He may have been eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup after the first round, but that didn’t prevent Jimmie Johnson from winning Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
It was Johnson’s third straight win at Texas, his fifth in the last seven starts there, and his sixth career victory at the 1.5-mile high-speed racetrack.
It was also Johnson’s 75th career Sprint Cup win.
“Yeah, baby, we’re back,” Johnson said on his team radio after crossing the finish line, and breaking a 20-race winless streak.
Johnson passed pole-sitter Brad Keselowski, who led 312 of the race’s 334 laps, with four laps remaining to capture his fifth win of the season.
How Johnson won: The six-time champion stalked Keselowski for the last 15 laps. Johnson took to the high line several times to close the gap and eventually was able to edge past Keselowski on the low side with four laps to go. Johnson led a total of just six laps in the race, including the most important one.
Who else had a good race: Despite falling short and finishing second, Keselowski had nothing to be ashamed of, leading all but 22 laps in the race. However, Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano are both in must-win situations next week at Phoenix to reach the final round at Miami in two weeks. Will both be able to make it? … Martin Truex Jr. had a great car all day, consistently in the top five. He finished eighth, but could have finished higher had it not been for a late power steering failure. … Even though he didn’t have to run hard, that’s exactly what Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon did, finishing ninth. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. twice had tire issues, as well as slamming into the outside wall, but was able to keep things together to finish a very respectable sixth-place. … Austin Dillon had one of his better runs of the season, finishing 11th.
Who had a bad race: Joey Logano had a left rear tire explode on him just 10 laps into the race. He returned to the track on Lap 77, 65 laps down, after repairing extensive damage caused by debris from the explosion. Logano finished 40th. … Denny Hamlin (finished 38th) suffered a fuel pressure issue that prompted him to also take his car to the garage for repairs after just 30 laps. … Ryan Blaney (finished 43rd) dropped out of the race after 26 laps after his car suffered damage following a tire blowout. Tony Stewart (finished 42nd) also made an early exit on Lap 52 after his car suffered extensive damage after a spin into the infield.
Notable: The Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards all had to replace their front spoilers after the failed pre-race inspection. Team owner Joe Gibbs does not expect penalties resulting from the issue. … Speaking of JGR, 19-year-old phenom Erik Jones replaced the suspended Matt Kenseth. Jones performed admirably, finishing 12th in his second career Sprint Cup start.
Quote of the day: “We need to win. We’re not out of it. This team’s not quitting yet. We’re going to go to Phoenix and try to win that one.” – Joey Logano, after his car suffered extensive damage from debris when a tire exploded on Lap 10. Logano is in a must-win situation at Phoenix if he hopes to reach the championship round at Miami in two weeks.
Up next: The penultimate race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup is next Sunday, Nov. 15, in the Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.