|Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs|
Jimmie Johnson won for the third consecutive year. The fact he scored his 69th career win and ensured that only one of the Eliminator Eight can advance to the finals by winning, was overshadowed by what happened on pit road after the race.
It's unlikely anyone will remember Johnson led nine times for 191 laps, or that Kevin Harvick finished second when he needed a win. They probably won't even realize that Brad Keselowski finished third when he, too, needed a win. They'll recall that Keselowski found himself in the middle of a post-race brawl -- again -- after having ruffled feathers in his push to the front, this time with Jeff Gordon.
Gordon took the lead on Lap 325 and appeared to be heading for his fifth win of the season and a guaranteed berth in the Championship Round. But Clint Bowyer brought out a caution with just five laps to go, setting the stage for a green-white-checkered finish. For the restart, Gordon took the outside line and Johnson took the lead with Harvick and Keselowski right behind.
As Gordon went high to build enough momentum to pass Johnson, Keselowski stuck the nose of his car between the two and banged against the No. 24. Gordon's tire went down, he spun out and wound up with a 29th-place finish.
Keselowski said, "There was a hole and I went for it. It closed up and we bounced off each other and kept going. It was just a battle for the win."
After the race, Gordon pulled up next to Keselowski on pit road and went over to chat. At first it appeared Gordon would settle for a verbal confrontation, but when Keselowski tried to get away, Harvick turned him around. Harvick said he told Keselowski, "If you're going to race like that, then you've got to man up and fight your own battles."
And battle they did, with Gordon punching Keselowski as crew members from various teams piled on.
Gordon, whose lip was bleeding, told reporters, "The way he races, I don't know how he's ever won a championship, and I'm just sick and tired. That's why everyone is fighting him and running him down. Your emotions are high. That was a huge, huge race for us. We had the car and we had the position. I'm so proud of my team and I'm proud of Jimmie Johnson for winning that race and not letting that little you-know-what win that race."
Beyond that drama, Kyle Busch raced back to fourth place from having a tire issue that ended his quest for a weekend sweep. Jamie McMurray pushed past Dale Earnhardt Jr. for fifth.
Joey Logano leaves Texas tied with Denny Hamlin for the lead, but with bonus points giving him the edge. Ryan Newman sits third and Gordon fell to fourth, with Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Keselowski, and Harvick rounding out the Eliminator Eight heading into Phoenix for the final race of the round.
Unofficial finishing order:
|6||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.|
|19||Martin Truex, Jr.|
|23||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.|