Jimmie Johnson holds off Harvick, Earnhardt to win for fourth time in last six races at Texas

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Jimmie Johnson won for the fourth time in the last six races at Texas Motor Speedway, dominating en route to victory in Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500.

Johnson led 128 laps, passing both Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick on Lap 321 and then held on until he took the checkered flag on Lap 334.

It was Johnson’s second win of the season in the first seven races. His first win of 2015 came in the second race of the year at Atlanta, another 1.5-mile track similar to TMS.

“Just a great, great racecar,” Johnson told Fox Sports. “We kept plugging away at it. I think the off-week was good for us, kind of to sit down, relax, reboot and come back to the track.

“They brought me a fast racecar. It was good all weekend.”

Overall, it was Johnson’s fifth career Sprint Cup triumph at TMS – but first in the spring at that track.

Harvick finished second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski (race results here).

It was the ninth time Johnson and Harvick have finished 1-2 in a race (Harvick has beaten Johnson 1-2 two other times).

Kurt Busch started from the pole, but outside pole sitter Harvick took almost immediate command, leading the next 33 laps.

Busch and Harvick traded the lead twice within four laps before Busch would lead from Laps 38 through 79.

Brad Keselowski took over on Lap 82 and led the next 27 circuits around the 1.5-mile oval before four-time Texas winner Jimmie Johnson went to the front.

Harvick passed Johnson on Lap 125 until Johnson regained the lead on Lap 156. Kasey Kahne led Laps 158-159 during green flag pit stops before Johnson regained the lead on Lap 160.

Joey Logano took the lead from Johnson on Lap 266 and held on until Harvick went back to the point on Lap 285. Harvick then held serve when a caution flag came out on Lap 294 for debris, getting a great jump on Logano on the subsequent restart with 36 laps to go.

Another caution came out on Lap 308 for debris, with Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon leading the field at the restart.

How Johnson won: Arguably the move of the race came on Lap 321 when Johnson literally doubled-up, going low to pass both Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick. From there, Johnson was untouchable the rest of the way.

 

Who else had a good day: Even though he finished second, Harvick has nothing to be ashamed of. He earned his ninth top-2 finish in his last 10 races, dating back to the last three races of 2014. His only finish outside the top-2 in that streak was eighth two weeks ago at Martinsville. … Harvick might have had one last shot at catching Johnson had it not been for skimming the wall with two laps to go. “We raced as hard as we could,” Harvick said. “It was a lot of fun.” … Jeff Gordon was one of several drivers who took just two tires on the final caution and it helped get him back into the top-10 and ultimately finish with a seventh-place finish.

Who had a bad day: Ryan Blaney thought he had a good car for the race. Well, he did, until Lap 71, when the engine in his Wood Brothers Ford expired. “Obviously, something happened with the engine,” crew chief Jeremy Bullins said. “I’m not sure exactly what because it’s hard to tell what happened first, so we just got to the point where we couldn’t keep going.” … Paul Menard was up to the top five past the midpoint before he had to take his Chevrolet to the garage due to a broken water hose.

Notables: Martin Truex Jr. finished ninth, extending his streak of top-10 finishes in every race thus far this season. … Seven of the top 10 finishers drove Chevrolets. … Team Penske had a solid weekend, with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. … Tony Stewart continues to struggle. He finished 24th, one spot behind Matt Kenseth and in front of Sam Hornish Jr. … Harvick and Keselowski will now have to wait until the fall Chase for the Sprint Cup race for their next chance to finally win a Cup race at TMS.

Quote of the day: Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “We’ve had that speed all year and it’s good to get a good finish in the bank because these last couple of weeks have been pretty rough. We know what we’re capable. Me and (crew chief Greg Ives) are just getting started here and we’re right there on their heels, man. When we get this thing figured out, (we’re) going to be tough.”

What’s next: The Sprint Cup Series goes back to short track racing next Sunday with the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

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