A co-leader for the Chase lead entering Sunday, Jimmie Johnson took a firm grasp on the campaign for his sixth Sprint Cup championship with a victory at NASCAR's AAA Texas 500.
In the win, Johnson distanced himself from Matt Kenseth, who stayed on his heels throughout the race and finished in fourth. NASCAR summed up the finish:
Johnson leads Kenseth by seven points, and the heat is certainly on with two races left:
With his sixth win of the season, Johnson is in control and will decide his own fate down the stretch.
|2||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.|
|14||Martin Truex, Jr.|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.|
|20||Juan Pablo Montoya|
|5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2280||-62|
Starting in third place, Johnson hung around the front of the pack all race long, but he trailed pole-sitter Carl Edwards—who led 38 laps—in the early goings.
The showdown between Johnson and Matt Kenseth—the co-leaders in the Chase standings—was hyped ad nauseam heading into Sunday and unfolded on the Texas track.
Kenseth didn't enjoy the same sort of success as Johnson early. He was penalized for pit-road speeding just about midway through the race, as ESPN's Ryan McGee noted:
Pit road speeding by Kenseth. Wow. #NASCAR— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) November 3, 2013
Edwards then ran into some trouble with a busted engine and found his way to the garage. He would not return—the latest of many disappointing finishes for Edwards in the Chase.
The pit from Edwards' engine issues served as a springboard for Kenseth. ESPN NASCAR summed up how it allowed him into 12th, and he would soon make a further push inside the top 10:
Caution for oil on the backstretch as Edwards pits; this is a break for Kenseth, who is up to 12th.— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) November 3, 2013
The penalty dropped Kenseth down as far as 18th, but he gained a head of steam and got right back into the thick of things. Not long after, he was threatening inside the first five slots.
But it was Johnson who controlled down the stretch, even through his pit stop that dropped him out of the leading spot for a few laps before getting right back to his rightful spot.
The next and final time he pitted, he was firmly in the lead:
From start to finish, Sunday was one of Johnson's most dominant performances in recent memory. Leading 255 laps on the afternoon, it's hard to remember a more impressive day from any driver.
With the event at Texas Motor Speedway determining who would get a leg up in the final two races, Johnson showed his clutch gene in a major way.
Kenseth competed about as hard as he possibly could have on Sunday, but even his best was no match for Johnson's car, which was much quicker than the rest of the field in Fort Worth.
Two races are left, and Kenseth is still very alive in the Chase. Whatever happens, the postseason finale is sure to be an exciting one.