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JOHNSON OUTLASTS HARVICK TO WIN DUCK COMMANDER 500
FORT WORTH. Texas (April 11, 2015) – Jimmie Johnson became just the third driver in Texas Motor Speedway history to own victories in both the spring and fall NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races when he outdueled Kevin Harvick in Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500.
Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet) has dominated the fall race – winning the AAA Texas 500 four times including the last three in a row – but had to settle for four runner-up finishes in the spring event before notching his track-record fifth Sprint Cup victory. The win, his second of the season and 72nd of his career, allowed him to join Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin as the only drivers with victories in both Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway.
“This track fits a driver’s style and a team’s style, this abrasive surface and all the bumps,” Johnson said. “I think there’s some kind of connection between my dirt days and off-road racing that helps me get around this race track so there’s something in that department and it’s always been a good track for Hendrick.
“I hope everybody enjoyed it. I know from where I was sitting and the competitors, tonight was a very good night for our sport, a lot of great racing. The surface of this race track really allows that all to happen, and we're happy that we're able to come out here and put on a great show.”
Despite leading a race-high 128 of the 334 laps, Johnson had his hands full with Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet) as well as Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) late in the race.
The eighth and final caution, which came out for debris on Lap 310, proved to be a critical juncture in determining the outcome of the race. All the leaders pitted, but Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Cessna/McDonald’s Chevrolet), Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet) and Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet) opted for two tires and came out as the top three, respectively. They were followed by Harvick, Logano, Carl Edwards (No. 19 Stanley Racing for a Miracle Toyota) and Johnson, who all took four-tire stops.
McMurray was able to hold them off for the first seven laps following the restart on Lap 314 as they were charging and jockeying for position. Harvick put Logano out of contention for the win when he bumped him after being blocked and sent him back to eighth.
Johnson, Harvick and Earnhardt continued to run down McMurray and Johnson overtook Harvick and the leader McMurray with a swift move with 13 laps remaining. Harvick was able to close to .298 of a second with 11 to go, but two laps later he got sideways going on the attack on the outside of Johnson. That gave Johnson some needed cushion – as well as forced Harvick to work and re-pass Earnhardt Jr. – and he went on to post a 1.108-second margin of victory over Harvick.
“I caught him (Harvick) dealing with the one (car, McMurray) and the one (car) was being aggressive, trying to keep behind him and they were worried about each other,” Johnson said. “I went up to the middle and top side of the race track and I just snuck by both of them on the bottom so that worked out really well for us and having clean air for those final 15 or so laps it really gave me the advantage I needed.”
Harvick, who led nine times for 96 laps, was followed by Earnhardt Jr., and the Penske duo of Logano and Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford), respectively, to round out the top five.
“The four car (Harvick) has been the team to beat for the last two years,” Johnson said. “The mile-and-a half’s have really been the bread and butter for the 48 so I think those two worlds are kind of colliding,” Johnson said. “Not every mile and a half has been favorable for us, but coming back to Texas we felt like we would really have a good race and be able to go up there and race with those guys and we did, led a bunch of laps and I was able to get them for a win.”