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Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
By: Toby Christie – Follow on Twitter @Tobalical
On a day that started with a skydiver slamming into Kevin Harvick’s racecar on pitroad; Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski brought fans to their feet in an electrifying finish for the ages that lived up to the billing of “Wild Asphalt Circus.”
Jimmie Johnson dominated the early stages of the race, in what looked to be another snoozefest like was the case at Texas Motor Speedway in April, but when the sun went down the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge came to life and so did the race for the championship. Brad Keselowski drove like a man possessed on his path to the front, and he did the same on his way back to the front after being blocked in his pit stall on his next-to-last pit stop of the night.
Keselowski dropped from the lead on that pitstop, to eighth; meanwhile his competitor for the title — Jimmie Johnson — hung firmly on to the second position. When the green flag fell, Keselowski’s gloves came off, and he sliced his way to fourth place like a hot knife through butter.
When another caution fell, and the field came to pitroad Keselowski seized the opportunity to take one of the gutsiest gambles in the history of NASCAR. Keselowski opted to take just two tires, which would give him the race lead, which sounds nice, but the caveat is that he would have to hold off NASCAR’s best including five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and they’d all have four fresh tires.
When the green flag was sent into the air Keselowski got himself ahead of Kyle Busch for the lead, and it looked like the race was his to lose. Jimmie Johnson would work his way past Busch as well for second, when another caution flag appeared for debris from Kasey Kahne’s car. On the next restart chaos ensued.
Johnson had the faster car, he had the better tires, but Keselowski wouldn’t be denied. Keselowski used every inch of racetrack to try to hold off Johnson, but going into turn three Keselowski washed high and it looked like Johnson had the lead with ease. Out of nowhere Keselowski zoomed to the inside of Johnson on the front stretch and the two rooted and gouged for the top spot. Keselowski would prevail, but his advantage would be short lived, as one final caution flag would come out as Mark Martin skidded across the frontstretch.
On the final restart of the night, on a green-white-checkered finish Jimmie Johnson edged past to the lead. Johnson’s restart was controversial, as at second look Johnson actually beat the race leader (Keselowski) to the start finish line on the restart. NASCAR didn’t penalize Johnson and the No. 48 went on to a dramatic win. The win marked Johnson’s second-consecutive win from the pole, and the second-consecutive race that he earned the maximum amount of points that you can tally in a NASCAR race.
Keselowski would hold on to finish second.
Third-place finisher Kyle Busch may have won, had his motor been at full-strength for the entire event. He led 80 laps on the night, but mid race he developed a vibration in the motor bay and he was forced to nurse it home to the finish.
Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five finishers in the AAA Texas 500.
With two races remaining Johnson now has a seven point lead over Keselowski, but Keselowski is starting to prove his strength. As Keselowski was heard radioing to his raceteam during his frantic finish, “I refuse to lose this damn championship.” If Keselowski can keep that attitude going, this could be the greatest battle for a championship that we’ve ever witnessed.
Other notes on the day:
Johnson’s win marked Chevrolet’s 700th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
A.J. Allmendinger’s run with Phoenix Racing ended with a crash. Regan Smith will take over driving duties for the No. 51 car for the final two events of 2012.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh. It was his first top-10 finish since his two week recovery from multiple concussions.
Danica Patrick achieved her career-best finish with a 24th-place effort. She finished on the lead lap in her first race with her new crew chief Tony Gibson.
Here are the full unofficial race results for the AAA Texas 500:
1-48 Jimmie Johnson
2-2 Brad Keselowski
3-18 Kyle Busch
4-17 Matt Kenseth
5-14 Tony Stewart
6-15 Clint Bowyer
7-88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8-78 Kurt Busch
9-29 Kevin Harvick
10-16 Greg Biffle
11-20 Joey Logano
12-39 Ryan Newman
13-56 Martin Truex Jr.
14-24 Jeff Gordon
15-43 Aric Almirola
16-99 Carl Edwards
17-22 Sam Hornish Jr.
18-1 Jamie McMurray
19-31 Jeff Burton
20-11 Denny Hamlin
21-13 Casey Mears
22-21 Trevor Bayne
23-93 Travis Kvapil
24-10 Danica Patrick
25-5 Kasey Kahne
26-83 Landon Cassill
27-27 Paul Menard
28-34 David Ragan
29-55 Mark Martin
30-95 Scott Speed
31-32 Ken Schrader
32-9 Marcos Ambrose
33-47 Bobby Labonte
34-42 Juan Montoya
35-38 David Gilliland
36-51 A.J. Allmendinger
37-26 Josh Wise
38-98 Michael McDowell
39-36 Dave Blaney
40-87 Joe Nemechek
41-19 Mike Bliss
42-37 JJ Yeley
43-91 Reed Sorenson
– Toby Christie is the lead Motorsports writer for Sicknissified.com, and he can be reached via twitter or email. Tweet him @Tobalical or email him at email@example.com. You can also find his work at TheFinalLap.com this weekend.
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