Jeff Gordon was growing weary of finishing second and third lately. It was inevitable he would try to return to the winner's circle.
Despite a late crash, he proved to be the fastest of three potent Hendrick cars this afternoon in the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, although Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were able to lead the field and maintain top positions throughout.
Jimmie had a moment when he thought a tire had gone down early in the race. As the No. 48 slowed on the high side, cars were forced to slow up behind him.
Once he got back to a new set of four tires, Johnson assumed the familiar position of running in the top three.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked relaxed and confident with his hat on backwards and a big smile during qualifying.
It was evident his crew chief Lance McGrew had given him a good car. Dale Jr. proved it was good by taking it to the lead and maintaining that position for more than 50 laps during the race.
Dale Jr. looked so much like the driver Junior Nation has been longing to see. He and McGrew worked well together with feedback and adjustments to the Amp Energy No. 88.
However, his teammates Gordon and Johnson passed him and battled one another for first position. Gordon did not want to be denied another win and drove with aggression.
With 100 laps to go Juan Pablo Montoya brushed the wall and brought out the caution flag. Dale Jr. lost several positions after telling McGrew "he was wrecking all around the track."
The extended pit stop dropped him back to sixth position with 97 to go. Tony Stewart took the lead with two tires over Gordon and Johnson.
Mark Martin could not have been happy with his car. He stayed mid-pack most of the race.
With just 94 to go, Jeff Gordon refused to let Johnson pass and the cars made significant contact with Jimmie placing a perfect doughnut on the right side door of the No. 24. Left fender damage slowed the No. 48 when it appeared it was rubbing on the tire.
At the 78 lap mark Gordon regained the lead over Tony Stewart with the four new tires he had taken on the last pit stop.
Johnson was annoyed with the driver of the No. 24 car, but Gordon was unfazed by Jimmie's comments.
Johnson and Gordon have had 10 one-two finishes with Jeff winning six and Jimmie four.
A flat left front tire forced Johnson onto pit road with 62 circuits remaining. He was just outside his pit window for the final stop.
After what appeared to be final pit stops for Gordon and Earnhardt, Johnson led the field. Gordon quickly regained the lead showing he would not be denied a win.
Gordon's time with members of the Special Forces prior to the race put him in fighting mode. He piloted the flawless rocket on a banzai charge to the front time after time.
With 19 laps remaining Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead after a caution caused by a detonated engine on David Reutimann's No. 00.
When the green flag dropped again, the cars went four-wide. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards became entangled with Jeff Gordon. The driver of the No. 24 had led 124 laps, but his day came to a sudden dramatic end.
The red flag brought the field to a halt. The cars resumed racing with 12 laps to go. In a surprise move Denny Hamlin took the lead with Kyle Busch second and Earnhardt Jr. in third place.
In typical soap opera fashion the twists and turns were dramatic. The class of the field was in the garage and an injured driver led the field. Johnson was closing hard, but finished second followed by Kyle Busch. At the end Mark Martin found himself in sixth position and Dale Jr. finished eighth.