Texas Motor Speedway called the race weekend a “wild asphalt circus” and Sunday’s race lived up to the hype. Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski battled down to the last lap in an instant classic for the 2012 Sprint Cup championship.
With three races remaining in the Chase it was coming down to two drivers, Johnson and Keselowski, with Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne still in contention. Sunday’s race was a perfect example of why Keselowski and Johnson are the two run away drivers battling down to the wire at Homestead.
Kasey Kahne went into Texas with optimism of having a good finish and staying in contention for the championship but that changed in the closing laps. Kahne had a run in with Jeff Gordon that led to a flat left rear tire and a car bouncing off the wall. Kahne eventually cross the finish line in 25th place. He is 58 points behind the points leader and finds himself just going for wins in the last two races of the season.
Clint Bowyer managed to finish sixth Sunday but finds himself 37 points behind Johnson in the standings. Barring major issues from Johnson and Keselowski, Bowyer is out of the championship hunt.
Then there were two.
Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski had an instant classic battle on Sunday. They bumped, they banged and had fighting words. On a restart with 9 to go Keselowski and Johnson found themselves battling for the win. Keselowski just took two fresh tires and Johnson had four fresh tires. Common sense says Johnson would take the win. He did but not without a fight.
Keselowski and Johnson ran neck and neck with eight to go. Keselowski kept his ground which included a run in with Johnson on the front stretch. Keselowski took the lead and was running away with the victory. Johnson got his second chance to pass Keselowski with five to go though.
Mark Martin brought out the final caution after a spin on the front stretch. It set up the first attempt at a green-white-cherckered and round two between Keselowski and Johnson.
On the final restart Keselowski and Johnson kept even until Johnson took the lead off turn two. Johnson didn’t look back at that point and took the win. Brad Keselowski would finish second in a battle among the two at the top of the sport.
Johnson left Texas with a seven point lead over Keselowski and two races remaining. The Chase has setup to be a hard fought battle down to the wire and both drivers know it.
Johnson said after the win, “The gloves are off and now it’s bear knuckle fighting.”
But Keselowski knows his team is not to be taken for granted and won’t lay down to the five time champion. “If we keep racing like this we won’t be beat.”
Two drivers and two races stand between someone with the illusive trophy and championship in their hands. For the second year in a row, the Chase for the Sprint Cup has shaped up to be another close battle between two drivers. If last’s years Chase is indicative of what we will see in the final two races then we are in for another classic points battle.
Pull those belts tight because it’s going to be a battle to the end.