Jimmie Johnson delivered a dominating performance today at Texas Motor Speedway, leading 255 of 334 laps en route to his sixth victory of the season in the AAA Texas 500.
The victory – his first on a 1.5-mile oval this year – now puts him atop the Sprint Cup championship by a margin of seven points over fourth-place finisher Matt Kenseth with two races to go in the Chase.
“We came here and tested [last week] and did an awesome job understanding what I needed in the car and what was going to create speed,” Johnson told ESPN in Victory Lane at TMS. “We came back and in those qualifying and practice sessions yesterday, we just kept putting a little more speed in the car and it paid off today.”
“Obviously, we need a lot of speed in the car and you got to win to get these points when Matt’s in there in the Top-5, so that’s gonna be a few points on him. [It was] just a dominant day for the Lowe’s team.”
While Johnson had something close to a Sunday cruise today, Kenseth had to scrap in the second half of the race to get a critical Top-5 result. After pitting under green at Lap 174, Kenseth was tagged with a pit road speeding penalty and was knocked from second all the way back to 16th as result.
But Kenseth caught a break when the caution came out at Lap 188 for oil on the backstretch, allowing the field to bunch up again. From there, Kenseth steadily began to rise up the pylon until he cracked the Top-5 with less than 100 laps to go.
He would stay there, ensuring that his deficit to Johnson going into next weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway would be a small one.
“We were just being too aggressive [on the penalty],” Kenseth said. “Honestly, the 48 had us. From the time they unloaded to the time they put it back on the truck, they were dominant all weekend. I thought [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] and this whole Home Depot crew did a great job today making adjustments and trying to get it better.
“That speeding penalty got us behind and we didn’t need that, but really, I don’t know if at the end of the day, that really affected our finish.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. collected his third runner-up finish in the last sixth races, finishing 4.4 seconds behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson. Joey Logano was quietly impressive in his run to third place, with Kenseth behind him in fourth and Kasey Kahne rounding out the Top 5.
More to come later tonight…