Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Johnson, Chase Head to Phoenix

Awesome. Amazing. Impressive. These are just a few words that could be used to describe last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Yet, even these strong adjectives probably can’t do the race justice. Martinsville winner and points leader Jimmie Johnson won the pole for Sunday’s event, putting a load of pressure on Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing that they had not felt yet this season. But as they’ve done all year, they responded.

Johnson dominated the early part of the race, leading nearly all of the first 165 laps. However, throughout the middle and latter portions of the race, Keselowski, and another strong run by Kyle Busch, got in the way. Over the course of the second half of the 334 scheduled laps, Busch and Keselowski held sway, keeping Johnson behind them. In fact, it wasn’t until the last 30 laps, following a two-tire pit stop called for by Keselowski, that he and Johnson really went heads-up for the win.

Throughout a series of restarts, Keselowski and Johnson went tooth and nail, bouncing off each other and driving right to the brink of trouble. Johnson put and end to the contest, however, on the final restart of the day. Starting on the outside for a green-white-checkered finish, Johnson powered through turns 1 and 2, and was not to be caught. Keselowski had to settle for a great second-place finish, holding off Busch as they came to the finish.


The rest of the top-10 was comprised mainly of Chase drivers. Kyle Busch followed Keselowski to a third-place finish. Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart overcame poor runs early in the race to come home 4th and 5th. Clint Bowyer was fast all day, but just wasn’t on the level of Johnson, Keselowski, and Busch, finishing sixth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran well late in the event, much like Kenseth and Stewart. He was 4th on the final restart, but fell back to 7th by the time the race finished. Kurt Busch joined his brother as the only non-Chasers in the top-10 with his 8th place run. Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-10.

For Johnson, it was his second-consecutive victory, adding a little bit more to his points lead, which currently stands at seven points. He and Keselowski also further distanced themselves from the rest of the Chase contenders. Bowyer is the only other driver who can leave the next race at Phoenix with the points lead.

The full points rundown looks like this:



Points (Behind)


Jimmie Johnson

2339 (–)


Brad Keselowski

2332 (-7)


Clint Bowyer

2303 (-36)


Kasey Kahne

2281 (-58)

5 (+3)

Matt Kenseth

2267 (-72)


Jeff Gordon

2267 (-72)

7 (-2)

Denny Hamlin

2266 (-73)

8 (+2)

Tony Stewart

2259 (-80)

9 (-2)

Martin Truex, Jr.

2259 (-80)

10 (-1)

Greg Biffle

2256 (-83)


Kevin Harvick

2238 (-101)


Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

2188 (-151)

This weekend the Sprint Cup Series travels to Phoenix, Ariz., and the 1.0 mile Phoenix International Raceway for the penultimate race of the 2012 season. The series last raced there in March when Denny Hamlin won for the first time at the track. Eight of the 12 Chase drivers have victories at Phoenix, with Jimmie Johnson leading all drivers with four wins. His average finish of 5.3 at Phoenix is also far better than any current driver. In fact, in 18 career races at PIR, Johnson has just three finishes outside the top-10. Johnson started and finished fourth in March. Brad Keselowski, on the other hand, has just 1 top-10 finish at Phoenix, that being a 5th in March. If Johnson has been a clear favorite in the last two races this season, he is even more of a favorite this weekend.

It’s hard to pick out other drivers who have been consistently good at Phoenix in recent memory. Two that might challenge Johnson and Keselowski are Gordon and Harvick. Each has scored top-11 finishes in 3 of their last 4 Phoenix races. Kahne may also be a factor, as he was last November’s winner. One can also expect drivers who have raced well on other short-tracks this season to fare well this week.

Coverage of the Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 begins at 1pm on ESPN.

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