FORT WORTH, Texas – Brad Keselowski led over 90 percent of the laps Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. But he couldn't shake a familiar foe at the end.
Jimmie Johnson passed Keselowski with four laps to go to win his fourth straight fall race at Texas and become the third driver to win both Texas races in the same season.
Johnson, who is out of the Chase, ran up front for most of the day. His car was fast. But it was super fast over the last run of the race. For the first time all day, Keselowski had a driver capable of giving him an extended challenge for the lead.
“The 48 car had mega turn that last run and I couldn’t keep the turn and it kept pushing real bad," Keselowski said. "I did everything I could to hold him off but he was way faster that last run."
As Johnson would go high, Keselowski would cover him. As Johnson would go low, Keselowski would cover that. The two danced for nearly 10 laps before the raw speed in Johnson's car through the corners was simply too much for Keselowski to hold off.
“I just kept pressure on him," Johnson said. "I could see that he was really tight and that was the first I had seen him that vulnerable all day. I just kept the pressure on him, kept searching for line. He saw me coming on the top and protected it
"I just kept trying to put pressure on him hoping for a mistake. He got real loose off of Turn 2 and I had a big run down the backstretch and drove it in really far into Turn 3 hoping to hear clear. Once I did I knew I was home free.”
A certain suspended driver noticed the way Johnson raced Keselowski too and fired off this tweet.
— Matt Kenseth (@mattkenseth) November 8, 2015
With the win, Johnson might also have ruined Keselowski's title hopes in the process. Not only was Keselowski racing for the win, he was racing for a guaranteed spot to race for the title at Homestead. Thanks to a poor finish at Martinsville last week as a result of a crash, Keselowski is 23 points back of Kyle Busch even after finishing second. It's a points deficit of more than 20 positions.
Keselowski was trying to successfully outrun Johnson for the first time at Texas too. In 2012, Keselowski and Johnson famously raced in turns 1 and 2 after a restart in the late laps. Johnson prevailed then.
A year ago Johnson and Keselowski were the main characters in the late-race fight for the lead. But that battle is overshadowed given the contact Keselowski had with Jeff Gordon (and the subsequent post-race fight).
This year, it looked like Keselowski had Johnson covered. He started on the pole and his car was a rocketship in clean air. The race's second-biggest lap leader was third-place finishing Kevin Harvick. He led 11 laps.
But instead, Johnson swooped in from out of the Chase to take the victory. Johnson was eliminated in the second round of the Chase last season and led 191 laps on his way to victory lane in Texas.
He was out of the Chase in the first round in 2015 after a part failure at Dover.
“Those emotions were weeks ago now, so we have just been focused on winning races and help our teammates advance through the rounds," Johnson said. "We got [Gordon] through last week and now it’s time to go out here and not have to worry about teammates and just go for a win and we got it. Just very rewarding for the team, this No. 48 team worked all year to be in championship contention ... It’s tough to work so hard all year long and not have a shot at the championship. This is kind of a silver lining in that.”
Here are the Chase standing with one more race remaining in the third round:
1. Jeff Gordon WIN
2. Kyle Busch 4,080
3. Kevin Harvick 4,079
4. Martin Truex Jr. 4,076
5. Carl Edwards 4,070
6. Brad Keselowski 4,057
7. Kurt Busch 4,048
8. Joey Logano 4,013
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