Fort Worth, TX – Jimmie Johnson moved closer to claiming his sixth Sprint Cup Series championship by winning Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and increasing his points lead to seven over Brad Keselowski.
Johnson, the pole sitter, grabbed the lead from Keselowski with less than two laps remaining and then held off Keselowski at the finish by 0.8 seconds for his second consecutive win. He led the most laps with 168, which allowed him to collect a total of five bonus points.
Last week, Johnson scored the victory at Martinsville Speedway after starting on the pole and leading the most laps, which earned him five bonus points as well. He entered the 500-mile race at Texas with a two-point advantage over Keselowski.
Just two races remain in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship -- Phoenix (Nov. 11) and Homestead (Nov. 18).
"It was an awesome race," Johnson said. "It's a great way to put it. The gloves are off, and it's bare knuckle fighting."
Johnson dominated early in the race by leading 164 of the first 190 laps. Kyle Busch and Keselowski took command from there, swapping the lead several times. Keselowski gambled with a two-tire change only during the final round of pit stops under caution with 22 laps to go. He inherited the lead and then held off Johnson in a pair of restarts. Johnson took four new tires during his last stop.
An accident involving Mark Martin on the frontstretch in the closing laps set up a green-white-checkered finish. After the last restart, Johnson pulled even with Keselowski and then made his winning pass on the backstretch.
"I have a lot of respect for (Keselowski's) No. 2 team," Johnson said. "Those guys are doing a great job. Today, I think our cars were pretty equal throughout the course of the race, but at the end of the race, we were on four (tires) and had to take advantage of it."
Johnson won his fifth race of the season and the 60th of his Sprint Cup career. The Hendrick Motorsports driver also notched his record-extending 22nd victory in the Chase. Johnson gave Chevrolet its 700th win in NASCAR's premier series as well.
Keselowski, who started eighth, had a pit-road mishap in the late going. The Penske Racing driver held the lead when a caution came on lap 275 for debris. He overshot his pit stall during his stop and had to back up to get out. It dropped him to ninth. His second-place run marked his best Sprint Cup finish at Texas.
"Obviously, there was a pretty good fight there, and Jimmie had some good speed, so did Kyle," Keselowski said. "We had a run there where we got out front and had a shot at it. The yellow come out, and then I had the issue on pit road. I just got into the brakes and couldn't get it slowed down like I needed to and put myself in a bad position where the 10 (Danica Patrick) blocked me in. It was probably my fault. From there, it was just a dogfight to get some track position back."
Busch finished third, followed by Chase drivers Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle completed the top-10.
During pre-race activities, the left-side door panel of Harvick's Chevrolet sustained damage when a parachute jumper's trailing weight hit the car on pit road while the jumper was landing. NASCAR allowed Harvick's No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team to take the car back to the garage to make necessary repairs.
Heading into the penultimate race next weekend in Phoenix, Johnson and Keselowski appeared to be the only legitimate contenders for the championship. Bowyer's sixth-place finish put him 36 points out of the lead, while Kasey Kahne fell 58 points behind following his 25th-place run. Kahne blew a tire and then made contact with the wall late in the race, which put him one lap down.