Jimmie Johnsonwon the Dickies 500 race after he held a duel with Matt Kenseth over the final laps Sunday night, slipping and sliding around Texas Motor Speedway on two new tires. He knew his other driver in the title chase, Jeff Gordon, had a seventh-place finish secured.
The vehicular street fight between the two former champions produced the most electric moments of an otherwise long and caution-plagued Dickies 500. Johnson, even with a title at stake, didn’t back off. Kenseth, knowing he was racing the potential point’s leader, didn’t let the No. 48 car go. The mutual respect showed in how cleanly they raced one another, swapping the lead and sometimes going sideways, but both finishing with their racecars intact.
Johnson prevailed, notching his third consecutive win and ninth of the year, the most by any driver in NASCAR’s top series since Gordon compiled 13 in 1998. He also overtook his Hendrick Motorsports teammate for the points lead, going from nine down to 30 up on Gordon with only two starts remaining in the 10-event Chase.
"It came down to a full-blown brawl with Matt, in a good way," Johnson said. "I don’t mean that in a bad way. We both wanted that win really bad, and I think it was evident in how close the racecars were. It was a lot of fun. I knew I didn’t have to worry about him putting me in a bad position because of the championship, and he also knew I wouldn’t come in there and clean him out and take out both of us racing for a shot at the win. So it was really good racing."
Both drivers experienced brief periods where it seemed they were going to lose it and wind up in the wall. Kenseth especially pulled out of one dastardly slide, righting the No. 17 before he and Johnson made contact. Somehow, they stayed off one another, and kept it clean until Johnson won by .944 seconds.
The championship was always there, in the back of Johnson’s mind. But so was the victory. His aggressiveness paid off — the winning pass on Kenseth added an extra 15 points to his lead over Gordon heading to Phoenix next week.