Monday, November 5, 2012

Rating the AAA Texas 500: 3 Stars ***

Sprint Cup Series championship contenders Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski spiced up the end of an otherwise stale race Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Thankfully, the championship was in play or Sunday’s race might have received worse than its 3 Star Rating.
Johnson and the #48 team trotted out their dominating ways quickly last weekend. Johnson smoked the field in qualifying, beating second-place Greg Biffle by more than 0.10 of a second. That doesn’t sound like much, but it was the largest difference between any two top-40 qualifiers.
Johnson then went on to lead the first 100 laps, and he did so with more than a four-second advantage over second place. Then NASCAR had to throw a debris caution to give the field a chance to keep Johnson from stinking up the entire show.
Overall, Johnson got the necessary results by leading 168 laps and winning the race. But his challenger, Keselowski, put up another strong fight at a track he previously hadn’t finished higher than 14th.
Keselowski finished second Sunday and nearly stole the win. He took two tires twice while the rest of the field took four tires, and he even roughed up the #48 car a little by bumping him on the frontstretch to take the lead on the penultimate restart.
That last section of the race is what saved the AAA Texas 500 from a lower rating. The first 275 or so laps were very boring. For whatever reason, the intensity level jumped dramatically after the final debris caution of the day on lap 275 and continued to the checkered flag.
Alas, Johnson still ended up in Victory Lane and extended his lead in the championship standings to seven points. The lead would’ve been just two points if Keselowski had won and Johnson finished second.
That means Johnson will head to Phoenix, the second-to-last race of the season with a lead that is longer than an eyelash. If Johnson beats Keselowski again next week, the #48 team will strut into the final race at Homestead with another sizeable lead that would require Johnson to finish well outside the top 10 to even have a chance to lose the championship.
Still, Keselowski has put up an admirable fight throughout the Chase, and the entire season for that matter. Whether or not Keselowski wins the championship, this season could be a sign of things to come in the future for him and the # 2 team, provided their switch to Ford next year goes smoothly.
In any case, the series will head to Phoenix next week for what could easily be another Johnson-Keselowski show. There might be a non-Chaser jump in the top five or pull off Kasey Kahne’s feat from last year when he won a race that was dominated by the 2011 championship contenders, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards.
Kyle Busch could pull that off this year. Remember last year at this time he didn’t even have a ride after NASCAR suspended him following a truck series wreck with Ron Hornaday Jr. at Texas.
Busch finished third at Texas this year and could pull off an upset win next week, but otherwise the championship race will likely be the sole focus of the weekend.
Have a great week, everybody.


  1. What was the attendance. Couldnt have been more than 75,000. Ive been to TMS when there was 200,000. Its a shame to NASCAR has become this.

  2. Anonymous - I agree. The estimated attendance was around 100,000, but the crowd looked extremely thin, which is surprising because Texas had maintained large crowds recently even when other tracks saw steep declines.

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