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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Dale Jr.’s persuasive power impacts chaotic paint scheme poll

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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An ordinary Twitter poll on a sleepy Tuesday during the offseason took some wild turns when a Hollywood star, athletes from outside of NASCAR and even the son of the President of the United States, Donald Trump Jr. attempted to sway the results.

The poll told a story of pluck and determination – the potential of a dark horse and a grassroots movement determined to defy the odds.

Ultimately, however, it reminded us of just how persuasive Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Twitter feed can be.

Tuesday’s matchup featured special paint schemes on Austin Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto‘s cars.

At that point, both teams went to work – appealing to their fans to vote.

Around 4 p.m. ET, heavy hitters weighed in for the fight.

Nashville recording artist Chris Lane and Ian Somerhalder, who played Boone Carlyle on “Lost,” appealed for votes on the Dillon car.

But that wasn’t enough to move the ticker in Dillon’s favor. DiBenedtto led the vote 54 to 46 percent.

Donald Trump Jr. jumped in around 7:30 p.m. garnering 500 retweets and 2,500 likes.

Olympic medalist Chris Mazder and Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey also appealed for Dillon to win. Overnight, the cumulative effect tipped the scale in favor of the No. 3 for a little while.

Dillon led 58 to 42 percent with 7,000 votes cast.

DiBenedetto’s team, GoFas Racing, appealed to dog owners and swung the pendulum back in their favor. Spooky Snoopy led 51 to 49 percent.

Foul!

Bots! cry RCR.

Dillon tries to fight fire with fire – offering to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit if only they will turn on their hero DiBenedetto.

It’s not enough. Dillon is seemingly down for the count.

DiBenedetto appears to be cruising to a 60 – 40 percent victory with 20 minutes remaining in the poll.

Until Earnhardt steps in, that is. After all, Dillon’s paint scheme was a tribute to his father Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 1995 All-Star car.

Another 6,000 votes are cast in less than two minutes. By the time the polls close, 7,000 more roll in for a total of 24,000. Dillon wins 64 to 36 percent.

By a margin of slightly more than 6,600 votes, this was the most cast in NBC’s paint scheme pole. The second best was DiBenedetto versus Kasey Kahne’s Darlington Throwback in the first round, which received 17,329 votes.

Click here to read Dillon’s AMA on Reddit.

How Dale Earnhardt Jr. helped Jeff Gordon avoid speeding ticket

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The Earnhardt name carries a lot of weight and no one knows that more than Jeff Gordon.

The four-time Cup champion was a guest on Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s podcast on Tuesday and during a Q&A session held on YouTube, Gordon was asked about a run-in with a police officer and Earnhardt being on the Gordon’s phone at the right time.

The incident took place in 2007, very close to when Earnhardt was officially announced as joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

Here’s how Gordon remembers the story:

“Maybe it was the day before it was official, but Rick (Hendrick) told me. … So I was driving to dinner and I (thought), ‘I’m going to call him.’ I didn’t have the hands free setup in the car so I just called him. I’m driving along, on the phone, we’re talking and I’m congratulating you and welcoming you to the team. … All of a sudden I’ve got blue lights in my rear window. I’m like, ‘Uh oh, I’m getting pulled over.’ I wasn’t sure if I should stay on the phone with Dale or not. But I said, ‘No, no. Stay on here, I may need you.’

“Luckily I did, because first the guy says to me, ‘You know you’re not supposed to be on your cell phone?’ Then second, ‘You know you were speeding?’ Then I just said, and I never do this, but I said this is the moment where I got to pull this off. I said, ‘I know and I’m sorry. You don’t happen to be a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, are you?’

“He said, ‘Yeah, why? What does that have to do with anything?’ I said, ‘I’ve got him on the phone, I was congratulating him on something.’ He goes, ‘What?’ and I just handed him the phone off and you spoke to him for just two seconds and got me out of it!”

Said Earnhardt, “I was just trying to make a great impression with my new teammate.”

“He made the greatest impression on me!” said Gordon.

Watch the above video for the full Q&A session with Gordon.

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Vote for best 2018 Cup paint schemes

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It’s time to take stock of the 2018 Cup season.

That means voting in the best paint schemes of the year tournament.

Each day for the next few weeks you can vote right here on your favorite scheme that graced the race track.

Today’s matchup: Jimmie Johnson‘s Lowe’s throwback scheme from the season finale vs Kyle Larson‘s Chicagoland scheme.

Jamie McMurray joins Fox Sports as studio analyst

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Jamie McMurray will join Fox Sports as a studio analyst for its NASCAR coverage in 2019, the network announced Wednesday.

He will be a studio analyst on “NASCAR Race Hub” and “NASCAR RaceDay.”

McMurray moves into the role after 16 full-time seasons competing in the Cup Series, the last nine driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. He has seven wins, 63 top fives and 168 top-10 finishes since 2002.

McMurray’s transition to television comes after he was replaced in the No. 1 Chevrolet by Kurt Busch.

“As my driving career got closer to the end, I thought about doing TV but wasn’t sure until I did a couple of ‘NASCAR Race Hub’ shows at the end of this year,” McMurray said in a press release. “I really enjoyed it more than I expected. It’s a whole new world, but that’s what I am most excited about – the new challenge and discomfort that comes with doing something completely out of my element.”

Ganassi has offered McMurray the opportunity to compete in the 2019 Daytona 500 in a third Ganassi car.

 and on Facebook