Jimmie Johnson regained the lead on the final restart, beating Brad Keselowski in an ending two-lap shootout to win Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas, and add to his NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead with two races left.
Johnson led 168 laps, but found himself chasing toward the end. The third restart in the late laps proved to be the charm for the No. 48 Chevrolet.
During that restart on the 333rd of 334 laps, Johnson and Keselowski were side-by-side. Johnson charged hard on the outside, and cleared him on the backstretch. He held on for the final 11/2 laps to win from the pole for the second week in a row.
“It was an awesome race. It’s a great way to do it when the gloves are off and it’s bare-knuckle fighting,” Johnson said. “I got a great restart and got by him. I knew we had the speed if I could just get by him.”
Keselowski had taken only left-side tires – when everybody else took four tires – and went from fourth to first on another restart with 19 laps left. But there were two more restarts after that, including one when Johnson and Keselowski banged together hard after they got going, but Johnson won the one that counted most.
“Man, I thought I had it, but we kept getting all those yellows,” Keselowski said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to execute every restart, and Jimmie did a great job on that last one.”
Johnson increased the No. 48 Chevrolet’s lead by five points to seven over Keselowski, a runner-up in his No. 2 Dodge by leading 75 laps after never before finishing better than 14th at Texas Motor Speedway.
They go to Phoenix next week. The season finale is at Homestead.
Kyle Busch, who led four times for 80 laps, finished third and Matt Kenseth was fourth.
It was Johnson’s 60th career victory and second at Texas.
Johnson’s teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne were involved in contact in the back of the field with Greg Biffle, setting up a restart with eight laps to go.
After Johnson charged high, and got a little loose, he came to the line side-by-side with Keselowski.
On the next lap, they made hard contact but kept going forward. Johnson maintained a slight lead at the line, but Keselowski pulled ahead and was still in front for two laps before Mark Martin spun out on the front stretch, setting up the final green-white-checkered finish.
There were nine cautions for 49 laps, including that late flurry that changed the race. It sure didn’t start that way, but then there were some yellow flags in bunches.
Tony Stewart finished fifth, followed by Clint Bowyer, who is now 36 points back in third place in the series standings.
Kimi Raikkonen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for his first victory since returning to Formula One this year. The result throws open the drivers’ championship with two races remaining.
Raikkonen held off Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished second. Two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel clawed back from last to finish third, his lead over Alonso cut to 10 points.
Vettel tops the drivers’ championship with 255 points, followed by Alonso at 245 and Raikkonen at 198.