Found November 08, 2013 on Fox Sports:
Dollar-general-300
The racing gods certainly have a bizarre sense of humor. One year after Jimmie Johnson's unsuccessful quest for a "Six-Pack," the five-time champion finds himself once again entering Phoenix International Raceway - the penultimate track in the Chase for the Sprint Cup - carrying the momentum from a win in Texas and with a seven-point lead in the standings over second place. The only difference? Last year Johnson was battling Brad Keselowski - a then-28-year-old, third-season Cup contender with nine career victories from a two-car team that had never won a title in NASCAR's top division. This time he's facing Matt Kenseth. At 41, Kenseth's body of work over the past 14 seasons includes 31 wins - with a career-high seven this season - and a one-victory 2003 Cup title run that pundits credit as the catalyst for the creation of the Chase. Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus doesn't see a big difference in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports' challenge this season. But Knaus acknowledged after last Sunday's victory that he finds Kenseth a more intimidating opponent than Keselowski. "Matt, just from his personality standpoint, is a little more controlled," Knaus quipped. "He's a little more mature. He's been in the sport for a long time. I think he's just a little more even keel, so that makes him a little more challenging to get off-kilter, off-rocker, so we'll have to see how it shakes the outcome in Phoenix." Keselowski says he'll give Knaus "the benefit of the doubt but believes the veteran crew chief should concentrate on respecting Kenseth's accomplishments and "not disrespecting" Keselowski. And perhaps Knaus is simply bitter that it was Keselowski's off-kilter approach that allowed the No. 2 Penske Racing crew to rattle the cage of the five-time championship team. The cat-and-mouse games Keselowski played in practice and the pressure he exerted on Johnson changed the complexion of the Phoenix race. "That team's success comes from almost the 'gosh, golly-gee approach of not racing hard and just beating you on pure speed, which has been their traditional advantage," Keselowski said of the No. 48 team. "For them, I wouldn't want to have to race somebody that's going to race me hard because that's not their wheelhouse. I think that was one of our strengths last year. "If I was going to give Matt a piece of advice I'd say use the (crap) out of him. Race him hard because that's his weakness. But Matt has to race the way he wants to race. ... I thought we ran him really hard at Texas and again here at Phoenix, maybe not so much in the race but definitely in practice. ... There were some practice sessions where I got by him, ran him hard and had a lot of fun with it. "And in the race, he drove the car too hard until he blew out a tire. You could look at it and say it was a tire failure or whatever, but those in the garage that know how a car works know that it was reaching too hard and a failure was caused from that. I feel quite confident of that, and that is that group's weakness." Keselowski had the advantage of having nothing to lose when battling Johnson. He identified Johnson's weakness and capitalized on the situation. But is Kenseth too honorable to race Johnson that way? "I've seen Matt race pretty hard, but he seems to have a different relationship with Jimmie than some of the other guys that I've seen him race hard with," Keselowski said. "So it would be hard for me to answer." Despite the caliber of the No. 48 team - even its dominance over the other three Hendrick squads - Keselowski still believes he can "heads up" beat Johnson. He takes pride in being one of the two drivers who thwarted Johnson's run toward a sixth championship. "It's a very difficult situation," Keselowski said. "Obviously, that team is immune to the cycles that everyone else is. To beat them is a very large accomplishment in the sport. Whether it was Tony (Stewart) the year before me and then myself, they're just a great team. It takes a very clutch effort to beat them, and I'm proud that we were able to deliver that last year." Keselowski proved it can be done. His final advice to Kenseth? "Run the race and go win it," Keselowski said. "You still control your own destiny. The way the points work, you control your own destiny. All he has to do is win. That's all he has to think about. It's that simple. Go out there and win, the rest takes care of itself."
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

Keselowski's NASCAR reign coming to a close

Brad Keselowski rolled into Phoenix International Raceway a year ago locked into a tight championship battle with Jimmie Johnson, and left the track poised to claim his first Sprint Cup title. Back at the track where his fortunes turned, Keselowski is a mere spectator to this year's title fight. ''I'm relaxed, but not in a good way,'' he admitted. '...

Keselowski's reign soon will end

Brad Keselowski rolled into Phoenix International Raceway a year ago locked into a tight championship battle with Jimmie Johnson, and left the track poised to claim his first Sprint Cup title. Back at the track where his fortunes turned, Keselowski is a mere spectator to this year's title fight. ''I'm relaxed, but not in a good way,'' he admitted. '...

A tale of two racers

The Chase for the Sprint Cup is down to the final two races, with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth the only two drivers with realistic chances of winning. One driver is cerebral. One says he isn't that smart, but he really is. One driver says he's a mechanic and the other is a psychologist. Both drivers are friends, both respect each other and both race each other hard...

Johnson widens lead over Kenseth

Jimmie Johnson has taken control of the championship battle following a disastrous performance by Matt Kenseth at Phoenix International Raceway. Johnson widened his lead in the Sprint Cup standings to 28 points over Kenseth heading into next Sunday's season finale at Homestead by finishing third in a workmanlike performance for the five-time champion. Kenseth had a horrific...

Johnson wins pole for Phoenix, Kenseth to start

Jimmie Johnson won the pole Friday for the penultimate race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, moving him a step closer to his sixth NASCAR title. The five-time NASCAR champion set a track record with a lap of 139.222 mph in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to earn the top starting spot for Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway. The lap broke the mark of...

Keselowski unhappy as spectator in Chase battle

By JENNA FRYER AP Auto Racing Writer AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Brad Keselowski rolled into Phoenix International Raceway a year ago locked into a tight championship battle with Jimmie Johnson and left the track poised to claim his first Sprint Cup title. Back at the track where his fortunes turned, Keselowski is a mere spectator to this year's title fight. "I'm relaxed,...

Title fight to resume at Phoenix

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the NASCAR Sprint Cup stretch run. With two races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and just seven points separating leader Jimmie Johnson from second-place Matt Kenseth, the championship could well come down to mistakes. Specifically, who makes a mistake and who doesn't, or makes the worst mistake. In 2010, Denny Hamlin...

Mark Martin done driving: ‘time for me to open a new chapter’

Mark Martin won’t be competing in the Daytona 500 next season. Martin says next week’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be the last start of his career. “The garage is full of drivers who are on their game, and I’ve gotten all the good out of mine. I’ve squeezed every ounce of it out, and no one can say that I didn’t,” Martin said Friday, via NASCAR...

The man to beat at PIR?

Sick of all the non-stop Jimmie Johnson vs. Matt Kenseth throughout the Chase for the Sprint Cup? Keep your chin up. The man to beat in Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway might just be the guy who's actually third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points, defending race winner Kevin Harvick, and not Johnson or Kenseth. Harvick, the winner of eight races in NASCAR...

Jimmie Johnson Wins Pole at Phoenix International Raceway, Sets Track Record

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Jimmie Johnson, his eyes squarely on a sixth NASCAR championship, set the tone for what could be yet another dominating weekend in the desert by winning the pole at Phoenix International Raceway. He did it with a track record. The five-time NASCAR champion turned a lap of 139.222 mph in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on Friday to break the mark of 138.766...

NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson Hopes for Different Outcome in Final 2 Races Despite Similar Results

Fort Worth, TX- Jimmie Johnson for the second straight year has dominated the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup–through the first eight races. With two races to go, he’s won twice and has seven top six finishes in those eight starts. Not too shabby. He also dominated the Fall Texas race for the second straight season leading a race-high 255 of 334 Laps en route to his sixth victory...

Phoenix setting the stage

FIGHTING WORDS -- Although he rarely flashes his temper publicly, five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was clearly irked when 2012 champ Brad Keselowski said Johnson's weakness was being raced hard with the championship on the line. "That team's success comes from almost the 'gosh, golly-gee' approach of not racing hard and just beating you on...

NASCAR: Drivers on the move down to a two man race after Texas

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Lowe’s Chevy for Hendricks motorsports clearly dominated at Texas motor speedway this past Sunday, taking the checkered flag and with it 48 points toward the Sprint Cup Championship. Johnson now leads Matt Kenseth by seven points, while Kevin Harvick rounds out the top three drivers at 40 points behind. Now considered just a two man race between Johnson...

RotoWire NASCAR Barometer 111213

With just two races left in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth unloaded in Phoenix ready to battle. The pair had already made it a two-horse race for the title, and both were looking to put some distance between the other. Like most Phoenix races, the running was competitive and leveraged strategy as much as a good handling chassis. There were plenty...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.