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article imageNASCAR: Johnson spoils party for Keselowski in Texas

By John Duarte     Nov 9, 2015 in Sports
Fort Worth - Six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was eliminated from challenging for his seventh title a few weeks ago, but that doesn't mean he can't spoil the party for drivers contending for NASCAR's top-level championship.
And that is exactly what happened on Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson passed Brad Keselowski with just over four laps remaining in the AAA Texas 500 and won the race, denying Keselowski a chance to clinch a place in the final four who will battle for the Sprint Cup in Florida in two weeks.
Though the victory is a small bit of gratification, Johnson said it was good for the team as a whole, both the pit crew and the ones at the race shop in North Carolina.
“Wished we were in the Chase, still fighting for the championship. But getting a win here does a lot for everybody at Hendrick Motorsports,” said Johnson after his fifth win of the season and sixth all time at the Texas racetrack. “We definitely have a very excited 600-plus employees back in Charlotte.”
The race winner said he just took advantage of the opportunity as it presented itself in the race's closing laps. Johnson said he was continuously looking for the racing line that would get him around Keselowski,
“I could see that he was really tight and that was the first I had seen him that vulnerable all day,” Johnson said. “He saw me coming on the top and protected it. I just kept trying to put pressure on him, hoping for a mistake.”
Keselowski said that Johnson was clearly faster during the final laps, when Johnson's car seemed to be carrying “so much speed.” .
“As I sit right now, and maybe I'll change my mind, I don't know what I would have done differently, or could have done differently,” said Keselowski. When asked if he felt the win get away, Keselowski said, “I'm not sure exactly how to feel at the moment.”
He did put the rest of the drivers still battling in the Chase for the Sprint Cup on notice.
“As strong as we ran today, if we carry that over to Homestead, good Lord, watch out.” He added that the task ahead of him is a large one. “We know we need two to win the championship. The good news is we have that opportunity. That's the way I look at it.”
Placing third in the race was Kevin Harvick. It was by no means an easy day for the reigning Sprint Cup champion. Twice he had to make unscheduled pit stops to replace punctured tires and was forced to drive with on hand for an extended time, while keeping the other hand on the shift lever to keep the car from slipping out of gear. Listing to Harvick after the race, it would appear he was unfazed by his problems.
“We just kept gouging away and everything worked out in the end,” he said.
The shootout for the championship begins next weekend for seven drivers. With Jeff Gordon already qualified for the title run at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, all will be decided as to which of the other seven contenders will advance.
Kyle Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. sit in the most comfortable position in the drivers standings. They occupy second through fourth places with three spots remaining to be filled for the Championship Round, to be run Nov. 22. It's a precarious hold for Carl Edwards, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano. The current points indicate one of those four will need a win automatically gain a berth in the title race in Florida. The other three will have to hope for the best. Perhaps looking forward to the final event in Eliminator Round the most is Harvick who has won the last four races, five of the last six, and seven times in total at Phoenix International Raceway.
The Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, on Nov. 15 in Arizona, will decide which three drivers will join Gordon in Florida to duel for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.
More about Nascar, chase for the Sprint cup, Sprint cup series, Jimmie Johnson, texas motor speedway
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