As if last year’s championship race between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards wasn’t enough, 2012 has transformed into another battle to the end. Like a championship bout between two prize fighters, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski were bumpin’ and bangin’ at the end of the Texas race. Now they’re even on rounds at five wins each with Johnson leading by a slim margin on points (seven).
Johnson took the latest round, winning at Texas Motor Speedway with his adversary right behind him in second. After a late race gamble on tires didn’t work, Brad K used every bit of the track and Johnson’s car – with plenty of contact – trying to keep Johnson at bay … to no avail.
Certainly Johnson had the car to beat for much of the race, leading the most laps after starting from the pole. He led about the first half of the race, not letting anyone grab a lap for bonus points including his nemesis Keselowski.
Brad K started eighth but it took him only 100 laps before he was right behind Johnson, battling for the lead. Then as the race wound down, after a couple of restarts that had Keselowski in the lead, Brad K gambled with the two-tire stop when everyone else took four – he couldn’t hold off Johnson and had to settle for second.
It was almost like there were no other drivers on the track. Okay, there was – and in fact, Kyle Busch stayed right with the leaders most of the night but didn’t have enough to win it in the end.
Bumpin & bangin’
The bumpin’ and bangin’ was mostly issued by Keselowski who likes the give and take battles, just like a great champion of the past: Dale Earnhardt. In fact, Dale Sr.’s son Dale Jr. agreed that what was going on was fine at this point in the year. Said Junior: “I didn’t see anything that stood out to me as ridiculous. They are running for a championship. Them guys ought to be willing to do anything. Anything goes at this point. If it was a couple of guys racing just for a win early in the season, that would be kind of hair-brained to run like they did. That’s exactly what the sport needs.” (Source – Sporting News)
As a fan, I agree. As long as everyone comes home in one piece and isn’t taken out foolishly, let them bump and bang if need be at the end of a race.
Brad Keselowski has opened some eyes ever since he broke his leg last year, yet went on to win some races and qualify for the Chase when no one thought he would or could. Johnson is arguably the best driver in NASCAR with five championships to prove it. But Keselwoksi is going toe-to-toe with ‘Five-time’ and the two of them have captured the attention of motorsports fans everywhere just like Stewart and Edwards did a year ago.
Being only seven points back, Keselowski still controls his own destiny if he can win the remaining two events no matter what Johnson does. But Johnson’s been here before and his experience at winning championships is unlike anyone else in stock car racing.
With Phoenix and Homestead left, one of these two combatants will emerge as the champion in less than two weeks. More bumpin’ and bangin’ likely remain.
Sources – NASCAR, Racing Reference
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Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus for several years has blogged about every type of racing.