Apr 11, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (48) is interviewed after Johnson wins the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jimmie Johnson joined Kevin Harvick Saturday night as 2015 multi-race winners, so far, seven races into the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as winner of the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth. Meanwhile, Harvick returned to his common trend of top-two finish with his runner-up showing, his ninth top-two finish in the last 10 races, going back to the last three races of the 2014 season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third.
It was Johnson’s second win of the season and his fifth-career win at Texas Motor Speedway. It also was his second-straight win at TMS, as he won when the Sprint Cup Series most recently visited the track last fall.
"“We just kept plugging at it and I think the off-week (Easter break) was good for us to sit down and relax, reboot and come back to the track and they brought me a fast race car that was good all weekend,” Johnson said."
Johnson led a race-high 128 laps of the 334-lap race, taking the lead for the final time with 14 laps to go and leaving Harvick and Earnhardt to battle for second. Harvick and Earnhardt traded the second position back and forth several times before Harvick was able to take the spot for good in the closing laps, after scraping the wall.
"“We weren’t as good as the 48 (Johnson) or the 4 (Harvick) early in the race, but we definitely improved it and Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the Nationwide team did a great job in getting it better,” Earnhardt said. “We have had that speed all year and it’s good to get a good finish in the bank because these last few weeks have been pretty rough, but we know what we are capable of.”"
Harvick, Johnson and others restarted the race outside the top-10 after several drivers stayed out to for track position during a caution on lap 260. As Joey Logano led the way, Harvick got back up to third by lap 279 and then got by Kasey Kahne for second on lap 282.
"“I thought we were in big trouble once we restarted,” Johnson said. “The No. 4 (Harvick) went up through there and got to the lead. I just couldn’t go anywhere. I got so tight. We weren’t sure if it was a bad set of tires. We felt like we had a set that didn’t match up with us earlier in the race. So, we made no adjustments. We went out the next restart and the car was a little better, but made an adjustment. Then that last pit stop we made the right adjustment. I caught the No. 4 racing with the No. 1 (McMurray). I was able to get by both of those guys and check out. It was an exciting race. I hope the fans really enjoyed that one.”"
When the yellow flag waved again, Harvick got off pit road to restart with the lead, and Johnson restarted sixth. When the race restarted, Johnson quickly got back up to third. Harvick, Johnson, and also Earnhardt wound up behind several drivers who took two tires during the eighth and final caution of the race with 25 laps remaining, but Harvick got up to second and Johnson to third with 18 laps remaining. A few laps later Johnson took the lead, with Harvick and Earnhardt moved into the second and third spots.
"“I just got behind there and Jimmie was fast for those last couple laps and got around us,” Harvick said. “I got loose coming off four and I got in the wall and just was trying to hang on to where I needed to be. I just have to thank everybody on my Budweiser/Jimmy John’s team for all that they have done and we just raced as hard as we could and it was a lot of fun.”"
Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch dominated the race early, combining to lead all laps before a green-flag cycle of stops on laps 80 and 81. Harvick led the first 34 laps after taking the top spot from pole sitter Busch at the start of the race. Busch retook the lead from Harvick by getting off pit road first during a lap 32 caution.
Brad Keselowski became the first non-SHR driver to lead the race after staying out during the laps 80-81 pit cycle, having stayed out after pitting for a vibration on lap 67. Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer were among other drivers who made off-sequence stops early in the race for vibrations. Loose wheelse plagued several drivers throughout the race.
Johnson took the lead for the first time on lap 109 and maintain position until Harvick retook the top spot on lap 125. They swapped the lead again just before another cycle of green-flag stops that got underway around lap 156. After the cycle, Johnson was back up front.
After another green-flag cycle around lap 219, Kasey Kahne was the race leader, staying out during the cycle of stops after an unscheduled stop on lap 199. Johnson retook the lead just before the fourth caution of the race on lap 228.
Team Penske teammates Logano and Keselowski finished fourth and fifth. Finishing sixth through 10th were Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Kahne, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards.