FORT WORTH, Texas – Jimmie Johnson is the leader again in the Chase for the Sprint Cup title after a dominating victory Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
The five-time Cup champion knows all too well that his seven-point lead over Matt Kenseth is far from overwhelming with two races left in the season.
Johnson also left the Lone Star State last November with a victory and seven-point lead – and lost the championship to Brad Keselowski.
I hope history doesnt repeat itself, Johnson said. That is the perfect example of this thing isnt over until its over. Last year we had eight great races and two bad ones and didnt get the championship. ... There are two very important races left.
Kenseth and Johnson were tied in points when they got to Texas, though Kenseth was considered the leader based on his seven wins.
Johnson led 255 of 334 laps for his sixth win this season while becoming only the second three-time Cup winner at the high-banked 1 1/2 -mile Texas track. The No. 48 Chevrolet finished more than 4 seconds ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The 48 was in another class and nobody had anything for them, said Earnhardt, who had his fifth runner-up finish this season and has been top 10 in all six of the last seven Chase races.
Joey Logano finished third, ahead of Kenseth while Kasey Kahne, another Hendrick driver, was fifth.
Johnson got his 66th career victory, including a record 24 wins in Chase races.
But he and crew chief Chad Knaus are now in their third season since winning their fifth consecutive championship.
Ive been watching a lot of MMA fighting lately, and youll fall into a rhythm and think that somebodys got a fight won, and it doesnt end that way, Johnson said. Its how this is going to be. Matt didnt have maybe the best day, but he still finished fourth. This thing is going to the last lap at Homestead. Its going to come down to mistake.
Kenseth was running second behind Johnson for much of the first half of the race before getting penalized for speeding. That dropped Kenseth to 16th place and more than 28 seconds back, though the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota recovered for a top-five finish.
We were just being too aggressive. Honestly, the 48 had us ... they were just dominant all weekend, Kenseth said. That speeding penalty got us behind us. We definitely didnt need that, but really I dont know at the end of the day that it really affected our finish much.
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon, the other Hendrick driver, was in contention for another championship after his win a week earlier at Martinsville moved him up to a season-high third in points.
But on Lap 74, the front left tire on the No. 24 Chevrolet blew, sending Gordon high and hard into the wall between the first and second turns. His returned to the race after repairs and finished in 38th place, 187 laps off the pace. He dropped to seventh the standings, 67 points back.