Dallas Motorsports: Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson comfortable at TMS

November, 1, 2013
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Almost from the moment Jimmie Johnson first arrived at Texas Motor Speedway more than a decade ago, he looked comfortable racing around the 1.5-mile oval.

While other drivers needed a ton of laps to figure things out, Johnson and his team quickly discovered a setup that worked, and despite changes to the track's surface, they've made contending at TMS almost automatic. He looks to continue that run in the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday as he attempts to win a sixth championship.

He's got two wins and 15 top-10 finishes in 20 career starts, including nine top-5s. Johnson hasn't started worse than 18th at TMS, and that was back in 2005, when he finished third. Both of Johnson's victories came by winning one-on-one duels. He beat Matt Kenseth in 2007 on his way to a title and Brad Keselowski in this race last year.

"It's a good track," Johnson said. "I feel like we have to work hard for it, which is fine. It never comes easy here. That's one aspect of this track is that you've got to roll your sleeves up and go to work, and that's something our team is really good at."

Johnson is once again in the middle of a championship chase. He's tied with Kenseth on top of the Chase standings with three races to go and will be competing Sunday at a track that he likes. He said Friday that he enjoys the surface and "character" of the track and that he knows all the bumps and dips.

"The driver has more confidence," Johnson said about the track's surface. "The tire-asphalt combination, the way it works, we can slide the car without big penalty or consequence. Some of the newer asphalt, you get a little slip in the tire and it's gone and around and you can't drive the same."

What to watch: AAA Texas 500

October, 31, 2013
NASCAR's playoffs, the Chase for the Sprint Cup, enters the final three races full of drama. In fact, the Chase has never been this close this late in the season, with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth tied for the points lead. And there are others -- like Jeff Gordon (27 points behind), Kyle Busch (36 back) and even a few more -- still hopeful of making a comeback and snatching the trophy away.

Let's take a look at a few things to watch this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Qualifying takes place Friday, the Nationwide Series runs Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN is the AAA Texas 500 Sprint Cup Series race):

Top two contenders like Texas: There really isn't a big advantage for Johnson or Kenseth in Texas. Both have run well at TMS.

Kenseth is the career leader at TMS in Sprint Cup races laps led with 772, top-5 finishes with 12 and finishing average at 8.5. He has two wins at the track, including the spring of 2011. He's finished in the top 10 in seven of his eight appearances in the fall race.

Johnson will be defending his victory from 2012 and has two additional wins at the speedway. He also has five runner-ups at TMS, the most by a Cup driver.

Experience counts: Both Johnson and Kenseth have championships on their résumés. But Kenseth's came in 2003, before NASCAR switched to the Chase format. And Johnson has put together one of the most dominating stretches the sport has ever seen, winning five straight titles from 2006 to 2010. He understands this format and what has to be done. So if there's an experience edge, it goes to Johnson.

Don't forget about me: Gordon earned the checkered flag at Martinsville last week, inching him closer to the rear bumper of Johnson and Kenseth. He sits 27 points behind and comes to TMS with confidence. After the final race of the regular season, it didn't appear that Gordon was going to even be in the Chase. But NASCAR gave Gordon a 13th spot when it determined that Michael Waltrip Racing was unfairly trying to influence the outcome of the Richmond race.

Gordon took advantage, finishing in the top 10 in five of the first seven Chase races to make his climb. He's vying for a fifth championship and will do so at a track where he's bounced back from some early disappointments. Gordon ended a 47-race winless streak with a victory at TMS in 2009 and has 11 top-10 finishes in 25 career starts.

Local driver tries to defend championship: James Buescher, the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, is back at TMS (one of the tracks where he learned to race) and hoping to get himself back in championship contention. He sits 51 points behind leader Matt Crafton and has never won at TMS in the Truck Series.

Drivers to watch: NRA 500 at TMS

April, 12, 2013

With ESPN Stats & Information riding shotgun, here's who you should keep a close eye on during Saturday night's NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:

Jimmie Johnson: "Five-Time" has outdone the entire field in some aspects over the past 10 Sprint Cup events. In that time, he has four of the 10 wins and has won three times from the pole, something no other driver has done even once. He also has three starts where he's earned maximum points, which is more than the rest of the field combined. Johnson led more laps at TMS (324) in 2012 -- more than 3.5 times any other driver. After last week's win at Martinsville, Johnson now has 12 multi-win seasons during his career, which ranks behind only Richard Petty (18), Jeff Gordon (14) and Cale Yarborough (13).

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage joins Galloway & Company to discuss the NRA sponsorship and who he's picking to win Saturday's Sprint Cup race.

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And don't look for that dominance to end on the 1.5-mile track at TMS. Johnson loves the distance, earning more career wins on 1.5-mile tracks (17 in 113 starts) than any other driver in NASCAR history. Jeff Gordon (16/161) and Tony Stewart (15/133) are on his heels, however.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Since the start of the 2012 season, Dale Jr. has really stepped it up. His average finish over his last 40 races has been 10.4 -- more than eight spots better than the 2009-11 seasons (18.8 average finish). And he's very comfortable at TMS, where he earned his first career victory. Earnhardt has four straight top-10 finishes at TMS and five overall since the start of the 2010 Sprint Cup season. For his career, he's got 12 top-10 finishes in 21 races. Not too shabby.

Roush Fenway Racing (Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards): RFR is no stranger when it comes to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway. The team has nine Cup wins at TMS, more than double the next-best effort (4, by Hendrick Motorsports drivers). Greg Biffle, who won the spring race in 2012, and Carl Edwards will again be behind the wheel in Jack Roush cars on Saturday night, so keep an eye on them. In the last five races here (spanning 18 starts), RFR drivers have two wins, 11 top-5 finishes and 15 top 10s. They've also led 38.7 percent of laps run at TMS.

Edwards is the winningest Cup driver at TMS, having fired the pistols three times in Victory Lane. He also has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts here, with an average finish of 7.3. Biffle, meanwhile, has one win and hasn't finished outside the top 10 in his last nine races at TMS -- an average finish of 5.7. That includes six top-5s.

Danica Patrick: You have to keep on eye on Danica, whose eighth-place finish during the 2012 Nationwide Series race at TMS is the second-best result of her NASCAR career. And don't forget she's coming off an impressive 12th in the Cup race at Martinsville last week. Patrick seems very comfortable running under the green at TMS, where she passed a personal-best 107 cars en route to a 24th place finish last November.

Brad Keselowski: You have to think a visit to Victory Lane is just around the corner for the reigning Cup champion. Keselowski has yet to win this season, but has an average finish of 7.2 thus far this season. That's ahead of the personal-best pace he set last season, as he had an average finish of 10.1 -- with five wins -- en route to the Sprint Cup championship.

Kyle Busch: After the worst season of his career, Busch still is a threat to win behind the wheel of any car, as his success across all three of NASCAR's series proves. After taking the checkered flag just once last season, Busch has gotten back to his winning ways in 2013 -- getting four wins in just 12 races. Over the last six seasons, Busch has 88 victories in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series.

Matt Kenseth: Kenseth is always a threat at TMS, having won twice on the 1.5-mile track. But it's not the checkered flags that impresses most. It's the career average finish here (8.3) that boggles the mind. He's got 12 top 5s, 15 top 10s and has led 772 laps at TMS.

Jeff Gordon: Saturday's start will the 696th in a row for Gordon, who will move within one of Rusty Wallace for second on the all-time NASCAR Iron Man list. Ricky Rudd holds the record at 788.

Tony Stewart: "Smoke" has always been a TMS favorite, but he's run into tough times so far this season with an average finish of 21.2 and only 154 quality passes, which ranks 22nd among Cup drivers. That being said, you can't count Stewart out as he's visited Victory Lane in each of the last 14 seasons, which is tied for seventh all-time behind Richard Petty's 18 seasons with a win. With a checkered flag in 2013, he'll join Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt on that list, and he'd also tie Herb Thomas for 13th all-time with 48 career victories.

TMS trivia: Amaze your friends!

April, 11, 2013

Want to impress your friends while hanging out at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday and Saturday? Here's a little bit of TMS trivia, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

FRONT RUNNERS: If you qualify in the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway, you have a very good chance of winning. In 24 races since the track’s inaugural race in 1997, 18 winners have rolled off pit row from a top-10 starting spot, the highest win percentage of any track along with Sonoma. Richmond and Dover are next at 71.9 percent.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: So who has the best chance of starting in the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway? None other than Jimmie Johnson, who has started from inside the top 10 on 12 occasions in 19 races (63.2 percent), including both of his Texas wins. Greg Biffle (61.1), Kasey Kahne (58.8) and Mark Martin (54.2) are next.

CLIMBING THE LADDER: Enough about those at the front. That's easy, right? Now ... coming up through the field to win? That's an achievement. Matt Kenseth currently holds that honor, winning in 2002 after starting 31st. Denny Hamlin, however, proved he was no fluke, having swept both 2010 races from the 30th and 29th starting spots in the field. Carl Edwards (2005) also won from the 30th spot.

PHOTO FINISHES: Nothing beats the drama of a last-lap sprint to the checkered flag. Just ask Elliott Sadler, who edged Kasey Kahne by .028 seconds in 2004 for the closest Cup finish in TMS history. And if you want the opposing viewpoint, you can try to ask Jimmie Johnson, who was the runner-up in close finishes to Denny Hamlin (.152 seconds in 2010), Tony Stewart (.272 seconds in 2006), Jeff Gordon (.378 seconds in 2009) and Carl Edwards (.399 seconds in 2008). Venturing a guess, however: You need not feel overly sorry for "Five-Time."

WHICH WAY IS VICTORY LANE: Will there be a first-time Cup winner in Texas? It's happened twice before. Jeff Burton earned his first Cup victory at TMS in 1997. Burton, who started fifth, beat Dale Jarrett by 4.1 seconds to win in his 96th career race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. reached Victory Lane much quicker, winning at TMS in 2000 in just his 12th career race. Who'd Dale Jr. beat to the finish line? Why Jeff Burton, of course.

Danger always lurking around the corner at TMS

April, 11, 2013

Danger can strike at any time in any area of the track at Texas Motor Speedway.

There have been 89 accidents in 24 races at TMS (3.7 per race) with almost a quarter occurring on the backstretch since 1997, where 23.6 percent of incidents occur. Turn 2 has been the next busiest area for the tow trucks, where 20.2 percent of accidents have happened.

Other areas: Turn 4 (19.1 percent), Frontstretch (16.9), Turn 1 (13.5) and -- finally -- Turn 3 (6.7).

Where's the best place to be? Running at the front of the field, of course. Since average running position was first added into accident data in 2008, Texas Motor Speedway has the second-lowest wreck percentage -- 2.4 percent -- by cars running in the Top 5. Phoenix is the safest track for cars in the top five (1 percent).

Who was the unlucky driver? Tony Stewart was running second when he wrecked in the 2010 spring race.

And if you're a fan of fireworks, you might not have to wait until the checkered flag flies and the postrace festivities begin. TMS has a history of explosive moments.

  • November 2009: Jimmie Johnson was pursuing his fourth straight Cup title as the series headed to Texas, but it ran into a snag when Sam Hornish Jr. got loose and made contact with the 48. Johnson nearly saved the car before colliding with Hornish again, and he sustained heavy damage. Johnson was very critical of Hornish after the race.

  • April 2010: Jimmie Johnson made contact with teammate Jeff Gordon, and Gordon shared his thoughts over the radio. They also made contact the very next week at Talladega.

  • November 2010: Jeff Burton inexplicably put Jeff Gordon into the wall well after a caution had come out. After Gordon climbed out of his car, he walked all the way down the backstretch and shoved Burton. Burton shoved back as the two shouted at each other.

  • November 2010: Kyle Busch was tabbed for speeding on a pit stop, and in frustration, he gave a one-finger salute -- and then a two-middle finger salute -- to a NASCAR official while being held on pit road. He was attempting to stay ahead of the pace car after a wreck.
  • Stats & Info: NRA 500 at TMS

    April, 10, 2013
    PM CT

    Playing the numbers game for the NRA 500, to be held at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night:

  • Jimmie Johnson is back in the points lead after a dominant Martinsville victory. It’s his 12th straight multi-win season -- the fourth-longest streak in Sprint Cup Series history. It’s also the fourth time he’s won at least twice in the first six races of the season. The other three times he did it, he went on to win the title. Johnson could add a third win at Texas, a track at which he led 324 laps last season -- nearly half the laps of the two races held there (669).

  • Johnson took the points lead away from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished outside the top 10 for the first time this season. Earnhardt will look to bounce back at Texas, site of his first career win in 2000 and a track where he’s had five top 10s in the last six races, coming back from a slump.

    From 2000-06, Dale Jr. had top 10s in seven of his nine races for an average finish of 10.2. Over the next three seasons, through 2009, he failed to crack the top 10 in six races for an average finish of 21.2. Since then, however, he's averaged an 11th place finish in his last six races.

  • No team has a better record at TMS than Roush Fenway Racing, which has won nine of the 24 races -- more than twice as many as any other team. In the last five races at TMS, Roush Fenway drivers have led 646 laps (38.7 percnet) and have gone on to 11 top 5s and 15 top 10s in 18 starts, and they've won the last two spring races with Matt Kenseth (no longer with the team) and Greg Biffle.

  • Kenseth is no longer with Roush Fenway Racing, but he’ll look to bring his Texas expertise to Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth is the all-time TMS leader in top 5s (12), top 10s (15), laps led (772) and average finish (8.3). He’s just one win behind former teammate Carl Edwards, who has three.

  • Danica Patrick was a pleasant surprise at Martinsville, finishing 12th in her first visit there. She’s struggled this season on larger tracks, but TMS could be a place where she maintains momentum. Last year in the spring Nationwide Series race, she finished a NNS season-best eighth. And in her only Sprint Cup start at the track, she passed a career-high 107 cars under the green flag.

    Who stars in the Lone Star State?

  • Greg Biffle: Nine straight top-10 finishes at Texas; longest streak in track history (defending spring race winner).
  • Jimmie Johnson: Finished second and first at Texas last season (five top 10s in last six races).
  • Matt Kenseth: Five straight top-5 finishes at Texas (won spring 2011 race).
  • Carl Edwards: Three Sprint Cup Series wins at Texas (leads all drivers).
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Four straight top 10s at Texas (1st career NSCS win came at Texas in 2000).

    Who's just feeling alone?

  • Brad Keselowski: Has finished 14th or worse in eight of nine career Texas races (2nd last fall; 36th last spring).
  • Mark Martin: Has wrecked out of two of last four TMS races.
  • Ryan Newman: Has finished outside top 10 in last nine TMS races.
  • Brian Vickers: Has never finished better than 12th at Texas (14 starts).
  • Kyle Busch: Has finished outside top 10 in three of last four races at TMS.
  • Jack Roush to be inducted into Texas Motorsports HOF

    March, 28, 2013
    AM CT
    NASCAR team owner Jack Roush will become the 15th member to be inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 11, Texas Motor Speedway announced Wednesday.

    Roush's cars have won a record nine NASCAR Sprint Cup races at TMS and 18 overall checkered flags across NASCAR's three national series. He also swept both Sprint Cup events during TMS' inaugural season (1997).

    Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (Racer of the Year), Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch (Maj. General Thomas Sadler Award), IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal (TMS Sportsmanship Award) and iconic motorsports writer Chris Economaki (Bruton Smith Legend Award) will also be honored during the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame gala on April 11.

    From the TMS release:
    Roush has helped establish one of the most successful organizations in motorsports in Roush Fenway Racing. The organization stands as the winningest team in NASCAR history and boasts the most victories in both the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. With Roush at the helm, Roush Fenway Racing has captured seven championships across NASCAR's three major series, including two Sprint Cup Series championships in 2003 and '04.

    Texas Motor Speedway has become the "House of Roush" with his nine Sprint Cup Series wins and 18 in Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series competition. His Sprint Cup Series victory total is more than double the next closest owner - which is Rick Hendrick with four - and his most recent win came in last April's Samsung Mobile (now NRA) 500.

    Roush joins an accomplished list of individuals that have been inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame since it was established in 2003. He joins previous inductees A.J. Foyt (2003), Johnny Rutherford ('03), Terry Labonte ('04), Lee Shepherd ('04), Kenny Bernstein ('05), Jim Hall ('05), Eddie Hill ('06), Mark Martin ('07), Jim McElreath ('07), Bobby Labonte ('08), Bruton Smith ('08), Joe Gibbs ('09), John Force ('10) and Lanny Edwards ('11).

    Johnson, who turned in his most dominating season at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012 with a victory in the AAA Texas 500 and runner-up finish in the Samsung Mobile 500, will receive the Texas Motor Speedway Racer of the Year award. In the AAA Texas 500, Johnson became just the second driver to win from the pole for his second career victory at Texas Motor Speedway. His win followed his previous performance during April's Samsung Mobile 500 where he led a race-high 156 laps en route to a runner-up finish behind Greg Biffle. In all, Johnson led a total of 324 of 669 laps in the two 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at "The Great American Speedway!"

    Busch has been instrumental in helping Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter raise funds to benefit children in North Texas. He will be recognized as this year's recipient of the Maj. General Thomas Sadler Award. Busch has hosted some of Speedway Children's Charities biggest fundraising events that include the Kurt Busch Celebrity Bowling Tournament and Busch-Whacked Mud Run. In all, Busch has helped Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter raise more than $40,000.

    Rahal will receive the Texas Motor Speedway Sportsmanship Award for displaying a demeanor both on and off the track that exemplifies the meaning of sportsmanship. In June, he appeared headed to his second career IZOD IndyCar Series victory before his car brushed the wall and the bobble handed the lead and eventual victory over to Justin Wilson. Following the race, Rahal handled defeat as a true professional. His sportsmanship has been demonstrated off the track through his work with the Graham Rahal Foundation and his efforts to help the family of the late Dan Wheldon in 2011 by generating an auction that raised more than $600,000.

    Economaki, motorsport's most noted and accomplished journalist, will be honored posthumously with the Bruton Smith Legend Award. Economaki left a lasting impact on the motorsports community through his work as both an editor and publisher for National Speed Sport News and television commentator. His passion for racing helped him earn the title, "Dean of American Motorsports." His 74-year career as a journalist helped capture the early history of motorsports, covering premier events in NASCAR, INDYCAR and Formula One, among others.

    Daytona 500 victory lap brings Jimmie Johnson to Dallas

    February, 27, 2013
    PM CT
    DALLAS -- Jimmie Johnson will have covered all four time zones and five states on his Daytona 500 victory tour by the time he climbs in the car for the first of two races in Phoenix this weekend.

    To the victor go the toils, although that's hardly the way the five-time Sprint Cup champion view things.

    "I know what time zone I'm in," Johnson said Wednesday during a stop at the House of Blues in Dallas to promote the Texas 500 race at Texas Motor Speedway on April 13. "I'm a little confused on days. Not much sleep, but some of that is self-induced. But it's been a very fun ride."

    If Johnson was feeling a little road weary, maybe a pep rally with primary sponsor Lowe's will help.

    There was double cause for celebration Wednesday night in Las Vegas after Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team announced a two-year extension with the only primary sponsor Johnson has ever had. The new contract runs through 2015, and the announcement happened to coincide with a major sales meeting.

    "I'll be in front of 5,000 store managers, and they treat me like Elvis," Johnson told The Associated Press. "It's a great relationship."

    The Daytona victory celebration started with an impromptu Harlem Shake video, followed by the early Monday morning ritual of turning in the winning car for display at the Daytona track. Then it was on to Connecticut for part of a day, and New York overnight for a full day of media engagements Tuesday.

    Johnson and his publicity team landed in the Dallas area Tuesday night, and he was back at it Wednesday before hopping a plane to Vegas. He'll be in Los Angeles on Thursday before finally getting back to the business of racing Friday. He's running the Nationwide race Saturday and will be trying Sunday for a series-best 62nd victory since his rookie year in 2002.

    After his first Daytona victory in 2006, Johnson remembers the following week as busy. Just not quite this busy.

    "I think that NASCAR has worked very hard to get us in major markets, and people want to see us," Johnson said. "They want to see the winner, want to talk to the winner. I think there's more interest today than what I personally had and what our sport had in 2006."

    By the time he gets to Phoenix, Johnson will have a lot of catching up to do. He says Tuesday is normally "download" day, when he goes over the previous week and looks ahead to the next one with crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of his team. Instead, he was chatting up David Letterman.

    "So I feel a little removed and not really in the space to go racing in Phoenix," he said. "But it's for good reason, and Chad's going to cut me some slack and I'll have to catch up Friday when I get to the track."

    Knaus doesn't really feel the need to cut his driver any slack.

    "Jimmie does a very good job of balancing that out," Knaus said. "He'll be on point when it comes time for Phoenix."

    Johnson's first Daytona win sparked the first of five consecutive championship seasons through 2010. He had no way to compare a Daytona win and a series title then. Now that he can compare, he better understands the scope of a win the so-called Super Bowl of NASCAR.

    "So to experience this after the five championships, what I'm getting at is this is like winning a championship," Johnson said. "I'm just as busy and there's just as much reach for myself, my sponsors, my team, as it did from winning a championship. It's amazing the impact of this single event."

    Johnson doesn't have to tell any of that to Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 2004 winner and Sunday's runner-up.

    "Yeah, it's like a drug, I assume. It's such a high," Earnhardt said. "You just don't know when you'll ever get that opportunity again, or if you'll ever get that opportunity again. I'm ready to do it again. It's been too long."

    While nothing's bigger than winning at Daytona, Johnson's contract extension with Lowe's Companies Inc. is an important early-season development in what was otherwise shaping up as a contract year, something drivers always hope to avoid. Johnson and Lowe's will be partners through at least a 14th season in 2015.

    "The stability is the key," Johnson said. "To know that that's done and literally the season's starting, we don't have to worry about that as a lot of teams do, field those questions and concerns. Honestly, it's a great honor."

    Johnson will return to the Metroplex -- along with the rest of the NASCAR drivers from the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series -- from April 11-13 for the Texas 500 race weekend. For more information, go here.
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- What more could you ask for? Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski -- the two men neck and neck for the Sprint Cup championship, racing side by side in the closing moments that included three dramatic restarts in the last 19 laps.

    It was one restart too many for Keselowski, who couldn't stop Johnson's charge past him to the outside on a green-white-checkered dash at the end.

    Johnson got one last chance to get by his new rival and he made the most of it, earning the 60th victory of his career and taking a seven-point lead over Keselowski with two races remaining to decide the 2012 title.

    But what a show this was. It sure didn't start that way. Sunday's event at Texas Motor Speedway was long and uneventful for a good part of the day, but the finish was worth the wait.

    Bad Brad was Brave Brad down the stretch, gambling on a two-tire pit stop to get the lead, then holding off Johnson (who had four fresh tires) when Johnson tried to pass him with eight laps to go.

    Not many racers can stop Johnson in that situation, but Keselowski didn't give an inch when Johnson challenged him. Frankly, it was Keselowski at his best, showing skills as a driver that few people believe he had by keeping the five-time champ behind him as they raced inches apart at 185 mph.

    You had to see it to believe it. This is what NASCAR racing should be, what everyone wants it to be on the 1.5-mile ovals that so often disappoint us.

    Read the full story here.

    Jimmie Johnson extends Chase lead

    November, 4, 2012
    PM CT
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jimmie Johnson regained the lead on the final restart, beating Brad Keselowski in an ending two-lap shootout to win Sunday at Texas and add to his NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead with two races left.

    Johnson led 168 laps, but found himself chasing toward the end. The third restart in the late laps proved to be the charm for No. 48 Chevrolet.

    During that restart on the 333rd of 334 laps, Johnson and Keselowski were side-by-side. Johnson charged hard on the outside, and cleared him on the backstretch. He held on for the final 1 laps to win from the pole for the second week in a row.

    "It was an awesome race. It's a great way to do it when the gloves are off and it's bare-knuckle fighting," Johnson said. "I got a great restart and got by him. I knew we had the speed if I could just get by him."

    Keselowski had taken only left-side tires -- when everybody else took four tires -- and went from fourth to first on another restart with 19 laps left. But there were two more restarts after that, including one when Johnson and Keselowski banged together hard after they got going, but Johnson won the one that counted most.

    "Man, I thought I had it, but we kept getting all those yellows," Keselowski said. "I knew I wasn't going to be able to execute every restart, and Jimmie did a great job on that last one."

    Read the full story here.

    Clint Bowyer focused on deer?

    November, 2, 2012
    AM CT
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Clint Bowyer, third place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, joked that he was still thinking about a big deer that he wasn't able to get over this weekend while hunting in Kansas.

    Sounds like a focus issue, Clint.

    "Focus is a huge problem for me anyway," Bowyer said, chuckling. "I woke up thinking about that deer. That deer yesterday was huge. It was huge."

    No, Bowyer didn't shoot the deer.

    "It was on the wrong side of the fence," Bowyer said. "I needed it on the other side of the fence. If it's on the wrong side of the fence, you'll get shot for things like that in Kansas."

    Bowyer did, eventually, start talking about racing. His fifth-place finish combined with Denny Hamlin's struggles at Martinsville has him at third place in the standings. But Bowyer is 24 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson and 22 back of Brad Keselowski. There's talk that this has become a two-man race and Bowyer knows he needs some help to get even closer to the top. So what needs to happen for him to claim this championship?

    "Jimmie wasn’t in New York when Sandy hit. He was win Charlotte, so he made it (to Texas for the race)," Bowyer said. "So scratch that from teh list of ideas that I could possibly when this championship. A hit-man is out of the order. He rides his bicycle a lot, maybe he'd blow his knee out -- not career-ending, but painful enough to keep him out of the car.

    "You’ve got to beat him. It’s a challenge to try to outrun him. We saw in it in Kasnas. You think, 'Well they’ve stubbed their toe now,' and they have a hell of a band-aid and they finish right behind us."

    Bowyer does feel he's got some confidence at 1.5-mile ovals thanks to his win in Charlotte a few weeks ago. That same car was unloaded at TMS on Friday with the team hoping they've got the right setup to win on Sunday. Bowyer noted he has run better at TMS in the fall races. He was ninth in last year's AAA Texas 500 and had top-10 finishes in last four November races at TMS, including a four-place showing in 2008. He was the runner-up in the spring race in 2011.

    "We need to win this weekend," Bowyer said. "We need to answer the call and get ourselves back in the race."

    Entry list: AAA Texas 500 at TMS

    October, 30, 2012
    PM CT

    Brad Keselowski takes jab at Hendrick Motorsports

    August, 20, 2012
    PM CT
    Did we just see a rivalry develop right before our eyes in Sunday’s NASCAR race at Michigan?

    I don’t mean between Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Certainly Gordon had said some harsh words over his radio during the race about Dale Jr., and after the race made it clear he wasn’t apologizing. But I’m sure team owner Rick Hendrick has patched things up for two of his stars.

    I’m talking about Brad Keselowski and five-time champ Jimmie Johnson.

    While Johnson suffered heartache by blowing an engine while leading with only five laps remaining to finish 27th, Keselowski finished second.

    As Johnson left the track without speaking to reporters, Keselowski took the opportunity to stake his claim as a title contender and also try to play some mind games with Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team.

    “I can taste the legitimacy of being a championship contender,” said Keselowski in throwing down the gauntlet.

    But perhaps he had already done that during the race when he referred to the “tricks” used by Hendrick Motorsports in their set-ups over the radio. Keselowski said six to 12 cars use the Hendrick “tricks” and have separated themselves from the field and upset the balance of competition in NASCAR.

    “There’s parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive," Keselowski said of the Hendrick team cars. “Some guys have it, some don’t. There’s a question to the interpretation of the rule. Penske Racing (Keselowski’s team) errs on the safe side because we don’t want to be the guys that get the big penalty.”

    Since June some drivers have complained about the rear end of cars driven by drivers such as Earnhardt and Johnson that appear to move around. NASCAR put a rule in place prior to Indianapolis in late July but drivers said it did nothing to impact the performance of Hedrick’s cars. In fact, Johnson won the Brickyard 400.

    Other drivers agree.

    “Whatever they’ve got working in the back of their cars is working well for them,” Hamlin said of the Hendrick team.

    “Sometimes I think some of those comments are made just because people are getting beat and they don’t like it and they want to bring attention to something that is probably not there,” said Jeff Gordon, another Hendrick driver.

    But Keselowski, in claiming his role as a championship contender, also indicated his team has to re-think its position.

    “There’s certainly some performance there that we haven’t gained,” he said about the Hendrick teams’ setup. “That’s something we have to evaluate every week that goes by, that those components are permitted to be run. We have to make a re-evaluation of that internally to decide if that’s the right way to go.”

    There are only three races until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship begins. You can smell the playoffs as everybody jockeys for position.

    Business is about to pick up.

    Jimmie Johnson wins All-Star race

    May, 19, 2012
    PM CT

    CONCORD, N.C. -- It's not often a race car driver intentionally cruises slowly at the back of the field.

    Jimmie Johnson did it for roughly 60 laps Saturday night, and it earned him a cool $1 million payday.

    Johnson used a calculated strategy -- he drove hard for the first and last segments, and coasted for the three in between -- to join the late Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon as the only three-time winners of NASCAR's All-Star race.

    The five-time champion won the first 20-lap segment of the Sprint All-Star race, then deliberately faded to the back for the next three 20-lap segments at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His plan was to keep the No. 48 Chevrolet out of trouble, then make his play for the win in the fifth and final segment.

    "We did a strategy that we thought was best for our team," he said.

    Read the rest of the story here.

    Jimmie Johnson rewards students with ice cream

    May, 15, 2012
    AM CT
    After an entire elementary school lived up to their promise, five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson lived up to his.

    Johnson, who visited Clara Love Elementary School in Justin to crown the "Speeding to Read" champions in April, was asked during a Q&A session with the student body if he would bring them ice cream again just like he did when he was voted the school's most popular NASCAR driver in 2010 by the students.

    The question made Johnson double over in laughter and brought a roar out of the 600-plus students and faculty on hand.

    "How do you say no when a little kid is asking you for ice cream?" Johnson said in a statement. "I know I can't say no to it myself. I told the students that if they kept up with their reading I'd see what I could do."

    After the students met their reading goal to live up to their end of the deal, Johnson responded by sending enough ice cream for the entire student body and faculty to enjoy Friday.

    Said Johnson: "They definitely deserve some ice cream."