FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jimmie Johnson tightened his grip on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, outhustling point-runnerup Brad Keselowski on a green-white-checkered finish to win the eighth annual AAA Texas 500.
A flurry of late-race pit stops set up the final three-lap dash, with Johnson taking the lead on the outside through Turns 1 and 2 of a race originally scheduled for 334 laps.
Kyle Busch, who is not among the 12 drivers competing in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, finished third and was followed by Chaser Matt Kenseth and three-time and reigning series champion Tony Stewart.
Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Impala, stretched his overall lead from two to seven points heading into Round 9 of the 10-race playoffs next Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
Keselowski, who had taken only right-side tires during his last pit stop on Lap 312, banged fenders with Johnson exiting Turn 4 on Lap 328 on a restart following the race's eighth caution. Their duel was interrupted on Lap 331, when Mark Martin's crash on the frontstretch brought out the ninth caution and set up the dramatic finish.
Pole-sitter Johnson, a five-time Cup champion, dominated the early going, leading 164 laps before Busch and Keselowski took turns at the point.
Notes: Pre-race festivities as part of the track's new "No Limits Wild Asphalt Circus" included the obligatory skydiver, who will not be added to Kevin Harvick's Christmas card list. A free-hanging weight on the bottom of the diver's large Texas flag struck the left-side door panel of Harvick's No. 29 Rheem/Budweiser Chevrolet Impala as it sat on pit road. The diver, a member of the RE/MAX Skydiving Team, flew over the car's hood before landing on the frontstretch infield grass. But the weight left a dent in the white "9" on the car's left side. Nonetheless, the jumper later went over to the car and posed in front of the dent. The team-owner and NASCAR officials were amused. NASCAR gave crew chief Gil Martin permission to roll the Richard Childress Racing entry back to the garage for a quick repair. The car was then rolled back to its original starting spot (23rd) on the grid. Harvick won the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide Series race Saturday night. ... Despite a surface described as "slick" by most drivers during practice, the first 100 laps of Sunday's race were run caution-free. The Samsung Mobile 500 contested here on April 14 finished with 234 caution-free laps, with the combined total of 334 laps adding up to one full Cup race. The streak ended with a caution for debris in Turn 2 on lap 101, and was followed by a second flag for A.J. Allmendinger's crash exiting Turn 4 on Lap 110. ... Marcos Ambrose finished 32nd in the debut of Drew Blickensderfer as crew chief of the No. 9 Mac Tools Ford Fusion. Blickensderfer joined Richard Petty Motorsport on Tuesday following an amicable parting from Richard Childress Racing, where he was paired with Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy. Blickensderfer replaced Mike Ford, who took over for Brad Parrott seven races ago.