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Wild day in Texas ends with Hamlin on top

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

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All that happened at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday was Kyle Busch went berserk, Jeff Gordon took a swing at Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson's pit crew got fired (for the day anyway) and Denny Hamlin took control of the Chase by winning his eighth race of the season.

Where to start?

Busch is a good place, considering the hilarity of it all. He was having a solid day before a spin sent him to pit road where his crew tried to make quick repairs so Busch wouldn't go a lap down. Everything went according to plan, that is until NASCAR came over the radio to tell Busch that he'd sped on pit road.

Busch didn't agree with the call and unloaded over his radio, ripping NASCAR, screaming that he's the only driver who will challenge them and if they don't like it, tough. Then, as he sat on pit road serving his one-lap penalty, he offered a one-finger salute to the NASCAR official standing in front of his car.

That earned him another two-lap penalty, which sent Busch over the rails.

"That's freedom of speech!" he screamed over his radio, declaring it his right as an American citizen.

But as anyone who's been in this sport long enough knows, NASCAR isn't a democracy, and if you don't agree with them, go do something else, because they always win. That's the message crew chief Dave Rogers tried to get across to Busch, who at first refused to come back down pit road to serve the penalty.

Afterwards, J.D. Gibbs was asked if the fiery Busch was wearing out his welcome at Joe Gibbs Racing.

"I think for him around that race car when things don't go well, I think there's a real frustration there," Gibbs said. "I think that's just something that he's going to have to continue to work on, and I think he acknowledges that, he admits that, but right when it happens it's hard for him to control that.

"I think that's just an area that in general and in life he's going to have to address and I think he knows that, and that's nothing new. We've just got to make sure it happens sooner rather than later."

Said Busch: "I'm sorry I lost my cool to everybody on this team, to everybody at NASCAR and all of my guys that support me."

Busch's seemed like a tough act to follow until midway through the race when Gordon and Burton got together. Burton clipped Gordon's bumper, slamming him nose-first into the wall.

After getting out of his car, Gordon marched right up to Burton and, without hesitation, took a swing. NASCAR officials stepped in to quell the potential fight, then scurried the two into the same ambulance to shuttle them off the track.

Burton took full responsibility for the incident, but Gordon, who said he has lost respect for Burton, wasn't buying it.

"He just flat out wrecked us," Gordon said. "I'm lucky I had a long enough walk to think about what I wanted to say and do because if I hadn't have had that long a walk, I would have done something I regretted."

With Gordon out of the race, that conveniently left his pit crew with nothing to do. And since Jimmie Johnson's crew had been awful, crew chief Chad Knaus decided to call Gordon's in for relief.

It helped, but not enough, as Johnson struggled to keep pace with the leaders both on pit road and on the track.

"I just watched the World Series, and when a pitcher is not doing his job they make a change and get someone in who can," said Johnson, who finished ninth. "We know our guys are capable of doing it. We know it's possible. We just had some things going on today that we couldn't rebound from, and it really put us in a bad position on the race track and it kind of led to the bad result today."

While Johnson was struggling, Hamlin was charging through the field. He wasn't a threat early, but he was late, taking the lead with just 29 laps to go. From there, he fended off a late charge from Matt Kenseth, cruising home with his career-best eighth win of the season.

Now, with two races to go, Hamlin leads Johnson by 33 points and Kevin Harvick (who finished a respectable sixth) by 59 points.

In each of Johnson's four title runs he held the points lead at this point in the 10-race Chase.

"I'm going to race Phoenix [next weekend] as if I'm 33 behind to be honest with you," Hamlin said. "I'm not going to be conservative having the lead. I'm going to want to stretch that out before we get to [the finale at] Homestead. So that's pretty much my mindset."

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