Check out some on the best radio chatter from the AAA Texas 500 , as Jimmie Johnson claims his 5th win of the 2015 campaign and Joey Logano looks to climb out of a Texas -sized hole.
Members of the NASCAR.com editorial team make their predictions for the second race of the Eliminator Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Texas Motor Speedway ( AAA Texas 500 , 2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM). Zack Albert Kyle Busch : With four top fives in his most recent five Texas starts, Busch has Lone Star momentum that could carry him to Homestead's championship round. Expect the best Chase of his career to get that much better with six-shooters a-blazin' in Victory Lane. Kenny Bruce Kevin Harvick : The defending champ flexes his muscle and earns a shot at his second crown. Brad Norman Kevin Harvick : Forget all the talk about Harvick winning next week at Phoenix -- although he may do that, too -- to advance in the Chase. The defending series champ will earn his way back to Homestead with a dominant outing on Sunday. George Winkler Joey Logano : He had arguably the best car again last week before Matt Kenseth wrecked him, so provided Joey can stay focused within a media circus, he'll have a great chance at a track where he has won as recently as spring 2014. Kathy Sheldon Kyle Larson : Pressure's peaking among the Eliminator 8, creating a huge distraction. And Larson has top-10 finishes at two of his four career Sprint Cup races at Texas . Larson likes big, fast tracks, and that's Texas Motor Speedway . RJ Kraft Kyle Busch : The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has a solid history at Texas (he won there in 2013) and it's his best track left on the schedule. Look for "Rowdy" to join Jeff Gordon by locking up a Championship 4 spot. Pat DeCola Jimmie Johnson : In or out of title contention, a winless Jimmie Johnson in the Chase just isn't a thing that happens. The three-time defending victor of this race will add a fourth straight trip to Victory Lane and ride out of Fort Worth wearing yet another black hat. Taylor Starer Joey Logano : Logano is coming off a rough week at Martinsville, where his 37th-place finish dropped him to last in the Chase standings. This year's Daytona 500 winner is looking for redemption, along with a ticket to the Championship 4 Round. Maggie MacKenzie Brad Keselowski : The Team Penske driver has been racing under the radar throughout the Chase, but the AAA Texas 500 could change everything. Keselowski, who sits sixth on the Chase Grid, statistically has done well at Texas and earned a top-five result in the spring race.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Brad Keselowski maintained all weekend that in order to win his second Sprint Cup Series championship, he was going to need to win two of the next three races. The 2012 champion got his one loss out of the way early. Keselowski's No. 2 Ford Fusion was the beginning, middle and end of the story of Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway , dominating the field from the pole to a tune of 312 of 334 laps led -- but a second-place finish resulted after being passed by race-winner Jimmie Johnson on the final run of the afternoon. "We need to win the next two. I understand that. But I think we have a great opportunity to do it, as well," said Keselowski. " … We know if we keep running like we have the last two weeks, you know, we'll win races." Throughout the race, it appeared the only thing capable of stopping the No. 2 was a looming potential tire issue -- something many heavy hitters, including his teammate, Joey Logano , experienced -- but the changes his and Johnson's teams made during the last round of pit stops shifted the performance tide greatly. RELATED: Tire issues crop up early at Texas Keselowski did all he could to hold off Johnson, but the speed of the No. 48 and a potential alignment shift after contact with Martin Truex Jr .'s No. 78 -- which the Team Penske driver admitted, "probably didn't help either of us," -- allowed the six-time champion to take the lead with four laps to go and maintain the position. Despite the contact, Keselowski had nothing but kind words, post-race, concerning the wheelman of the No. 78. Heck of a job. Pleasure racing hard with you as well. If @Team_Penske can't win the championship, I hope you do. https://t.co/tnZHAifcDs — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) November 9, 2015 "The 48 car had mega turn that last run and I couldn't keep the turn and it kept pushing real bad. I did everything I could to hold him off but he was way faster that last run," Keselowski said. "Their team did a hell of a job and found speed and my team did a hell of a job, too. We led 300-some laps and these debris yellows always favor someone and it wasn't our day for them to favor us. "… We had damn near a flawless day … I'm sure we could have done something different. I don't know if I could have, but we could have. We'll have to go to work and try to figure it out." Johnson, whose victory gives him a certifiable monopoly on the Texas fall race with four trips to Victory Lane in a row, mentioned that he "just kept trying to put pressure on (Keselowski) hoping for a mistake," but it was evident that a mistake wasn't even needed. Keselowski did not err, he just didn't possess the car necessary on the final run to land in the winner's circle and lock himself into the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks. As it stands, Keselowski is sixth in points and 19 behind fourth-place Truex. As he noted, a win will likely be needed to advance. If he does, the No. 2 car could be the odds-on favorite. Homestead and Texas share many similarities and teams will be using the same Goodyear tire run Sunday at the Fort Worth track. "As strong as we ran today, if we carry that over to Homestead, good Lord, watch out," he said. "We know we need to win the next two to win the championship. The good news is we have that opportunity. That's the way I look at it."
RELATED: Cut tire puts Logano in a hole How did a sunny Saturday in Texas lead to an hours-long weather delay that wiped out all but the NASCAR XFINITY Series race? That was one of the questions posed to NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday morning. "It was unique and was certainly frustrating," O'Donnell said of the situation, which was hampered by early morning showers and unusually heavy rain in Texas throughout October. "It's really hard where you have an environment where, you know, it's not raining, the fans look at it and say 'What's going on here?' " The main culprits in the delays were weepers, small cuts in the track where water pours out and streams across the racing surface. The weepers caused difficulties drying the track because, when the sun finally did come out, the heat helped pull the water up and out and compounded the problem, O'Donnell explained. Two Sprint Cup practices and XFINITY qualifying were canceled due to the delays, and the absence of the Cup practices, O'Donnell said, carried over into Sunday's AAA Texas 500 . Tire issues, first involving Joey Logano , whose left-rear shredded on Lap 10, put teams in a precarious guessing game early in the race. "I think Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. probably summed it up best in terms of talking about the lack of that last practice, (where) a lot of times teams really dial in the tire pressures," O'Donnell said. "Some would go perhaps too far, and you saw some of that happen early in Sunday's race. You didn't see that later in the race." Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick also experienced tire trouble early in the race, but crew chief Rodney Childers claimed it was debris that caused it, as heard on the in-race driver-crew chief audio. "I think there were one or two where it was debris on the track, and that happens," O'Donnell said. "We do everything we can to make sure there's nothing on the race track." Logano's tire failure and subsequent damage to the No. 22 Team Penske Ford led to him going to the garage and finishing 40th. He is eighth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, 63 points below the cutoff line, heading into Phoenix. Facing a must-win situation at Phoenix in order to advance to the Championship 4, Logano's team won't have much time to dwell on the Texas result, but one wonders whether a final practice Saturday evening would have made a difference. "That was a lot of discussion in the garage area ... we talked to the drivers, the crew chiefs," O'Donnell said about the decision to not hold a final Sprint Cup practice after the XFINITY Series race. "There's a lot on the line and we certainly want to make every effort to get practice in, but after having those discussions, the teams felt like they were ready to start setting up the cars for the race and preparing for Sunday."
With the way the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was turning laps around the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 , you'd think a certain former premier series champion was behind the wheel. Instead, it was 19-year-old Erik Jones . Filling in for the suspended Matt Kenseth , Jones -- in just his second career Sprint Cup Series start and third Sprint Cup appearance, all of which were in other drivers' cars -- spent much of the day in the top 10 in what proved to be a challenging race for some of the sport's most seasoned vets. Jones wasn't invincible to the rampant tire issues that plagued many, having a right-front go down and tearing up the nose of his Toyota Camry, but he battled back to finish 12th, a more-than-acceptable result for a driver still earning his stripes. "I wish we could have been a little stronger there at the end," Jones said on pit road after the race. "We had that right-front go down and it tore the nose up pretty good so kind of took us out of a shot at a top-10. To still come home 12th is a good day for us." Jones -- originally scheduled to run both the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series races -- had to change his Sunday plans when he learned on Thursday that Matt Kenseth had lost both appeals to get his suspension dropped and that a replacement was needed. His doubleheader quickly turned into a tripleheader, and a successful one at that. The Kyle Busch Motorsports/ Joe Gibbs Racing driver built on his points lead with a win in Friday's Truck Series race and followed it up with a fourth-place showing in Saturday's XFINITY event. Perhaps the biggest things he'll take away from the weekend, however, are the lessons learned on Sunday. "You really have to be on top of your game and if you have any mistake like we did with the right-front, it really takes you out of any shot you have to run well," said Jones. "Just staying in it and staying out front, that's the biggest thing you need to do. I thought we did a decent job of staying in the top 10 all day up to that point. Other than that, it was a good day for us." Jones, who also mentioned he's "ready to take a day off" after the busy weekend, gets to do it all again (the tripleheade that is) next weekend. Kenseth's suspension will keep him out until Homestead, thus "The Kid" will suit up once more for the Eliminator Round finale at Phoenix. Jones picked up his first career NASCAR national series victory there in 2013 at the age of 17 in the November Truck Series race, then backed it up the following year with another. With an added week of preparation with No. 20 crew chief Jason Ratcliff, the combination sets himself up for even higher expectations in his third career start. So does he feel he could win? "I'd like to think so," Jones said. "My fortune has been very good at Phoenix, it's a track I really like and actually JGR was there testing a month or two ago. I feel pretty good about it and feel going there we have a good package. "I feel confident in my ability and think that's definitely a place where we can go up and run top-10. You never know, if the weekend is going well we could probably be up front and challenge for it."
RELATED: Updated series standings " Chase Grid FORT WORTH, Texas -- Martin Truex Jr . said he wasn't sure if there was or wasn't contact, and having just climbed from his No. 78 Chevrolet on pit road, he hadn't had time to survey the side of Furniture Row Racing entry. But the distinctive donut, the result of contact with the tire of another car, was hard to miss just below the driver's-side window. "We just got together a little bit on the front straightaway," Truex said of late-race contact with Brad Keselowski as the two battled for the lead in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway . "I don't know if I went down or he came up. He said he thought he came up. It's all good, it's hard racing." A loose wheel and power steering issue -- the issue was that he had none -- dropped Truex from contending for the win to hanging on for a top 10. He finished eighth, and is fourth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with only one race remaining to determine the field of four that will compete for the championship later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "We had a chance at the win there, I think," said Truex. "Racing with Brad at the end and the right front started shaking and the car just got really tight. Then it was just (a matter) of trying to keep the thing on there for 15 laps and make it to the end. It's just a shame. We had a really good car today. "The 2 (of Keselowski) was stout all day long but toward the end it looked like we got a little bit closer to him. Before that last caution we were actually catching him a bit. I don't know; I wished we would have finished better but all in all I guess it was an OK day." RELATED: Keselowski discusses racing with Truex Consistency helped put the No. 78 in the Chase picture, and a win earlier this season at Pocono Raceway guaranteed his spot in the 16-team field. He had 14 top-10 finishes in his first 15 starts to open the season. And that consistency is starting to resurface with four finishes of eighth or better in his last five starts. Truex led only a single lap, but given Keselowski's dominance on the day, few others spent any time out front as well. His team managed to avoid the tire issues that plagued some teams on the 1.5-mile track, and he quickly showed that his 23rd-place qualifying effort wasn't a sign of things to come. It helped his cause, he said, that Keselowski was unable to win and thus sew up one of the remaining spots in the finale. "That certainly helped a little bit. I was cheering pretty hard for Jimmie Johnson ," Truex said of Johnson's pass for the lead in the waning laps. " … We're still in good shape. Next week would have been a lot easier had we gotten second or third and we had a chance at it. It's disappointing when those finishes slip away but … all in all we're in good shape." Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske , was quick to confer with his rival on pit road. Though disappointed with the outcome -- Keselowski led 312 of 334 laps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race only to lose the lead to Johnson four laps from the finish -- there appeared to be no ill feelings as a result of the contact with Truex. "It certainly is never helpful when you make contact with another car, your own car or theirs, Keselowski said. "As far as whether it hurt my car or not, I couldn't answer that."
Inspection issues at Texas Motor Speedway will cost the Go Green Racing team with driver Joey Gase and the Premium Motorsports entry with Ryan Preece 15 minutes of practice time this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway . The two teams were among seven teams receiving warnings and/or time penalties prior to last week’s NASCAR events at Texas Motor Speedway . Gase, who did not qualify for the AAA Texas 500 , will be required to sit out the first 15 minutes of opening practice Friday at PIR after the No. 32 team failed the Laser Inspection Station (LIS) portion of pre-qualifying inspection three times. The No. 98 of Preece failed the LIS four times, also during pre-qualifying, resulting in the loss of practice time. The No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr . ( Hendrick Motorsports ), the No. 95 of Michael McDowell ( Leavine Family Racing ) and the No. 23 of Jeb Burton ( BK Racing ) received written warnings for failing the LIS twice. On the XFINITY Series side, the No. 18 of Daniel Suarez ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) also failed on its first two attempts. The laser inspection platform, in use since the start of the 2013 season, measures specific points underneath each car, such as camber, wheelbase and rear axle positioning. Measurements are within 1/1,000th of an inch in most cases. The No. 20 XFINITY Series entry with driver Erik Jones ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) also received a written warning. The first practice for Sprint Cup Series teams this weekend at Phoenix is scheduled to get underway on Friday at 2 p.m. ET.
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings FORT WORTH, Texas -- Two tire punctures and a balky transmission should have spelled the end of Kevin Harvick 's bid for a second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. But in spite of the avalanche of setbacks, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver still managed to pull off a stunning third-place finish in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway to keep his title hopes alive. Third in points, Harvick is one of seven drivers still scrambling to secure a spot in the four-car championship round scheduled for later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "As you look at the things we've had, we've had really good race cars and that allows us to overcome things like today with two flat tires," Harvick said on pit road after the 334-lap race. "Even with the shifter problem we were able to maintain what we had. But all in all, we just kept gouging away and everything worked out in the end." Debris from an earlier accident cut a rear tire on Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet less than 40 laps into the race as he was running in the top five. Able to make it to pit road without damaging his car, Harvick stayed on the lead lap, but eventually restarted outside the top 25. He wasted no time in getting back inside the top 10, and eventually the top five once again. He was dogging race leader Brad Keselowski on Lap 281 when the second tire puncture sent him back to pit road under green. Because the field was preparing for a round of green-flag stops, the incident wasn't as big of a setback as it might have otherwise been for the team. "There was debris everywhere," Harvick said. "The first caution, they just blew all the debris down to the inside wall. It seemed like a lot of people were hitting the wall and there was a lot of stuff out there today. It definitely was interesting with all the tire problems. "I never felt the tire blow apart. It was a real slow deflation as I felt the first one in the middle of the corner. I felt the second one in the middle of the corner, too, and we were able to get the car down. The only part I was disappointed in is I misplaced which tire it was both times. While several teams were battling tire issues brought on by air pressure adjustments and a lack of on-track time (both of Saturday's practice sessions were canceled due to wet track conditions), crew chief Rodney Childers said other than the punctured tires, actual tire wear wasn't an issue for the No. 4 team. RELATED: Tire issues forces Harvick to pit "At first I was blaming it on myself," Childers said of the first flat. "I thought maybe I didn't have enough air in it. But it was definitely a puncture. I've got the piece in my bag. It looked like a window shim, probably out of the 22 car (of Joey Logano ). And then the right rear that we had a problem with later, there was a big puncture in it also." Childers didn't blame NASCAR for the debris, noting, "when those things come apart, it just tears the car to pieces. "It's really hard for NASCAR to clean all that stuff up," he said. "The one that got our left rear, it was anodized black. You would have never seen it on a black race track. I know they are doing the best job they can. As a competitor you want he race track to be clean but on the other hand I know they're trying their best also." As if the tire problems weren’t enough, a problem with the transmission left Harvick driving nearly the final 100 laps while holding the gear shifter in place. "It hadn't missed a gear or jammed a gear or anything like that," he said. "It shifted smooth all weekend. I was just going along like normal. One lap, all of a sudden it just pops out of gear in the middle of the straightaway. So I don't really know. That's happened to us several times, so we definitely need to figure that out." Childers said it could have been a "freak thing" that "may never happen again." But it's clearly been an issue for the team. "We don't build our transmissions," Childers said. "… We're going to have to do something a little different there. We're the only people that run these transmissions." Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon clinched one of the four Chase spots with his victory at Martinsville Speedway a week ago. Teammate Jimmie Johnson 's win Sunday at Texas kept any other Chase driver from automatically earning a berth. Leaving Harvick to head to Phoenix International Raceway next weekend where he's has won seven times, including the last four races. Kyle Busch (4,080), Harvick (4,079) and Martin Truex Jr . (4,076) are currently second through fourth, respectively, in the points standings. Carl Edwards , Brad Keselowski , Kurt Busch and Joey Logano round out the eight Chase drivers.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth sent the following tweet after the AAA Texas 500 ended on Sunday. Good work @JimmieJohnson ! Textbook pass for the win at the end of the race when someone is trying to take your lane. #quintessential — Matt Kenseth (@mattkenseth) November 8, 2015
RELATED: Sunday's lineup " See the Chase Grid Race day info What: AAA Texas 500 Where: Texas Motor Speedway , 1.5-mile tri-oval in Fort Worth, Texas Green flag: 2:16 p.m. ET (NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) Forecast: Sunny, with a high near 63. East northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. (NOAA.gov) National anthem: Bárbara Padilla (America's Got Talent runner-up, Season 4) Grand marshal: John Krasinski, actor Honorary Starter: John Daly, Technology Infrastructure, AAA Texas Distance: 334 laps, 501 miles. Pit road speed: 45 mph Caution car speed: 55 mph Competition caution: Lap 25 On the front row 1. Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford (196.929 mph) 2. Kevin Harvick , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (195.993 mph) RELATED: See the full lineup Failed to qualify Joey Gase , Go Green Racing No. 32 Ford; Reed Sorenson , Premium Motorsports No. 62 Chevrolet Fastest in practice First practice: Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford (197.059 mph) " Results Second practice: Canceled (wet track) Final practice: Canceled (wet track) Key story lines 1. Underdog? Truex Jr. OK with status " Read more 2. Logano moves past Martinsville, focused on Texas " Read more 3. Drivers digest Kenseth penalty impact " Read more 4. Jones an able option for JGR entry " Read more Former winners in the field Jimmie Johnson (5); Carl Edwards (3); Greg Biffle , Denny Hamlin , Tony Stewart (2); Joey Logano , Ryan Newman , Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jeff Gordon , Kasey Kahne (1). He said it "I think if you are not in the top five right now you are in a must-win situation. ... In reality, we know we will probably need to win two of the next three to win the championship. We have that opportunity and there is no reason to focus on what we don't have, which is the ability to finish consistent and make it to the next round." -- Brad Keselowski , Coors Light Pole Winner