JOHNSON CRUISES IN THE LONE STAR STATE
In the past eight races, Earnhardt has climbed from 13th to fifth in the points standings. He trails Johnson by 62 points with two races remaining "I've got two races to go and we'd love to get a win in one of them and continue to have a good run here the Chase.” (photo courtesy: Jared C. Tilton, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth began the 2013 Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup as the top two seeds and they continue to hold the top two spots after eight post-season races … following Johnson’s lopsided victory Sunday at Texas. The five-time champion made it look easy, leading 255 of the 334 laps in cruising to his sixth victory of the season and the 66th of his career.
"I have been watching a lot of MMA (mixed martial arts) fighting lately, and you'll fall into a rhythm and think that somebody has got the fight won and it doesn't end that way,” Johnson said. “That's how this is going to be. Matt didn't have maybe the best day and still finished fourth.
“This thing is going to go to the last lap at Homestead, and it is going to come down to mistakes. I'm very excited about our performance and what we did here. We'll enjoy this, but there is still two weeks of very hard racing ahead of us."
With Kenseth’s fourth-place finish, Johnson now carries a seven-point lead into the next-to-last race of the season next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway – where he leads all drivers with four wins. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second on Sunday, more than four seconds behind Johnson. For the fifth time this season — and the third time in the Chase For The Sprint Cup — Earnhardt finished as runner-up Sunday at Texas.
"We're not running second by making mistakes," said Earnhardt, who has posted top-10 finishes in six of eight Chase races. "We're not giving away wins. So I feel like we're just getting close to cracking through, and just trying to maintain the momentum with two races to go is going to be tough, but that's what we're focusing on."
Although the engine failure Earnhardt experienced in the first race of the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway knocked him out of contention for the title, the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports crew used that setback as a catalyst to bring the team forward.
“The Chicago deal is regrettable,” said Earnhardt, who started seventh at Texas. “We'd love to go back and do that over again, but as soon as that happened, we really changed our approach and it was more about trying to win a race. Winning a race would really lift all the team’s spirits.
"You work all season long not to go winless. . . . So, I know how much the guys want the win on the team. So, that's what we're working for now. . . .
"I've got two races to go and we'd love to get a win in one of them and continue to have a good run here the Chase.”
In the past eight races, Earnhardt has climbed from 13th to fifth in the points standings. He trails Johnson by 62 points with two races remaining — Phoenix, where he has won twice, and Homestead-Miami Speedway, where his best finish is 10th, posted last year.
Jeff Gordon – a teammate to Johnson, Earnhardt and Kasey Kahne – entered the weekend third in the Chase but had a tire problem midway through the first half yesterday that sent him into the wall and off the track for repairs. Gordon returned to the race but finished 38th and slipped to sixth in the point standings.
Johnson started third, had his first lead of the day just ten laps into the race and kept the field at bay the rest of the way. Pole sitter Carl Edwards led 38 laps before engine failure saddled him with a 37th-place finish.
Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is the penultimate race of the Chase at Phoenix on Sunday, November 10 (2:00 p.m. EDT, ESPN, MRN, Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90)—Race 35 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 15-17). The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.