UPS Game-Changing Moments: Texas
November 03, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com
JOHNSON DOMINATES TO WIN, TAKE POINTS LEAD
Able to pull away from his pursuers with apparent ease, Jimmie Johnson finished three positions ahead of Matt Kenseth in Sunday's AAA Texas 500, breaking a tie for the lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but -- make no mistake -- Johnson's performance amounted to a brutal bludgeoning of Kenseth and the rest of the opposition.
Similarly, Johnson left Texas last year with a seven-point lead over Brad Keselowski—and lost the title. But the emphatic nature of Johnson’s win on Sunday sent an unmistakable message.
“We came here and tested and did an awesome job of understanding what I needed in the car and what was going to create speed,” Johnson said after the race. “We came back and had a very smooth qualifying session and practice sessions (Saturday), and just kept putting more and more speed in the car.
“It paid off today. Obviously, we need a lot of speed in the car and a win to get any points because Matt is there in the top five. Nice to gain just a few points on him. But just a dominant day for this Lowe's team.”
Despite the emphatic whipping he administered to the rest of the field, Johnson is anything but overconfident.
"I’ve been watching a lot of MMA fighting lately, and you'll fall into a rhythm and think that somebody has got the fight won, and it doesn't end that way,” he said. “That's how this is going to be. Matt didn't have maybe the best day and still finished fourth. This thing is going to go to the last lap at Homestead, and it is going to come down to mistakes.
“I'm very excited about our performance and what we did here. We'll enjoy this, but there is still two weeks of very hard racing ahead of us."
KENSETH SPEEDS ON PIT ROAD, LOSES POINTS LEAD
Kenseth hurt his own cause with a pit-road speeding penalty, but not even a perfect day on pit road likely would have overcome the dominance of the five-time champion, who led 255 of 334 laps en route to his third victory at Texas Motor Speedway, his sixth of the season and the 66th of his career.
With two races left in the Chase, Johnson heads to next Sunday's event at Phoenix with a seven-point lead over Kenseth, who rallied from the speeding penalty he incurred on Lap 173 to finish fourth.
GORDON’S BLOWN TIRE COSTLY TO TITLE SHOT
Devastated. That's how Jeff Gordon described his emotions as he watched his team work furiously to repair his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet in the Texas Motor Speedway garage only 74 laps into the 334-lap event Sunday.
Gordon, who came into the race ranked third in the Sprint Cup Seres standings -- 27 points behind co-leaders Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, blew a left front tire and crashed hard into the Turn 1 wall badly damaging the entire right side side of his car. The setback may be enough to eliminate him from title contention unless frontrunners Kenseth and Johnson have similar misfortune.
"Just had a left front tire go down, not really sure why yet, trying to figure that out, but that's a shame," Gordon said from his garage as the crew worked behind him to at least the make the car drivable enough to collect what championship points he can.
"I don't know if I ran over something or we just had a failure. I felt it go down and even had time to go on the radio and say, 'Oh you-know-what' because I knew I was getting ready to hit the wall hard."
"It's a shame. This team has worked so hard to get ourselves in this position and we can't have things like this happen. This is going to hurt."
NASCAR.com's Holly Cain and the NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this report.