Clint Bowyer's title hopes fade in Texas
For a moment, Clint Bowyer thought he saw one last glimmer of hope.
"It would have been awesome," he told reporters at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday evening. "I really did think they were going to wreck each other."
"Yeah, I felt like we were just going to wreck," Keselowski said.
"We walked right up to that line, got right to the edge," Johnson said, "and then it stopped."
And so did any reasonable chance for Bowyer to resurge to a storybook win of the Chase in his first season with long-suffering Michael Waltrip Racing.
Mark Garrow recaps how Jimmie Johnson outgunned Brad Keselowski in the closing laps at Texas and continues to lead the Sprint Cup Points.
Bowyer finished sixth at Texas after falling behind in midrace with an unscheduled pit stop when he thought he had a tire going down. Before the fateful cautions began to fly with 26 laps to go, he was "sitting pretty good" had the race come down to fuel mileage.
But then, helplessly, he watched Johnson and Keselowski duel through three restarts. Keselowski won the first two -- the second being when they came closest to wrecking -- but Johnson roared away on the decisive green-white-checkered.
Maximum points for the win left Johnson seven points ahead of Keselowski going into the final two races, at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami.
But Bowyer saw what the rest of NASCAR Nation saw at sunset and beyond at Texas: Nobody is going to challenge both the duelists. Bowyer is a woeful 36 points behind JJ in third.
"Even if we were winning right now, it ain't enough to run them down for the championship," he said.
Retrospective on this Chase, after it's over, might show that Keselowski and the No. 2 team blinked with 54 laps left Sunday. Keselowski slid too far into his pits on a stop and had to back up to clear Danica Patrick's car, pitted in front of him.
Keselowski took the blame -- but the problem was that his brakes had been locking up on hard stops. So that might have been a minute mechanical blink on the part of the team.
Keselowski led going into that stop and came out ninth. That led to a two-tire gamble on his final stop -- and to what Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus kept mentioning as a clear advantage for the 48 team, on four fresh tires, to Johnson on the radio during the three restarts.
Arguably the best finish of the season emerged from what started out as an apparent continuation of arguably the worst race of the season, at Texas in April. When Sunday's first caution flew, 100 laps into the race, that ended 334 consecutive laps of green-flag racing there, dating back to the spring race.
But after that, eight more cautions came out, keeping the fight tight between Johnson and Keselowski.
Next week's race at Phoenix might keep the standings just as tight, considering that Johnson finished fourth and Keselowski fifth in the most recent race there, back in March.
"I have a lot of respect for that 2 team," Johnson said in Victory Lane. "They're keeping us honest, pressing us hard."
Nationwide Series: Harvick takes back seat in Texas
Kevin Harvick won so easily Saturday night that just about all of the show was behind him. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was relentless; Elliott Sadler was helpless; Denny Hamlin was seething and, in the larger scheme of things, 18-year-old Ryan Blaney just kept on coming up through the ranks.
Stenhouse wrestled a fitfully loose car to a fourth-place finish to move into a tie for the lead in points with Sadler, whose tight car kept slipping backward to an agonizing 11th at the end.
But if the Nationwide championship ended now, Stenhouse would have back-to-back titles based on a tiebreaker: his six wins this season to Sadler's four.
Blaney got the best Nationwide finish of his career: second.
"Oh! That was a tough night, man," Stenhouse told ESPN reporters at the track. "The first run wasn't too bad; we got a little tight. Second run was really loose, and we never really caught back up with it."
With a car that loose, Stenhouse went into his usual recover-or-wreck mode, and at times barely avoided spinning out.
"The restart before last, we restarted 11th, and I was just holding it wide open, going where they weren't, trying to get to the front," Stenhouse said. "We got our track position, drove a little better up front.
"All in all it was a tough night, but we battled back the way we needed to going to Phoenix [for next week's penultimate race of the season]," Stenhouse said.
Sadler, who has had a roller-coaster ride in search of this championship, was so dejected that he declined to talk with ESPN pit reporters.
Hamlin, on the other hand, had plenty to say after a sheet-metal shoving match with rookie Austin Dillon.
Dillon had crowded Hamlin to the apron, then hit the Cup veteran after the checkered flag, so Hamlin shoved Dillon into the pit wall as they came off the track.
Dillon left without comment, but Hamlin let loose with a prosecution based on the image both Dillon and his younger brother, Ty, have in NASCAR -- that they're being handed everything they need by their doting grandfather, team owner Richard Childress.
"First of all, he got his ride because of his name," Hamlin said of the elder Dillon brother. "Second of all, you've got to take advantage of the opportunity. If he's points racing [Austin Dillon is third in the Nationwide standings, 21 points behind Stenhouse and Sadler], you can't crowd a guy that's running -- I'm on the bottom. I'm all the way to the apron. So I'm doing everything I can, and after the checkered flag he wants to run into me. So I run him into the fence."
Out of his car on the pit road, Hamlin gave Dillon's crew chief, Danny Stockman, an earful.
"Danny says, 'Look, he don't have to fix it,'" Hamlin said, referring to the old adage that drivers don't worry nearly as much about damaging cars if they don't have to do the repairs themselves.
"Maybe he [Stockman] needs to take his [Dillon's] little a-- over there to fix his race cars," Hamlin said. "He needs to learn a lesson."
Camping World Truck Series: Banged-up Buescher gets it done
Points leader James Buescher was a bit like some working man out on the farm roads around Texas Motor Speedway, driving a damaged pickup truck because he just didn't have time to get it fixed.
But Buescher pressed on and got his job done, finishing 11th Friday night to stay atop the standings by 15 points over Ty Dillon.
Just short of halfway through the race, Buescher got rear-ended in a traffic jam on a restart, and, from there, there were no more cautions for body-shop work on pit road.
Johnny Sauter, out of contention in the points because of a bumpy season, could at least walk away knowing he swept both Trucks races at Texas. Sauter passed Parker Kligerman with 11 laps to go to take the win.
Cale Gale led on the restart that hampered Buescher.
"The 33 [Gale] spun his tires," Buescher, who restarted third, told Speed reporters at the track. "So it was just bumper cars from there, and we got too much damage [after he was hit by Matt Crafton in the jam] and the truck went really tight, just wouldn't turn, couldn't run the bottom, lost a lot of speed, got really draggy -- and never got a caution to try to do any repairs."
His crew did some jury-rigging on a green-flag stop, but it wasn't enough.
"It's just unfortunate -- and fortunate that we didn't lose more spots than that," Buescher said.
For Sauter, "It's been a season of peaks and valleys, for sure," he said in Victory Lane. "We've had a lot of bad luck this year. It's easy to hang our heads after the season we've had, but -- another win."
Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racing Resources says
Sprint Cup Series
• Jimmie Johnson won the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. It was his 60th career win in his 397th race. He is the eighth driver in history to reach 60 career wins.
• It marked the 12th time in Johnson's career that he has won back-to-back races, and the seventh time he has won consecutive races in the Chase.
• Johnson has 11 wins from the pole. He has two victories at Texas and became the seventh multiple-race winner at that track.
• Johnson won his fifth race of 2012, tied for most with Brad Keselowski. It is the seventh season he has reached five wins -- he won five times in each of his five championship years (2006-10).
• Johnson has 17 career wins on 1.5-mile tracks, most of all drivers. He has 22 wins in the Chase, also a series high.
• Johnson led seven times for 168 laps, including the final two.
• Hendrick Motorsports posted its 208th career win and its fourth victory at Texas. HMS has 11 wins in 2012, most of all organizations, and 28 wins in the Chase, also a series best.
• Chevrolet posted its eighth Texas victory overall and 14th win of 2012, most of all makes. Johnson's win was the 700th career victory for Chevrolet.
• Brad Keselowski (second) had his best Texas finish in his ninth start. He trails Chase leader Jimmie Johnson by seven points, his largest deficit of the Chase.
• Kyle Busch (third) matched his best Texas finish for the third time in his 15th race. He has top-10 finishes in five of the past six races this season.
• Matt Kenseth (fourth) posted his track-leading 15th top-10 finish at Texas.
• Tony Stewart (fifth) recorded only his second top-5 finish of the 2012 Chase.
• Clint Bowyer (sixth) has finished in the top 10 in eight of the past nine races this season.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (seventh) has top-10 finishes in five of the past six Texas races. It was the only top-10 finish in his past five 2012 starts.
• Kurt Busch (eighth) picked up only his third top-10 finish of 2012.
• Kevin Harvick and Earnhardt were eliminated from championship contention.
• Kevin Harvick won the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night. It was his 39th career win in his 290th race, a win tally that ranks third all time in the Nationwide Series. It was his second victory of 2012.
• Harvick picked up his fifth Texas win in his 14th start, tying Kyle Busch for most all time. It's the third track where Harvick has reached five career wins.
• Harvick now has 10 multiwin seasons in the Nationwide Series, the most recent previous one being in 2010.
• Harvick has finished first or second in his past three series starts in 2012.
• Harvick led six times for 127 laps, including the final 18.
• Richard Childress Racing posted its 64th career win and fifth overall victory at Texas. RCR has eight wins in 2012.
• Chevrolet posted its eighth Texas win overall and its 12th victory of 2012, most of all makes.
• Ryan Blaney (second) got his best finish in his 12th start, which was his first start at Texas.
• Kyle Busch (third) has top-10 finishes in his past nine starts but is still winless in 2012 after winning at least one race in each of the prior eight seasons.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (fourth) earned his 18th top-5 finish of 2012, most of all drivers.
• Denny Hamlin (fifth) got his eighth top-5 finish in 12 starts this season.
• Austin Dillon (sixth) leads all drivers with 25 top-10 finishes in 2012.
• Kevin Swindell (ninth) had his best finish in his fifth series start.
• Elliott Sadler (11th) has lost 13 points to co-leader Stenhouse over the past two races.
Camping World Truck Series
• Johnny Sauter won the WinStar World Casino 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday. It was his sixth Truck series win in his 106th start and his second victory of 2012. His previous win was at Texas in June (12 starts between).
• It marked the fourth time a driver swept both races at Texas in a season.
• Sauter has finished in the top 10 in seven of the past eight Texas races.
• Sauter led twice for 28 laps, including the final 11.
• Thorsport Racing posted its ninth Truck series victory and second win of 2012. Thorsport Racing has two victories at Texas.
• Toyota posted its 11th win at Texas, tying Chevrolet for the most. Toyota has eight wins overall in 2012.
• Parker Kligerman (second) posted his sixth career second-place finish, including four in 2012 and two at Texas.
• Nelson Piquet Jr. (third) earned his best Texas finish and fourth top-10 in five races there.
• Kyle Busch (fourth) got his seventh Texas top-5 finish in 10 races. He posted top-5s in both starts this season.
• Ty Dillon (fifth) has top-10 finishes in all three Texas races.
• Timothy Peters (10th) recorded his 14th top-10 this season.
• James Buescher (11th) had only his second finish outside the top 10 in the past 11 races.
• Brandon McReynolds finished 18th in his Truck series debut.
• The race speed of 154.752 mph was the fastest race in series history.
-- Racing Resources