that may have made the runner-up finish more devastating given that a victory would have secured one of the three remaining berths to advance to the four-driver Championship Round in the Nov. 22 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Keselowski shattered the track record for laps led in a single race (278 by Tony Stewart, fall of 2006) by leading 312 in the 334-lap race.
The ninth and final caution of the day proved costly for Keselowski as it bunched the field and put Johnson in a position run him down. Keselowski led the field on the restart with 18 to go, but was passed by Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet) on the opening lap before regaining the lead on the ensuing lap.
Johnson moved past Truex Jr. as well and then settled in on Keselowski’s bumper for the final laps. Keselowski was able to fend off several passing attempts by the faster Johnson, who eventually took the lead on Lap 331 following an inside pass on the backstretch and through Turn 3. Johnson led the final four laps and pulled away to a 1.082-second margin of victory over Keselowski and play the Chase spoiler after being eliminated in the opening round of the championship playoff format.
“I just kept pressure on him,” said Johnson, who earned his track-record sixth career Sprint Cup win at Texas. “I could see that he was really tight and that was the first I had seen him that vulnerable all day. I just kept the pressure on him, kept searching for line. He saw me coming on the top and protected it.
“I just kept trying to put pressure on him hoping for a mistake. He got real loose off of Turn 2 and I had a big run down the backstretch and drove it in really far into Turn 3 hoping to hear clear. Once I did, I knew I was home free.”
Keselowski led seven of the remaining eight Chase contenders to top-10 finishes in the AAA Texas 500, including three others turning in top-five performances. Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet), who battled back from a tire issue in the early going, finished third and was followed by Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota) and Carl Edwards (No. 19 Sports Clips Toyota), respectively.
“The 48 car had mega turn that last run and I couldn’t keep the turn and it kept pushing real bad,” Keselowski said. “I did everything I could to hold him off but he was way faster that last run. Their team did a hell of a job and found speed and my team did a hell of a job too.
“We led 300-some laps and these debris yellows always favor someone and it wasn’t our day for them to favor us. I am still very proud of our effort today. We will have a great shot at winning next week. We really needed to win this one and I know I gave it my all.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet), also eliminated from the Chase, was sixth and followed by Chase contenders Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) in seventh, Truex Jr. in eighth and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet) in ninth. The only Chase driver outside the top 10 was Joey Logano (No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford), who had an early tire issue that sent him to the garage and eventually a 40th-place finish.
Heading into the third and final race of the Eliminator 8 Round next week at Phoenix, Gordon is the only contender that has secured a berth in the Championship Round by virtue of his win last week at Martinsville. A win by a Chase contender at Phoenix will clinch a berth in the Championship Round for them, but if none emerge victorious the three remaining positions will be determined by the Chase points standings. Kyle Busch is first in points behind Gordon and is followed by Harvick (-1 back), Truex Jr. (-4), Edwards (-11), Keselowski (-23), Kurt Busch (-32) and Logano (-67).