Jimmie Johnson at Texas on Sunday once again proved that he knows the formula for winning what would be his sixth Sprint Cup title. He entered the race tied with Matt Kenseth in points, but trailed in the first tiebreaker as Kenseth had posted two more wins on the season. All of that changed when the checkered flag waved as Johnson won his sixth race of the season, which is still one less than Kenseth, but he now sits all alone in the point standings with a seven-point lead.
Johnson started the race knowing that he had to beat Kenseth regardless of where he finished, but he was able to post one of his most dominating races of the season as he led the most laps on his way to victory lane and in the process was able to pick up the maximum points available to a driver in a race. He racked up the 43 points for the win, the three bonus points for the win, one bonus point for leading at least one lap and another point for leading the most laps. That gave him a total of 48 points on the day while Kenseth’s fourth place finish and one bonus point for leading a lap gave him a total of 41 points.
The seven-point lead by Johnson with only two races remaining at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami is the second-closest title race in the history of the sport. Only Carl Edwards’s three-point lead over Tony Stewart in 2011 was closer. That lead remained with only one race remaining, but Stewart was able to tie Edwards in the points after the last race and was crowned the winner because he held the first tiebreaker. Seven points is not a safe lead by any means, and all we have to do is look at last year’s Chase when Johnson had a sevenpoint lead over Brad Kieslowski. That turned around quickly as Keselowski was able to overcome the point differential over the next two races and go on and take his first-ever championship.
The two-man race between Johnson and Kenseth was actually starting to take on the look of a three man battle for the title after Jeff Gordon had put himself in contention with his win last week at Martinsville. Gordon entered Texas 27 points behind the leaders in third, but any hope of cutting that deficit ended when he blew a left front tire on lap 74 and crashed into the outside wall.
His Chevrolet was damaged enough to have to go back to the garage area where it took close to an hour to get him back on the track. He finished in 38th and fell three spots in the standings to sixth, but he now finds himself 69 points from the top spot
TRACK SMACK: The ninth race of the 10-race Chase schedule will be in Phoenix and the one-mile flat track has a knack of narrowing the field heading into the final race of the season. Last year, Jimmie Johnson entered the event with a seven-point lead in the standings only to see his championship dream fade when he went broadside into the outside wall. He is, however, a four-time Phoenix winner and he leads all drivers with 24 career Chase victories, making him a strong threat to add to his point lead this weekend.
MARTIN TRUEX Jr. and Furniture Row Racing made it official over the weekend at Texas that the former Michael Waltrip Racing driver will replace Kurt Busch next season. Truex Jr. has been rumored to replace Busch since NAPA announced that it would not return to MWR as a sponsor next season, thus forcing Truex Jr. to begin shopping his talents around the garage area. Furniture Row acknowledged immediately after Truex Jr. was given permission to look for another ride that it was interested in signing him to a deal. Furniture Row put Busch in the Chase this season and is considered one of the up-andcoming teams in the sport. It has also hired Truex Jr.’s pit crew for the 2014 season and will continue its alliance with Richard Childress Racing that gave the one-car team access to all that it was doing at the racetrack with its three teams. Another possible change for next year could be that NAPA may do some kind of sponsorship deal with Truex Jr. The two have been together four years and have built a strong relationship on the track and in representing the company.
Event: AdvoCare 500
Track: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval, 110of banking in turn 1 & 2, 90 in turns 3 & 4)
Date: Nov. 10, 3 p.m.
Defending Champion: Kevin Harvick