Brad Keselowski was teammates with Jimmie Johnson for a handful of races a few years ago, and once drove a car owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Johnson won an unprecedented five consecutive Sprint Cup championships before that streak ended last year. Keselowski is wrapping up his third full season at NASCAR’s highest level and should have plenty more title chances.
They arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, with Johnson leading Keselowski in the championship chase by a slim two points with three races to go. They race today on the 11/2-mile high-banked Texas Motor Speedway, where Johnson has 13 top-10 finishes in 18 starts with a win five years ago, and where Keselowski has never finished better than 14th.
OK, Mr. Earnhardt, how would you handicap the championship chase between your current Hendrick Motorsports teammate in the No. 48 Chevrolet and the friend who once drove your Nationwide Series car to consecutive third-place season finishes (2008-09)?
“Obviously, I want to see Jimmie win the championship between the two,” Earnhardt said. “But I’m really happy for Brad to be experiencing the season he has had. He has earned it.
“He’s going to have a lot more opportunities aside from this one … to win championships.”
Keselowski, 28, agrees there should be plenty of other chances, but the driver of Roger Penske’s No. 2 Dodge quickly responded with a slight chuckle: “That doesn’t mean that I want to waste them,” he said.
Without some really strange and unexpected things happening, Johnson and Keselowski are set for a two-man chase for the title much like Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards last season.
Clint Bowyer (26 points behind Johnson) and Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne (29 back) are the next-closest drivers in the chase.
“I guess in some respects, you can look at two guys and a two-guy breakaway right now, but I’m not putting too much stock in that,” Johnson said. “A mid-pack finish for myself and Brad will bring everybody back into it and that’s not too big of a margin in my eyes.”
Four-time champion Jeff Gordon, Johnson’s Hendrick teammate and a co-owner of his car, said based on flat-out speed and performance, the edge certainly goes to Johnson.
“They’re just so rock-solid at so many different tracks,” Gordon said.
HARVICK WINS RACE; STENHOUSE GETS TIE
Kevin Harvick led 127 laps and won the NASCAR Nationwide race in Fort Worth for the fifth time, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got even with Elliott Sadler for the season points lead with two races remaining.
Stenhouse fought a loose car much of the night, and managed a fourth-place finish to make up his six-point deficit to Sadler, who finished 11th. Stenhouse’s six victories, two more than Sadler, give him the tiebreaker.
Lewis Hamilton secured the pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a circuit run of 1 minute, 40.630 seconds, and Formula One points leader Sebastian Vettel, who was third fastest, was disqualified and forced to the back of the grid for today’s race. Vettel was DQ’d after stewards ruled the Red Bull driver failed to have enough fuel in his tank to be tested after the session.