Nov 3, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT
Barring some cataclysmic occurrence over the final two races of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, either Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth will soon be adding another championship to their trophy cases.
Johnson’s commanding victory in today’s AAA Texas 500 and Kenseth’s fourth-place result would appear to have effectively finished off the hopes of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon.
Harvick ran a quiet eighth – not nearly enough to do any damage against the top two contenders. Kyle Busch had a chance to win until a late-race penalty for speeding on pit road knocked him out of at least a Top-5 and sent him to a final outcome of 13th place.
Then there was Gordon, who suffered a tire failure and slammed the wall on Lap 74, effectively taking him out of the title conversation after he had just gotten back into it with his win one week ago at Martinsville. He would return to action late in the running, and finished 38th.
Harvick remains third in the standings, but is now 40 points behind Johnson, the new leader of the championship by seven points over Kenseth. Kyle Busch is now fourth at 52 points back, while Gordon tumbled all the way to sixth at 69 points back.
There’s no doubt now. With Phoenix International Raceway coming up next weekend and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway just two weeks out, the Chase has, for all intents and purposes, come down to two combatants.
Last week, Johnson dubbed his duel with Kenseth and, then, Gordon as a “dogfight.” Today, he likened the championship to a cage match after beating the Texas field black and blue.
“I’ve been watching a lot of MMA fighting lately, and you’ll fall into a rhythm and think somebody’s got the fight won – and it doesn’t end that way,” Johnson said. “That’s how this is gonna be. Matt didn’t have the best day and he still finished fourth…This thing is going to go to the last lap at Homestead, and it’s going to come down to mistakes.
“I’m very excited about our performance and what we did here, and we’ll enjoy this. But there’s still two weeks of very hard racing left ahead of us.”
Kenseth almost made a critical mistake this afternoon, when he was penalized for a pit road speeding penalty around the race’s midway point. But he had plenty of time to make up for the gaffe and he just about did the job.
With his rally to fourth over the second half of the race, Kenseth made sure that the big punch Johnson threw today wasn’t a knockout. Now comes Phoenix, a place where both of them were competitive back in the spring (Johnson finished second to Carl Edwards, while Kenseth finished seventh).
“I thought overall, tonight was a pretty good night,” Kenseth said of his work today. “If I wouldn’t have messed up, maybe we could have ran second. We’ll just go there, hope we have the car to win, be aggressive, race hard, and hope we can get the finish.”
Two races. Two drivers. And stock car racing’s ultimate prize, hanging in the balance.
This is going to be fun.
Aug 29, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Helio Castroneves on pole; Will Power struggles to P21 for Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying.
Aug 29, 2014, 7:29 PM EDT
The Nationwide Series rookie and Sprint Cup regular top today’s two practice sessions ahead of tomorrow night’s Great Clips 300 benefiting Feed The Children.
Aug 29, 2014, 7:06 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. — According to Jeff Gordon, the last three Sprint Cup races just weren’t quite the same without Tony Stewart. Gordon is glad Stewart is back.
Aug 29, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, and Brian Vickers share their thoughts on Tony Stewart getting back behind the wheel in Atlanta.
Aug 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
The 500-mile shootout may be late Saturday night in Fontana, but still promises a bevy of story lines for the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale.
Aug 29, 2014, 6:25 PM EDT
NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan also reports on the atmosphere around Tony Stewart’s return at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Aug 29, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
“…[Stewart] being in the race car right now is about him getting through what has been a very emotional two weeks, and what his next step is in coping with this.” – Stewart Haas Racing’s Brett Frood
Aug 29, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT
Brian Vickers and other winless drivers are facing big-time pressure to get a victory in the final races of the regular season.
Aug 29, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Porsche GT-Cup class class to enter into Pirelli World Challenge in 2015.
Aug 29, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Coming up today: More on the return of Tony Stewart at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Aug 29, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Houston gone and momentum grows for Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, if a date can be found, for IndyCar.
Aug 29, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Following an emotional press conference this morning, the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion got back to work.
Aug 29, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. — Tony Stewart didn’t just wake up Friday morning and decide he was going to return to NASCAR racing. Rather, NASCAR officials required that Stewart followed procedures and protocols that included him being evaluated by outside professionals.
Aug 29, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. – Tony Stewart is still eligible to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR president Mike Helton announced Friday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But for that to happen, Stewart must win one of the next two races to get in.
Aug 29, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. — NASCAR president Mike Helton spoke with the media an hour after Tony Stewart read his self-prepared statement Friday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Aug 29, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip Povero makes his first statement on the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. crash investigation since Aug. 12.
Aug 29, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. – Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch are fully in support of their boss, Tony Stewart, being back in a race car this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Aug 29, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT
After reading from a prepared statement, Stewart left to prepare for Sprint Cup practice this afternoon. Stewart Haas Racing executive VP Brett Frood then took questions from the assembled media.
Aug 29, 2014, 2:19 PM EDT
Will Power on top in opening MAVTV 500 practice session.
Aug 29, 2014, 1:37 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. – A visibly somber Tony Stewart, at times bordering on tears, faced the media and the NASCAR world for the first time in nearly three weeks Friday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Video from NASCAR America
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- How NASCAR determined Tony Stewart was ready to race again 3
- Helton: Tony Stewart still eligible for Chase, but must win to get in 2
- Sheriff: Stewart crash investigation to continue “for at least another 2 weeks” 8
- Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick glad to see boss, teammate and friend Tony Stewart back in race car 0