Shelbyville Daily Union
---- — Texas is known for “everything being bigger”…well bigger meant the margin of victory for Jimmie Johnson as he dominated, leading 255 of the 334 laps on Sunday, winning by four seconds.
Johnson had the best car all day, and while some hoped for a late race caution to bunch the field, it never happened. If it did, it most likely would not have mattered either.
For Johnson it was his 66th victory and 24th career Chase win.
Matt Kenseth was hit with a pit road speeding penalty that dropped him from second to 16th place on a restart mid-race at lap 173. Kenseth would rebound to finish fourth on the day.
Dale Earnhardt would finish second, followed by Joey Logano, with Kasey Kahne finishing in fifth.
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon entered the day with a chance for another title after his win a week earlier at Martinsville moved him up to a season-high third in points.
But on lap 74, the front left tire on the No. 24 Chevrolet blew, sending Gordon high and hard into the wall between the first and second turns. His team took a long time to make repairs and he was able to return to the race late, finishing 38th and 187 laps off the pace.
Johnson now leads Kenseth by seven points with two races remaining. Sound familiar? It is…Johnson was leading by seven points at this time last year over Brad Keselowski, but a crash at Phoenix ended his run towards his sixth championship.
For now…Johnson is cautiously optimistic.
***Phoenix Preview ***
Just like last year, Johnson enters as a heavy favorite to win the title…last year, a tire issue put him in the outside wall and a 32nd finish, allowing Keselowski to take home his first title. What people forget is that Johnson also struggled at Homestead and had issues in the final race.
Kenseth will have to run a perfect race or hope Johnson has issues to give himself a chance next week in the final race.
Kevin Harvick is a distance third, but waiting to pounce if the opportunity arises. He is not called “the closer” for no reason. Harvick won last years race at Phoenix.
I am going for a repeat of Harvick winning, but Johnson finishes in the top three. A couple dark horses could be Danica Patrick and Jeff Burton, both who have run well in the past here. I think both could post top 15 finishes.
Two races to go, seven points apart…the story is the same, the characters are slightly different, but it should produce another great finish for NASCAR.