John­son holds off Ke­selowski for Texas win

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

FORT WORTH

Jim­mie John­son and Brad Ke­selowski were near­ing the start-fin­ish line af­ter a late restart at Texas when their cars sud­denly slammed to­gether.

Some­how, they man­aged to main­tain con­trol and pro­long their bat­tle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship.

'' For­tu­nately, we both stayed 1-2 and didn't crash, didn't lose a spot on the race­track,'' John­son said. '' But I knew he was se­ri­ous about the race lead prior to that and that took it to a new level. ''

John­son still has the ad­van­tage, hold­ing a sev­en­point lead with two races left af­ter win­ning Sun­day. But the five-time cham­pion knows he's got a fight on his hands from the young chal­lenger who is try­ing to get Roger Penske his first Sprint Cup ti­tle.

''The gloves are off and it's bare-knuckle fight­ing,'' John­son said. Be­fore their big bang inside the fi­nal 10 laps, Ke­selowski was com­ing up the track with John­son on the out­side. Af­ter the No. 48 Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports Chevro­let got loose, John­son seemed to be charg­ing ahead be­fore they ric­o­cheted off each other head­ing to­ward the frontstretch.

They stayed side-by-side into the next lap, and ap­peared to scrape each other again - and still had to get through an­other restart.

''I raced hard, and I'm sure some­one would say dirty,'' said Ke­selowski, who over­came an early pit prob­lem and got back up front by tak­ing only two tires on one of the last stops.

''Any­time you run close to cer­tain guys you're rac­ing them dirty ac­cord­ing to some peo­ple. But I raced hard, and we both came back around, so there's some­thing to be said for that.'' When there was a third restart in the last 20 laps, for a green-white-check­ered fin­ish, John­son re­gained the lead for the seventh and last time to win from the pole for the sec­ond week in a row. He charged on the out­side af­ter some more bump­ing, clear­ing Ke­selowski on the back­stretch with 1 1/2 laps left.

But only af­ter a lit­tle fin­ger-point­ing at Ke­selowski, who af­ter his run­ner-up fin­ish went to Vic­tory Lane to shake the win­ner's hand.

''Just wanted him to use his head. There is no sense in tak­ing us both out in the process,'' John­son said. ''That's the first time that we've re­ally en­gaged at that level and raced each other that hard. To his credit, he did a nice job of get­ting right to the edge, and we brought home race cars. We weren't wadded up to look like a bunch of fools.''

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