Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jimmie Johnson still has the keys to Victory Lane at Texas

Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
They said he wouldn’t win at Texas Motor Speedway because he hasn’t been running that well, that he only had one top-10 finish this season.

They said he had to start in the back because he couldn’t start the race on the tires with which he finished practice.

They said it didn’t matter that he’s won here six times before, the repaved and re-profiled track surface made it like a new track. A level playing field, they said, so he wouldn’t be able to win.

They forgot to tell Jimmie Johnson all that. 

They ignored the fact that he was fastest in Happy Hour.

They forgot that he’s Superman.

He stalked Joey Logano for a few laps, patiently waiting for the No. 22 to slip. With 18 laps to go in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, Logano slipped slightly up the track and Johnson pounced, taking the lead and never looking back. Logano wound up third.

The win should probably come with the deed to Victory Lane since Johnson has visited it seven times in 28 starts at the Great American Speedway, with 15 top fives and 21 top tens.

“I guess I remembered how to drive, and I guess this team remembered how to do it! I’m just real proud of this team,” said Johnson in Victory Lane. “What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse, and we were just able to execute all day. Thanks to everybody at Lowe’s and Chevy and the fans and a ton of sponsors. Oh, it was hot in there. I got cooked in the car today. I didn’t have any fluids, so I’m not feeling the best, but we got into Victory Lane. I’m so proud of the fight in this race team. I can’t wait to celebrate during this off-weekend with my family and friends and really enjoy this.”

Early in the race it appeared that Ryan Blaney would claim his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup win. Overall the Wood Brothers No. 21 Motorcraft Ford led 148 laps, a career high for Blaney and the most laps led for the team since Neil Bonnett led 128 laps at Rockingham in 1982. Blaney dominated most of the first two segments and won both of them, choosing to stay out during a late-segment caution to win the stage rather than pit before the break.

Blaney described the decision to stay out, “In hindsight...that was kind of a judgment call. You give up a stage win and 10 points and a bonus point for the playoffs to try to set yourself for the end of the race. We thought we had enough time after segment 2 to try to work our way back up through there, and a restart actually after segment 2 really went bad for us. We got jumbled up in 1 and 2 and let a lot of cars get by. That was kind of the deciding factor I feel like. I let a lot of good cars get by like the 48 and 42 and 24, and that hurt us more, I think, than anything was that restart after segment 2 when we had to check up big in 1 and 2.”

Second place went to Kyle Larson, his fourth runner-up finish of the season. He had a pit-road penalty in the first stage that may have cost him the victory. “Our Credit One Bank Chevy was good from the start, was able to pass a lot of cars there in the beginning. Got a pit road penalty. I clipped too many boxes there and then came from the back and passed a lot of cars again.” Larson explained. “Just felt like we passed cars a lot. All-in-all a good day. You never know…I felt like maybe if I didn’t have that pit road penalty early in the race I could have gotten to the lead that run with how good we were and maybe controlled the race from there. Just a little mistake on my part and we’ve got to clean that up a little bit and maybe we will win some more of these.”

Kevin Harvick finished fourth after leading 77 laps, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first top-five finish of the season. “I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it’s nice. I know our fans are really pulling for us. Could have finished a little better, we will take top five.”

Track president Eddie Gossage Jr. can breathe easy now; Junior gave his seal of approval. “I like the track,” said Earnhardt. “I like the repave. We saw the second groove come in a little bit.”

Kyle Larson heads into the break with a 17-point lead over Chase Elliott. Third-place Martin Truex Jr. has the most stage wins with four, while fourth-place Brad Keselowski has the most playoff points. 

Pos
Car #
Driver
Mfg.
1
48
Jimmie Johnson
Chevrolet
2
42
Kyle Larson
Chevrolet
3
22
Joey Logano
Ford
4
4
Kevin Harvick
Ford
5
88
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Chevrolet
6
2
Brad Keselowski
Ford
7
1
Jamie McMurray
Chevrolet
8
78
Martin Truex, Jr.
Toyota
9
24
Chase Elliott
Chevrolet
10
41
Kurt Busch
Ford
11
14
Clint Bowyer
Ford
12
21
Ryan Blaney
Ford
13
6
Trevor Bayne
Ford
14
17
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Ford
15
18
Kyle Busch
Toyota
16
20
Matt Kenseth
Toyota
17
13
Ty Dillon
Chevrolet
18
43
Aric Almirola
Ford
19
19
Daniel Suarez
Toyota
20
47
A.J. Allmendinger
Chevrolet
21
37
Chris Buescher
Chevrolet
22
77
Erik Jones
Toyota
23
95
Michael McDowell
Chevrolet
24
10
Danica Patrick
Ford
25
11
Denny Hamlin
Toyota
26
31
Ryan Newman
Chevrolet
27
7
J.J. Yeley
Chevrolet
28
38
David Ragan
Ford
29
34
Landon Cassill
Ford
30
72
Cole Whitt
Chevrolet
31
32
Matt DiBenedetto
Ford
32
83
Corey LaJoie
Toyota
33
3
Austin Dillon
Chevrolet
34
23
Gray Gaulding
Toyota
35
15
Reed Sorenson
Chevrolet
36
27
Paul Menard
Chevrolet
37
55
Derrike Cope
Toyota
38
5
Kasey Kahne
Chevrolet
39
51
Timmy Hill
Chevrolet
40
33
Jeffrey Earnhardt
Chevrolet
Top 10 in Stage 1: # 21, 78, 1, 4, 2, 42, 14, 17, 22, 18
Top 10 in Stage 2: # 21, 48, 1, 42, 24, 41, 4, 2, 88, 78









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