Jimmie Johnson passed Brad Keselowski with three laps remaining Sunday to win the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
The victory by Johnson, who was eliminated from NASCAR’s Chase after the first round, means Jeff Gordon remains the only driver who has clinched a spot in the playoffs’ championship round Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Each of the seven other Chase drivers, including Keselowski, needs a victory next week in Phoenix to clinch a spot in the four-driver final round.
Chase drivers Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards finished third through fifth. Kyle Busch is second in the points, trailing Gordon by two. Harvick is third, three behind.
Keselowski, who started the race on the pole, had the dominant car for most of the day, leading 312 of 334 laps.
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Joey Logano, who had won three consecutive races in the second round, blew a tire on the ninth lap and finished 40th, 66 laps behind the leaders. That dropped Logano to eighth place, 63 points behind Martin Truex Jr., the fourth-place driver, meaning he’s mathematically eliminated from advancing to the championship round on points. He must win at Phoenix to qualify.
After staying on his bumper for several laps, Johnson passed Keselowski on the backstretch with three laps remaining. Keselowski had a comfortable lead until a caution came out on Lap 310 for debris on the track.
How the NASCAR Chase drivers fared:
1. Jeff Gordon (4,082 points):* Was never really a factor Sunday, finishing ninth, but didn’t need to be since he’s already got a guaranteed spot in the championship round.
2. Kyle Busch (two behind): Finished fourth after starting third, his second consecutive top-five finish in the third round. A similar performance in Phoenix – even without a victory – likely sends him to the final round.
3. Kevin Harvick (three behind): Battled tire problems and a loose gear shift for much of the race, driving with one hand on the steering wheel. But he ended up third. Now it’s on to Phoenix, where he’s been dominant.
4. Martin Truex Jr. (six behind): Solid seventh-place finish and he even led one lap.
5. Carl Edwards (13 behind): Finished fifth, but was unable to make up any ground in the points standings.
6. Brad Keselowski (25 behind): Was three laps away from advancing into the championship round, but he finished second after being passed late by Jimmie Johnson.
7. Kurt Busch (34 behind): In the must-win group for Phoenix after finishing eighth Sunday. Too much ground to make up otherwise.
8. Joey Logano (69 behind): Fell out of contention on Lap 9 when his left rear tire blew. Finished 40th, 66 laps down, and his once bright title hopes have dimmed substantially. It’s win-or-out for him at Phoenix.
*--has clinched a spot in championship round with victory at Martinsville (Va.).
▪ After all the wrecking and mayhem that seemed to be part of the previous three Chase races, it was refreshing to see Johnson cleanly pass Keselowski for the win.
▪ It was an utterly forgettable day for Tony Stewart. He started from the rear of the field after missing driver introductions, then spun coming out of Turn 4 and finished 42nd.
▪ Erik Jones, substituting for the suspended Matt Kenseth in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 22 Toyota, finished 12th. Jones also won Friday’s Truck race and was fourth in Saturday’s Xfinity race.
They said it
“We have just been focused on winning races and helping our teammates advance through the rounds.” – Johnson, who was eliminated from the Chase after the first round.
“I’m sure we could have done something different. I don’t know if I could have, but we could have.” – Keselowski, on whether he could have tried something different to hold off Johnson.
“We let Jimmie light the fuse, put on his cape and go after it.” – Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus.
Quicken Loans 500
Where: Phoenix International Raceway
When: 2:30 p.m., Sunday