By Lew Patton
On a beautiful Texas day, the last ride in Texas for team mate Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson won at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson is not in the chase, but he passed Chase-driver Brad Keselowski with three laps remaining, to win Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Johnson’s victory was his third straight at Texas and the 75th of his career Johnson, a six-time champion, has long been eliminated from the Chase, going out of the first round when a rear-axle seal broke on his No. 48 Chevy at Dover.
With non-Chaser Jimmie Johnson winning the AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, three slots remain open in the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The Texas race was the second of three in the Eliminator Round of the Chase. But because Johnson won, no other driver was guaranteed a spot in the title battle, which will take place in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnson passed Keselowski on the backstretch and cruised from there. For Johnson, the victory was another reason to feel optimistic about the 2016 season. For, Keselowski, it was a missed opportunity.
“I’m not happy that I kept somebody from advancing, but that wasn’t in my mind at the time,” Johnson said. “It was just a good, old-fashioned race, where you race your guts out. Clearly Brad a lot on the line, but I’m grateful he raced me as cleanly as he did.”
Gordon finishes the Texas chapter of his career with one victory at the track — in 2009.
Sunday’s race, however, was more about Homestead-Miami Speedway, the site of the Chase finale in two weeks.
TMS and Homestead are both intermediate, 1 ½ mile tracks, similar in size and design, so the 24 team used the opportunity to experiment and grow more comfortable and confident in its 1 ½ mile program.
“Felt pretty good, top 10. …I would have liked to of had a little bit more,” Gordon said. “We just didn’t have much on the short runs. It was something that we really struggled with today.”
It was a great day for Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as the Hendrick team mates dominated Texas.