FORT WORTH, Texas – Jimmie Johnson led a race-high 255 laps en route to winning Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway and recording his second victory in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS now is ranked first in the championship standings and has an unofficial seven-point advantage with two races remaining in NASCAR’s postseason.
The victory marks the first of the season at a 1.5-mile track for Johnson, who ranks first all-time with 15 wins at tracks this size. Johnson, who now has 66 career Cup wins and moves into a tie for first with three Texas victories, gives Hendrick Motorsports its 218th Cup win.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took runner-up honors to mark the third time this season in which the two Hendrick Motorsports teammates have achieved a one-two result. They also finished one-two in the Daytona 500 and at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in September.
Kasey Kahne joined his teammates inside the top five with a fifth-place result. Jeff Gordon, who entered Sunday’s race ranked third in the Chase, was sidelined early after making contact with the wall and returned to finish 38th.
Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Fifth.
Chase standings: 13th.
Recap: Kasey Kahne opened Sunday’s Sprint Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway from the 11th position and took advantage of an early caution period for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. He lined up ninth for the Lap 18 restart and improved two spots in two laps. The driver of the No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS worked through a tight-handling condition to move into eighth by Lap 33. When the caution flag waved a third time on Lap 73, Kahne was running sixth and stopped again for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments. The No. 5 Chevy was slightly loose, but ultimately felt good, Kahne told crew chief Kenny Francis prior to green-flag stops. The No. 5 team changed four tires, added fuel and made an additional chassis adjustment during the ensuing pit stop to alleviate that loose-handling condition. Kahne followed up that stop with another one 40 laps later because he was suspicious of his right-front tire. The No. 5 team used the opportunity to give Kahne four fresh tires, fuel and another chassis adjustment. Kahne remained inside the top 10 and worked with his team on a loose-handling condition as the sun set over the 1.5-mile Fort Worth oval. By Lap 255, Kahne was running seventh and reported that his No. 5 Chevy SS felt good. He picked up a spot during the ensuing caution period and remained sixth with 54 laps to go. Kahne improved one more position to finish fifth when the race concluded.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 38th.
Chase standings: Sixth.
Recap: Jeff Gordon started Sunday’s 500-mile event at Texas from the eighth position and only 27 points behind in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. At the drop of the green flag, he rather quickly reported to crew chief Alan Gustafson that the outside lane wasn’t the best place to gain track position. He immediately dropped to 11th, but climbed to ninth by Lap 16, when the caution flag was waved. The No. 24 team opted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, and Gordon lined up on the outside for the restart. He was shuffled through the field to 15th and began his march forward. By Lap 45, Gordon was running 10th. Tire concerns permeated Sunday’s race, and Gustafson assured Gordon after the caution flag was waved on Lap 56 that his looked good. But misfortune struck the No. 24 team on Lap 73, when Gordon made hard contact with the wall. Gordon reported to the garage, where his team addressed the damage. “This is going to hurt,” Gordon told ESPN while his team worked hard in the garage. “We’ll just get what we can out of this day and go on to Phoenix.” Gordon finished 38th.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
Race finish: First.
Chase standings: First.
Recap: Jimmie Johnson entered Sunday’s race tied in points with Matt Kenseth, but ranked second thanks to a tiebreaker for victories. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS lined up third for the 500-mile Texas event and immediately surged to take the lead by Lap 10. He had relatively few complaints about his car during the early stages of the race, and heeded the advice of crew chief Chad Knaus to run “straight and smooth.” Johnson led 129 laps by the time the fourth caution flag was waved on Lap 189 for oil on the track and retained the top spot after a stop for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to alleviate the car’s “edgy” condition. Johnson zipped past Kyle Busch on the restart and continued to pace the field. The No. 48 team appeared unflappable, and save a minor pit miscue during a green-flag stop on Lap 248. Johnson recovered and was leading when the caution flag was waved nine laps later. The No. 48 team stretched out a lead of more than three seconds as the late-race green-flag run unfolded and pitted during green-flag conditions on Lap 299 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment for a free-handling condition. Johnson held on to record his second win in the Chase.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy Gold/7-Eleven Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Second.
Chase standings: Fifth.
Recap: Sporting a specially painted No. 88 AMP Energy Gold/7-Eleven Chevrolet SS, Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up seventh at Texas Motor Speedway, site of his first career Sprint Cup victory. Earnhardt improved to fourth by Lap 69, despite reporting to crew chief Steve Letarte that the No. 88 Chevy SS was difficult to drive. Earnhardt worked through the loose-handling condition, slipping only to sixth before the caution flag was waved on Lap 57. The No. 88 team helped Earnhardt pick up three spots after a swift four-tire and fuel stop that included a chassis adjustment. As the race wore on, tires became more and more of a concern. Earnhardt told Letarte the “tires were wearing worse than Rockingham (N.C.).” Letarte agreed that two-tire stops weren’t the answer at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth oval, but planned to keep an eye on teams that opted for that strategy. The driver of the No. 88 Chevy SS reported the adjustments were helping as the track transitioned into nighttime, and he remained inside the top 10. Earnhardt was running third when the caution flag was waved on Lap 257. Letarte radioed his driver, “Your times look great compared to everyone but the (No.) 48.” Earnhardt responded, “The (No.) 48 is something special.” The No. 88 team opted for another four-tire and fuel stop before returning to the track in fifth. The two-tire strategy didn’t suit Letarte and Earnhardt, so during green-flag conditions on Lap 295, the team again took four tires and fuel. Earnhardt climbed to second, but was unable to narrow Johnson's four-second lead as the race concluded.