Skip to content

As Phoenix beckons, the Chase is now a two-horse race

Nov 3, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT

AAA Texas 500 - Practice Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Joys of travel: Most of IndyCar community has to take red eyes back after Long Beach

    Apr 20, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    LAXredeye Getty Images

    The joys of return flights home from the West Coast for the IndyCar community..

  2. IndyCar notes: Andretti leads Honda contingent; Coletti quick but unlucky and more from Long Beach

    Apr 20, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    MA27lb Getty Images

    Another tough day at office for Honda, Newgarden comes up short of top-five and other tidbits from Long Beach.

  3. IndyCar: Saavedra cracks top-10 on debut with Ganassi at Long Beach

    Apr 20, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    LBw2w4 Getty Images

    Sebastian Saavedra has a clean, quiet, consistent weekend and ended P10 on debut for Ganassi.

  4. The saga of Coyne’s No. 18 at Long Beach: Moran’s lost debut leads to Daly’s long overdue chance

    Apr 20, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    It was a bizarre weekend for Dale Coyne’s No. 18, which saw one driver replaced before the weekend began, one injured before getting the chance to debut, and one finally getting a long overdue shot.

  5. Sir Patrick Stewart gave an awesome start command at Long Beach (VIDEO)

    Apr 20, 2015, 11:38 AM EDT

    Sir Patrick Stewart command AP

    Long Beach got off to a great start, courtesy of Patrick Stewart’s enthusiastic command to start engines.

  6. Hamilton may have won again, but it was Raikkonen and Rosberg who stood out in Bahrain

    Apr 20, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Mideast Bahrain F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    It may have been a routine victory for Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, but both Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen showed some of the fight that has been lacking in recent months.

  7. Arrivabene: Vettel cost Ferrari double podium in Bahrain

    Apr 20, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Qualifying Getty Images

    Ferrari team principal believes two mistakes from the four-time world champion cost him a place on the podium in Bahrain.

  8. Bottas pleased to hang on for fourth place in Bahrain

    Apr 20, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain Getty Images

    A mistake by Sebastian Vettel allows Bottas to take fourth place on Sunday in Bahrain.

  9. Montoya, Castroneves riff on Penske quartet’s nationalities post-race at Long Beach

    Apr 19, 2015, 9:53 PM EDT

    JPMhelioLB Getty Images

    JPM, Helio laugh about the four nationalities represented at Team Penske.

  10. Dixon passes Bobby Unser for fifth on all-time list with 36th IndyCar win

    Apr 19, 2015, 7:41 PM EDT

    DixonBobby36 Getty Images

    Bobby Unser praises Scott Dixon, while Dixon himself downplays the accomplishment.

  11. MotoGP: Rossi wins in Argentina after Marquez clash

    Apr 19, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    MotoGp of Argentina - Qualifying Getty Images

    The nine-time world champion extends his lead at the top of the riders’ championship in MotoGP.

  12. Engine issue costs Maldonado shot at points finish

    Apr 19, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-BHR-F1 Getty Images

    Romain Grosjean manages to salvage some points for Lotus in Bahrain, finishing seventh.

  13. Jones makes it an Indy Lights hat trick with win in Long Beach

    Apr 19, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Photo: Carlin Media Photo: Carlin Media

    Ed Jones survives streets of Long Beach to win Round 3 for Indy Lights.

  14. Ricciardo finishes sixth in Bahrain despite suffering engine failure at the final turn

    Apr 19, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain Getty Images

    Ricciardo finishes the race in a blaze of glory, but holds on to sixth place for Red Bull.

  15. WATCH LIVE: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Live Extra

    Apr 19, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    LBwatchlive Getty Images

    Watch the third round of the IndyCar season, from the streets of Long Beach, at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

  16. Vettel takes blame for causing front wing damage

    Apr 19, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain Getty Images

    German driver was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop towards the end of the race in Bahrain after running over the kerbs at the final corner.

  17. Button fails to start Bahrain GP, live tweets the race instead

    Apr 19, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-BHR-F1 Getty Images

    Another electrical problem for McLaren meant that Button was unable to line up on the grid for the race in Bahrain.

  18. WATCH: Indy Lights at Long Beach, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

    Apr 19, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    IndyLights

    Watch the third round of the Indy Lights season today at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.