Jimmie Johnson earned maximum points at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday in his bid for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title when he started from the pole, dominated and won the AAA Texas 500 in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
"It was an awesome race," Johnson said of his close battle with championship competitor Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge.
Gloves are off, and it was bare-knuckled racing.
Keselowski finished second and Busch was third in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
"Good night for us," Busch said. "Wish we were in the deal (Chase), but that's what next year's for."
Johnson dominated the first half of the race, leading 164 laps prior to losing the lead to Busch on a restart following a debris caution on lap 186. Johnson wasn't back up front until he got by Keselowski to retake the lead soon after the green flag waved for the green-white-checker finish.
"Our cars were pretty equal," Johnson said. "They're (No. 2 team) keeping us honest and pressing us hard."
Busch led for a while after getting out front on the restart following the lap 186 caution, recovering from missing his pit stall in an effort to miss the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford of Matt Kenseth during a cycle of green-flag pit stops around lap 45.
"Our Snickers Peanut Butter Squares Camry was good," Busch said. "We had a really fast car."
After the race went back to green, Keselowski made his way back into the top-five and then reassumed the lead with a call to take two tires while everyone else took four when the next caution came out with 23 laps to go.
Despite having older left side tires, Keselowski was able to hold off Busch and Johnson. Busch restarted on the front row next to Keselowski on the restart following the caution with 23 laps to go, but Johnson took the second spot just before the yellow flag waved again with 14 laps to go to get a shot at Keselowski on the front row.
"I thought I had it, but we kept getting all them yellows," Keselowski said.
When the race returned to green, again, Keselowski and Johnson raced side-by-side for the lead, making contact multiple times, but Keselowski was able to hold on to his spot in first. Johnson got one last shot when the caution came out for the ninth and final time with five laps to go, creating a green-white-checker scenario.
"Gloves are off, and it was bare-knuckled racing," Johnson said.
"I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race, and I decided not to wreck him," Keselowski said.
Kenseth finished fourth, and Tony Stewart was fifth in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Finishing sixth through 10th were Clint Bowyer in the No. 15, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Kurt Busch in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Dodge.