Proving that the race is never over until the checkered flag falls, Jimmie Johnson took the lead with six laps to go and stormed to his 75th career victory Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Brad Keselowski, who a track record led 312 laps, came up just short and will need nothing short of a win next Sunday. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Keselowski led the field to the green from his frost career NASCAR pole. Tony Stewart was forced to give up his 22nd starting spot and started in the back after missing driver introductions, as was Ryan Preece due to an engine change.
Keselowski was quickly out to the point, Harvick overcame a slow start and took over second, Kyle Busch was third, Joey Logano fourth and Kyle Larson fifth.
Logano went for a solo spin on lap 10 entering turn 3 with a flat left rear tire and caution number 1 came out. He pitted with damage to the left rear and went a lap down as the crew worked to repair it. The leaders up to 16th place stayed out, many behind came in for stops. Due to Saturday’s practices being cancelled NASCAR called a competition at lap 25, and those who did pit couldn’t take fuel.
Martin Truex Jr. was first off pit road, Kurt Busch was second, Carl Edwards third, Denny Hamlin fourth, Jimmie Johnson fifth. Logano pitted two more times before heading to the garage for repairs.
Up front Keselowski led, Harvick second, Kyle Busch third, Larson fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fifth when the green came back out on lap 18. Keselowski and Harvick raced side by side for a lap until Harvick was able to clear him and take the lead on lap 19. Kyle Busch was third, Earnhardt fourth, Larson fifth. After restarting 16th, Truex was up to 6th by lap 22. He was fifth by lap 23; Edwards who had also stopped followed into sixth.
Ryan Blaney slowed after losing a right front tire and hitting the wall and caution two came out on lap 26. The tire went down a lap after Blaney hit the wall exiting turn 4. The leaders all came in for stops. Keselowski was out first, Kyle Busch was out second, Harvick was third, followed by Edwards and Truex.
Denny Hamlin was forced to the garage with a loss of fuel pressure in his engine. Green came back out on lap 29. Keselowski quickly jumped out the to the lead; Kyle Busch and Harvick dueled for second with Harvick getting the spot; Truex was fourth, Kurt Busch fifth.
Harvick lost a left rear tire on lap 36 and slowed; he was able to keep going but caution three came out. Harvick pitted as did several others outside the top 20. Harvick fell to 40th but stayed on the lead lap. Harvick complained that there was still debris that he had run over from Logano’s earlier incident.
The green came back out on lap 42. Keselowski and Kyle Busch raced side by side for the lead with Busch holding a slight advantage until the start of the next lap when Keselowski retook the lead. Truex was third Kurt Busch fourth and Earnhardt fifth. Harvick was quickly back up to 23rd.
Earnhardt slowed from fifth with a flat right front tire on lap 48 and pitted. There was no caution and he fell one lap down. Tony Stewart spun exiting turn 4 along the front stretch grass on lap 52 and caution 4 came out. Earnhardt got the free pass as the leaders all pitted. Keselowski was out first, Kyle Busch second, Truex third, Larson fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.
Keselowski led to the green on lap 58. He took a clear lead as Truex and Kyle Busch fought for second before Busch slid into the spot; Truex fell into third, Larson fourth, Kurt Busch fifth. Harvick was back to 10th. Johnson took over fifth on lap 63, Harvick had moved to 8th. Larson took over second on lap 73; Harvick was up to sixth. Logano came back out on the track on lap 77, 63 laps down.
Earnhardt was back to 14th by lap 87. At lap 100, Keselowski’s lead was 1.7 seconds and teams were talking about green flag stops just as Larson lost a tire and caution five flew. The leaders all came in for stops. Keselowski was out first, Kyle Busch second, Johnson was third, Truex fourth and Larson fifth. The green came out on lap 107; Keselowski was able to get out to a clear lead, Kyle Busch took second, Truex moved into third, Johnson was fourth, Harvick had rallied to fifth.
By 126, Johnson had moved to second, Truex third and Kyle Busch had slipped to fourth, Harvick was close behind in fifth. By lap 136, Keselowski’s lead was just over 4 seconds. But by lap 143, Harvick had charged forward and the lead was just over two seconds. Johnson was third, Earnhardt was fourth, Truex was fifth.
Ryan Newman lost a left rear tire on lap 146 but was able to get to the bottom of the track and slowly made his way to pit road; the race stayed green. Debris most likely due to Newman, brought out caution six on lap 150. The leaders all came in for stops. Keselowski was out first, Harvick second, Johnson third, Truex fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.
Green flew again on lap 155. Keselowski went back to the point, Johnson went to second; Earnhardt was three wide behind for fourth and bumped the wall exiting turn 4 and began to slow; he was 17th by lap 159. Earnhardt spun out of turn 4 on lap 168 after complaining about being too loose and caution six flew on lap 167. The leaders all came in for stops. Keselowski was out first, Johnson was second, Edwards third, Truex fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.
Keselowski quickly retook the lead when the green came back out on lap 173. Johnson and Edwards dueled side by side for second behind. Johnson had the spot by lap 175, Edwards fell into third, and Truex was fourth, Harvick fifth. Edwards was looking for second by lap 182; the two were fighting for position for several laps, Johnson high, Edwards low as Keselowski stretched his lead out to just over three seconds. Edwards finally had the spot by lap 187. Truex went to third on lap 194.
Caution seven came out on lap 197 when Trevor Bayne lost a tire exiting turn 2 scattering debris on the track. The tire issue for Bayne came several laps after he had the hit wall.
The leaders all came in for stops. Keselowski was out first, Edwards was second, Truex third, Harvick fourth, Johnson fifth. the restart came on lap 204 and Keselowski was again to the front on the inside. Edwards and Truex contested second with Truex getting the spot. Harvick was fourth, Larson fifth but showing smoke from a tire rub. Johnson took over fifth on lap 211. Keselowski’s lead was just over two seconds. Harvick caught Edwards on lap 219 and took over the third spot and was soon looking for second. He got the second spot on lap 222. Keselowski’s lead was 2.2 seconds.
Larson pitted from sixth with another flat tire on lap 232. Earnhardt had recovered to 11th. Up front, Keselowski’s lead was 3.8 seconds. By lap 240 the lead was just over 4 seconds. Harvick reported that his transmission was popping out of gear and he was forced to drive with one hand and hold the shifter with the other. His laps began to slow and soon Truex was looming.
Earnhardt was up to eighth by lap 250, but reported he had scrapped the wall again. Edwards started the first round of green flag pit stops of the day on lap 251; Kyle Busch followed. Truex and Harvick followed a lap later. Keselowski came in on lap 253.
When the stops cycled through, Keselowski led, Harvick was second, Edwards third, Truex fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. The lead was under a second. Truex took third from Edwards on lap 263; there were 17 cars on the lead lap. Kyle Busch took the fifth spot on lap 270.
Harvick slowed on lap 281 with another rear tire issue, this time on the right rear tire. Harvick pitted under green and came back out and rejoined the field in 21st, one lap down. Keselowski’s lead over Truex was just over 4 seconds. Kyle Busch was third, Johnson fourth and Edwards fifth. There were 11 cars on the lead lap, by lap 294 as the lead was 3.8 seconds.
Edwards began a round of green flag stops on lap 297, Johnson came with him. Gordon and Earnhardt came in a lap later. Keselowski pitted on lap 298. After the cycle, Harvick was in the lead, but with tires that 18 more laps on them then those who had just pitted. It only took two laps before Keselowski retook the lead. Harvick kept falling back and was fourth by lap 307. Eric Jones made contact with the wall on lap 310 and left debris on the track and caution nine came out. The leaders all came in for stops. Keselowski was again out first, Truex second, Johnson third; Jamie McMurray was the only driver among the top runners who took only two tires and came out fourth, Kyle Busch was fifth, Harvick sixth.
Green came out on lap 316, 18 to go. Keselowski and Truex were side by side for the lead; the two made contact as they crossed the line and Keselowski retook the lead, Johnson took over second, Truex was third, Harvick fourth. The two continued to duel for the lead as the laps wound down. With 10 laps to go it was still between Johnson and Keselowski, with Keselowski holding a slight advantage; Harvick moved to third in front of Truex. The advantage began to widen with 8 laps to go, but Johnson remained close. Lapped traffic became a factor with six laps to go; Johnson was able to get under Keselowski with five to go, but Keselowski still had a slight advantage. With four to go, Johnson was able to slide underneath and grab the top spot exiting turn 4. From there Johnson was able to stretch out his lead and score his fifth win of the season his third consecutive and his fourth in the last five races at Texas Motor Speedway.
Behind Keselowski, Harvick was third, Kyle Busch was fourth and Edwards was fifth. Earnhardt recovered for sixth, Kurt Busch was seventh, Truex eighth with Gordon and McMurray rounding out the top 10 the full results can be found here. The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Phoenix International Raceway next Sunday for the penultimate race of the season next Sunday with live coverage on NBC starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.