Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Win Shows Johnson Is Still Relevant; Hendrick Driver Is out of Running in Chase, but He's Looking to Be Factor Down Stretch

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Win Shows Johnson Is Still Relevant; Hendrick Driver Is out of Running in Chase, but He's Looking to Be Factor Down Stretch

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

Jimmie Johnson felt no satisfaction Sunday by keeping Brad Keselowski from clinching a Final Four spot in the Chase for the Championship. His victory at Texas Motor Speedway wasn't about beating a rival manufacturer, helping teammates or promoting a sponsor.

It was self-serving.

"I just don't think along those lines," Johnson said. "Happy I beat the dominant car. That definitely was in my mind."

Keselowski led 312 of 334 laps, only to be passed by Johnson with four laps remaining.

For Keselowski, he now faces the challenge of likely needing a victory Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway to make the championship cut.

For Johnson, it offered some resolution to one of his worst seasons.

Even with five victories, Johnson quickly admits a summer-long swoon took a toll. His first four wins came before June 1. Between then and Sunday's victory, his average finish was 14.65.

"Look, we did it to ourselves," crew chief Chad Knaus said. "Let's be honest; we did it to ourselves. I don't want to say we slacked, but we stunk up the summer 100 percent. It was horrible, pathetic."

Johnson's struggles continued in the first round of the playoffs, and he was quickly eliminated.

"From that point on, we had to swallow that pill," Johnson said.

The victory at Texas, however, reminded everyone, especially Johnson, that he's always going to be relevant.

"The reality of it is we're not as strong as we need to be. We've been searching for a couple years. I feel like we're making progress. I feel like our mile and a half stuff is improving," Johnson said.

"We're getting there. Unfortunately, we still have a ways to go. The win is important. I think we were a top five car, a top three car all day. Then circumstances at the end got us the win.

"We want to be back to being the dominant car. …

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