Jimmie Johnson wins at Texas; Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski involved in post-race fight

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Once again, Jimmie Johnson was the star in the fall at Texas Motor Speedway. And once again, Brad Keselowski was at the center of a post-race fight in this year’s Chase.

Johnson survived two green-white-checkered attempts to earn his third consecutive fall race victory this evening in Fort Worth. But his triumph was promptly overshadowed by a scrap on pit road between Keselowski and Jeff Gordon, as well as their respective crews.

The melee stemmed from contact between the two during the first of the two GWC attempts. Gordon and Johnson were up front at the drop of the green for GWC1, but when third-place Keselowski went for what he thought was an opening left by Gordon, he instead hit the four-time Sprint Cup champion in Turn 1.

Gordon fell back and two turns later, he spun out with an apparent tire failure to bring out the yellow and set up GWC2. Before the field was frozen, Johnson had pulled ahead of Keselowski, and during GWC2, Johnson cleared Keselowski to take the point as the white flag flew.

Johnson subsequent pulled away to the victory, finishing off a strong afternoon for him in which he led 191 laps. But as he celebrated, Gordon pulled alongside third-place finisher Keselowski in the pits and after climbing out, he made his way toward Keselowski’s “Blanco Deuce.”

As Keselowski emerged from his car, one of his crew members kept Gordon at bay as he angrily shouted at the Team Penske pilot. But just when it seemed that would be all, second-place finisher Kevin Harvick entered the picture and pushed Keselowski from behind.

Perhaps sensing an opening, Gordon made his own push forward and managed to get his hand on Keselowski’s collar. The scrum was on.

When things settled down – with both drivers having sustained a slight bit of blood around their mouths – Keselowski said he was simply going for a hole on the track.

“We’re racing for the win,” he told ESPN. “[Wasn’t trying] to wreck him, just racing hard. He left a hole and you know, everything you watch in racing, you leave a hole, you’re supposed to go for it. It closed back up and we made contact.

“I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day. I want to win the race and that was our opportunity. Just didn’t come together.”

Gordon, who was relegated to a 29th-place finish after his spin, was having none of that.

“I spun the tires a little bit but I got a pretty decent start and we went down into [Turn]1 and I just wanted to get to the outside of the 48 [Johnson] – and out of nowhere, I got slammed by the 2 [Keselowski] and it cut my left rear tire,” he said.

“He’s just a dips—. The way he races, I don’t know how he’s ever won a championship. And I’m just sick and tired of him. That’s why everybody’s fighting him and running him down.”

Meanwhile, Harvick also had a few words with Keselowski as well.

“I told Brad he’s gotta fight his own fight,” he said. “Next week’s gonna be pretty crazy.”

And through it all, Johnson basked in the glory after earning his first win since Michigan in June (a span of 19 races).

“It’s a testament to the team and the fact that we’ll never give up,” he said in Victory Lane. “We’ll always keep fighting and they keep trying to make our cars better.

“We’re not in the Chase, not where we want to be – fighting for the championship. But it’s a great day today…[It’s been] a Chase that was tough for us, but to redeem ourselves here and come out with a victory is really, really cool.”

He too also noted the intense atmosphere that has set in during the Chase and has now helped spark a second major post-race donnybrook.

“Emotions run high and when somebody does you wrong and you don’t have a chance to repay them on the race track, bring it into the garage area and do something with it there,” he said.

“We’re all in a position to win a championship, and this is what happens. I’m sure it was highly entertaining today and I can’t wait to go back and watch the tape.”

As for how the Eliminator Round now looks heading into its finale next week at Phoenix International Raceway, Joey Logano holds the top spot on the Chase Grid after recovering from both a disastrous late-race pit stop and spin on track to finish 12th.

Both he and Denny Hamlin (finished 10th) have a 13-point cushion over the cutoff to advance to the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead.

Ryan Newman is now third with an 11-point cushion, while Gordon has fallen to the fourth and final advance position with just a 1-point edge over both Matt Kenseth (finished 25th) and Carl Edwards (finished 9th).

Keselowski and Harvick’s own strong finishes today allowed them to make up serious ground. While they remain on the bad side of the cutoff, Keselowski is now down by just five points (a gain of 21 points from where he was going into today) and Harvick by six points (a similar gain of 22 points).

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.