Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Johnson Outduels Harvick in Texas


Jimmie Johnson was a clear-cut favorite heading into this weekend’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but he had never been able to close the deal in the spring race. That was not the case Saturday evening, as he led 128 of the 334 laps en route to his second win of the season and fifth at Texas Motor Speedway.

Johnson, who woke up with a cold Saturday morning, talked about his way to victory lane in his post-race interview.

“Those last three pit stops with the varied tire strategies, our car wasn’t handling like it did when we were leading. The third one [lap 310], our car was really, really good and I was able to work our way forward. The No. 4 [of Kevin Harvick] was having trouble with the No. 1 (of Jamie McMurray) and slid up […] and I thought I had it under control.  Just a lot of great racing. The surface of this racetrack allows that to happen.”

Harvick finished second yet again, extending his streak of top ten finishes (seventh top ten in 2015). After he was passed by McMurray, he went after Johnson one last time, giving it all he had. But it was not meant to be, as Harvick ended up scraping the wall on lap 331 trying to run Johnson back down after he was passed on lap 321.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed him in turns three and four on the final lap, but Harvick then crossed over Earnhardt Jr. coming to the checkered flag to nab a second place finish with Earnhardt Jr. finishing third behind the two champions.

Joey Logano came home fourth after falling as far back as seventh with about 20 laps to go after Harvick gave him a little shove heading into turn one.  Logano was blocking Harvick, so the No. 4 nudged him out of the way.  But to the surprise of many, considering their past history, neither driver was hostile nor bitter about the incident.

“It’s the end of the race.  I blocked him and he got into me, I get it.  Early in the race that’s not acceptable.  End of the race, we’re racing for the win. I’d do the same thing.” Logano said post-race.

Harvick added that “that’s the chance you take when you block,” but in the end, it was just two drivers racing hard for a win.

Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards rounded out the top ten. Keselowski, who had to pit during the middle of the race off sequence for a bad vibration, got lucky when a caution came out right before the leaders were going to begin pitting.  Keselowski was running in the top three at the time, and due to the timeliness of the caution, he pitted with everybody else, was back on sequence and ran in the top ten for the remainder of the evening. He also overcame a late pit road commitment cone violation.

The same happened with the race winner’s teammate: Kasey Kahne. He had to pit for a bad vibration, got a break with a well-timed caution, pitted with the rest of the leaders and was back on sequence. Those fortunate instances resulted in top tens for them, the first of 2015 for Edwards.

Gordon, McMurray and Truex Jr. gambled at the end of the race by taking two tires on the final pit stop.  The gamble paid off, as those three drivers who were running in the top 15 all race, ended up with top tens.  Truex Jr. grabbed another top ten finish in his No. 78 car, proving he is a real contender to end up in victory lane.  He has not finished outside the top ten to start the season, and Jeff Gordon nabbed his fifth-straight top ten finish after a poor start to the season.

Denny Hamlin overcame a pit road penalty to finish 11th, Ryan Newman finished 12th after starting in the rear due to an engine change, David Ragan finished 13th, Kurt Busch finished 14th after leading 45 laps early, and power-couple Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick came home 15th and 16th, respectively.

Paul Menard came home 41st after a great, promising run early was spoiled by mechanical problems.

Matt Kenseth finished 23rd after spinning out and then sliding through his pit stall on the final pit stop, and Tony Stewart came home 24th, still struggling to find some speed.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series head to Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend.  Bristol is known as “The Last Great Coliseum,” as bumping and banging will be evident for all 500 laps next weekend.  The race was also renamed “The Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up 2 Cancer,” as the FOX NASCAR analyst, who has been battling cancer, was recently discharged from the hospital and is fighting every day.

Erik Jones, an 18-year old phenom from right here in Michigan, got his first Xfinity Series win in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 over Earnhardt Jr.  After the race, Junior said “I knew he was good, now y’all know!”

You have to believe that Joe Gibbs Racing is going to call him up into the seat of the No. 18 car before Kyle Busch gets back from his injuries, but you never know, especially with his remarkable talent.

Johnson and Harvick, who coincidentally finished first and second at Texas, have won the past six races on intermediate tracks — three from Johnson and  three from Harvick.  Although the two are well-documented friends, we could see a rivalry in the making and coming down to the wire, all the way down to the championship.

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