If I were a betting person, I’m going to speculate that Mark Martin will not be on Brad Keselowski’s Christmas Card list this year. When we get into the “Silly Season“, and reminisce the events of the 2012 Sprint Cup season, there is one event that will stand out as a turning point where the Championship was decided. When Mark Martin wrecked on the front stretch at Lap 329, Jimmie Johnson won his sixth Sprint Cup title.
After dominating the lion’s share of the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon, The Lowes Chevrolet made one critical mistake. The restart on lap 327, after a caution brought out by a wreck involving Hendrick drivers Jeff Gordon, and Kasey Kahne, with Rousch driver Greg Biffle, Johnson was a tad late at the green flag, and let the Miller Lite Dodge gain the advantage going into turn one.
They ran door to door, almost taking each other out, before Brad Keselowski gained the advantage, and pulled out to an eight car lead. All he needed to do was hang on to the lead for two laps, which he was doing until Mark wrecked himself. On the subsequent restart, The Lowes Chevrolet would not make a second mistake on the restart.
Johnson finished .808 seconds ahead of Keselowski, the race runner-up, and increased his lead in the standings to from two points to seven. The victory was Johnson’s fifth of the season, his second at Texas and the 60th of his career. For the second straight week, Johnson won a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race from the pole.
In a post race interview, Jimmie Johnson acknowledged he was in a dogfight for the championship, and that Keselowski was not going to go away quietly.
“The way we raced this afternoon, this evening — that’s what’s different,” Johnson said. “That’s the first time that we’ve really engaged at that level and raced each other that hard.
“To his credit, he did a nice job of getting right to the edge, and we brought home race cars. We weren’t wadded up looking like a bunch of fools over there, handing the 5 (Kasey Kahne) and the 15 (Bowyer) a big gift.”
Brad Keselowski had this to say. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to execute every restart, and Jimmie did a great job on the last one,” Keselowski said. “I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race, and it didn’t seem right to wreck him.
“Ran him hard, and we’re going to keep him honest. I know if we keep running like this that we won’t be beat.”
The Lowes Chevrolet team will roll into Phoenix next week with a seven point lead over The Miller Lite Dodge, with both teams clearing third place Clint Bowyer who is 36 points back. Unless the two end up taking each other out, this is definitely a two horse race now.
Bowyer kept his hopes alive with a sixth place finish, but outside hopeful Kasey Kahne took himself completely out of the picture after finishing 25th. Other Chasers who had good runs on Sunday were Matt Kenseth, and Tony Stewart who finished 4th and 5th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home in seventh place.
Kyle Busch continues to run very well in the Chase, and it’s too bad he wasn’t invited to the party. Kyle ran strong in Texas, and finished third. I can almost assure you, had he been a part of the chase, and leading 80 laps, he would not have gotten out of the way at the end of the race and handed the spotlight over to Jimmie and Brad.
Jimmie Johnson led a race high 168 laps, Kyle led 80 laps, and Brad 75 laps. Until the last nine laps, the race was pretty much of a snoozer, which is typical of these 1.5 mile D-oval race tracks, with three racing grooves. It was a hectic afternoon in the Man Cave, as the Broncos took on the Bengals in what was a very exciting Football game during the same time slot, so there were a lot off channel checking happening during ESPN’s side by side advertisements.