Jimmie Johnson re-established his NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead with just two rounds to go by dominating at Texas Motor Speedway.
The five-time champion led 255 of 334 laps in the 500-mile race, putting him seven points clear of title rival Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth.
“We came here and tested and did an awesome job of understanding what I needed in the car and what was going to create speed,” Johnson said. “We came back and had a very smooth qualifying session and practice sessions (Saturday), and just kept putting more and more speed in the car.
“It paid off today. Obviously, we need a lot of speed in the car and a win to get any points because Matt is there in the top five. Nice to gain just a few points on him. But just a dominant day for this Lowe’s team.”
Johnson’s early opponent was polesitter Carl Edwards, who he overtook after 10 laps but twice lost the lead to in pit stops. Each time Johnson’s Hendrick Chevrolet was able to hunt down and repass Edwards’ Roush Fenway Ford, which eventually faded before dropping out with engine problems.
Kenseth worked his way forward to challenge Johnson as the race went on. A slightly slow mid-distance pit stop gave him ground to make up, but it was a pitlane speeding penalty on his next stop that really hurt.
The Joe Gibbs Toyota driver just managed to stay on the lead lap as he rejoined in 16th, and by the end had clawed his way back to fourth. There was a tantalizing moment for Kenseth when one of Johnson’s late stops was slow and dropped him to fifth place. But Johnson rapidly blasted back past all those in front of him to retake the lead and ultimately win by four seconds over teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“The 48 was in another class, and nobody had anything for him,” Earnhardt said. “He was just super good all through practice and the race.”
“Overall, we can’t be disappointed with a third-place finish,” Logano added. “Just the 48 car was ridiculously fast.”
Joey Logano lost out to Earnhardt at the final stops and came home third. Brad Keselowski had a couple of spells in the lead and finished sixth, behind Kasey Kahne.
Kyle Busch slammed the wall early on yet did remarkably little damage to his JGR Toyota. After a quick pit stop for checks, he rejoined in 29th and still on the lead lap, fought back through to second, then broke the pitlane speed limit and could only finish 13th.
Jeff Gordon had edged back into the championship contention when he won at Martinsville last week, but crashing due to a blown tire at Texas ended his slim hopes.
Results - 334 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 3h18m05.000s 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +4.392s 3. Joey Logano Penske Ford +5.999s 4. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +7.754s 5. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +11.170s 6. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +12.365s 7. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota +17.521s 8. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +17.779s 9. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +20.905s10. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +21.337s11. Mark Martin Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +24.002s12. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +24.037s13. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +26.828s14. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +28.568s15. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +1 lap16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +2 laps17. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +2 laps18. Parker Kligerman Swan Toyota +2 laps19. Elliott Sadler Waltrip Toyota +2 laps20. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +3 laps21. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +3 laps22. Austin Dillon Childress Chevrolet +3 laps23. Kyle Larson Phoenix Chevrolet +3 laps24. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +3 laps25. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +3 laps26. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +3 laps27. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +4 laps28. David Reutimann BK Toyota +4 laps29. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford +4 laps30. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet +4 laps31. Jamie McMUrray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +5 laps32. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +5 laps33. Casey Mears Germain Ford +6 laps34. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet +6 laps35. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +8 lapsRetirements: Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 190 laps Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 187 laps Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 147 laps* Josh Wise Front Row Ford 145 laps Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 144 laps Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford 125 laps David Ragan Front Row Ford 81 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 27 laps* Running again at checkered flag