|Phoenix always produces great racing (Getty)|
The pair went door-to-door, trading paint on one late restart, before Johnson edged Keselowski in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson made a statement with his second consecutive maximum point performance but so did Keselowski, who nearly scratched and clawed his way to a sixth season victory.
The points remain close: Johnson by seven with two races remaining. The next race is Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway where the California driver won Chase races in three consecutive championship years (2007-2009).
Texas mathematically eliminated Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. from the championship hunt. Phoenix will pare the field further.
Zero. That’s the point separation between NASCAR Nationwide Series championship rivals Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler as the pair enter Saturday’s Great Clips 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Stenhouse recorded his 18th top-five finish of the season in Texas to overhaul leader Sadler. The reigning series champion holds the current tie-breaker: six wins to four, with two races remaining.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings leader James Buescher looks for redemption in Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150. Buescher failed to qualify for last year’s race (held in February) – missing the field by two-hundredths of a second – which may have cost the Texas driver the championship. Buescher heads to Phoenix with a 15-point advantage over Ty Dillon. Timothy Peters is third, 25 points off the lead.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Johnson’s Bid For Title No. 6 In High Gear But Keselowski Hangs Tough
It hardly was easy but Jimmie Johnson scored maximum points – 48 – for the second consecutive race to open a seven-point advantage over primary championship rival Brad Keselowski. Johnson passed leader Keselowski on the final, green-white-checker restart to capture Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Keselowski finished second. Is Johnson on his way to a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title? You can look at it two ways. The standings leader after 34 races has gone on to capture the championship six times, including Johnson in 2006-09. But in the past two seasons the No. 2-ranked driver – Johnson in 2010 and Tony Stewart in 2011 – prevailed. Johnson and Keselowski have each won five times in 2012 with Johnson currently holding a potential tie-breaker based upon most second-place finishes (five to three).
Championship Field Down To 10; Likely To Further Shrink In Phoenix
Texas eliminated two Chase qualifiers, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. More are likely to follow on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. The mathematical cut-off with one race remaining is 49 points. Only Keselowski and Clint Bowyer (-36) currently are within that window. Fourth-place Kasey Kahne (-58) must net 10 points on Johnson to take his slim title hopes to the Nov. 18 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Phoenix likely will end reigning champion Tony Stewart’s bid for a fourth crown. Stewart is eighth, 80 points off the lead.
‘New’ Phoenix Suggests Multitude of Potential Winners
Last year’s repaving and reconfiguration consigned most of Phoenix International Raceway’s record book to the dusty pages of history. The racing definitely has changed – especially taking March’s event into consideration. A Phoenix-record 15 different drivers took turns leading the 312-lap event won by Denny Hamlin. Kasey Kahne captured last fall’s AdvoCare 500, the first run on the new surface.
That said Phoenix has produced seven consecutive different winners. Johnson is one of them. He won the track’s Chase race in three consecutive championship seasons – 2007-09 – and counts four victories overall. He was fourth in March. Keselowski’s fifth-place finish in March’s SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 was his first Phoenix top five, although his “near miss” at Texas – a track where Keselowski previously had no top 10s – suggests he’ll be a contender for the victory this week as well. Bowyer finished 30th in March, his second race in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
Nothing Would Please Busch More Than To Disrupt Chase Party In Phoenix
Kyle Busch did his best at Texas to snatch the winner’s bonus points from Chase rivals Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, eventually finishing a close third. Figure Busch, the 2005 Phoenix Chase winner, to do the same this week. He finished sixth in March, the highest placing by a non-Chase qualifier. Also failing to make the Chase, but logging top 10s in the track’s winter race were two-time Phoenix winner Mark Martin (ninth) and Joey Logano (10th).
- NASCAR Media Services