NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

 
                === Johnson takes Chase points lead to Texas ===
 
 Philadelphia,  PA  (Sports Network) - Jimmie  Johnson is in control with three
 races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
 
 After  winning last Sunday's 500-lap race at Martinsville, Johnson took a two-
 point  lead over Brad Keselowski, who finished sixth. Keselowski held a seven-
 point advantage over Johnson heading into Martinsville.
 
 Sunday's  race  at Texas Motor  Speedway is round  eight in the 10-race Chase.
 Phoenix (Nov. 11) and Homestead (Nov. 18) follow Texas.
 
 Even  though  Johnson's win at  Martinsville came later  than any of his other
 first  Chase  wins during a  season, the five-time  Sprint Cup champion is the
 only  driver to  score a victory in  each of the nine Chases. NASCAR began its
 playoff format for its premier series in 2004.
 
 Can  Johnson  continue his winning momentum  and increase his points lead over
 Keselowski at Texas?
 
 "Texas  is a  total opposite  from a  setup standpoint  than what  we had  (at
 Martinsville),  demands  on the car, the  way you drive," Johnson said. "We'll
 take  whatever mental  momentum and confidence that (Martinsville) brought us,
 but we have to go to work again this week, and it's a whole new battle.
 
 "We'll  do  more of the  same. We have  to be the best  to be the champions. I
 think we're showing we're in form and ready to do that."
 
 Johnson, who drives the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, has one win and
 13  top-10 finishes in  18 races at Texas. His average finish at this 1.5-mile
 racetrack is 9.7.
 
 "I  see a  good opportunity, and I know  we'll have a fast race car," he said.
 "Our mile and a half stuff has been very strong. We finished second (at Texas)
 in  the spring. So from a performance standpoint, we're ready to show up there
 and race."
 
 Johnson's win at Texas came in Nov. 2007. It was his third consecutive victory
 during  the  '07 Chase.  He went  on to win  the following  week at Phoenix to
 extend his streak.
 
 The  last time Johnson won back-to-back point races was in June 2010 -- Sonoma
 (Calif.) and New Hampshire.
 
 By  no  means is Keselowski concerned  about losing the points lead with three
 races to go. This year, Keselowski and his No. 2 Penske Racing team have found
 success  at tracks  where  it had  normally  eluded them.  He  has matched  or
 bettered his previous finish at 15 different tracks.
 
 "When  you  have a team  like we have,  it's easy to stay  calm in the face of
 adversity,"  Keselowski said. "We all have each other's back. We like our role
 is  in  this Chase. While  we aren't being overlooked  by any means, there are
 many  who think  that we are still  too young of a team to seriously challenge
 (Johnson's)  team.  We like it that  way. In reality,  we are a very good race
 team  that is  primed  to  take this  fight  right down  to  the  last lap  at
 Homestead-Miami Speedway."
 
 Keselowski  has yet to  post a top-10 finish in eight races at Texas, with his
 best  run there 14th, which came in April 2010. His worst finish there of 36th
 came earlier this year.
 
 "I'm  very  confident in our  abilities at Texas  this weekend," he said. "The
 mile-and-a-half  tracks have  been really  good  to us  this year.  We had  an
 awesome  car in April at Texas, probably the best car I've ever had there. But
 fuel  issues kept us from challenging for the win. This weekend, I'm expecting
 to challenge for the win."
 
 Clint  Bowyer is  26 points  behind Johnson,  while Johnson's  teammate, Kasey
 Kahne, trails by 29. Bowyer won at Charlotte and then finished sixth at Kansas
 before placing fifth at Martinsville.
 
 "All I can do is worry about running well and putting ourselves in position to
 win  races every  week," Bowyer said. "Bad  luck is not something I can really
 wish  upon the other  guys in front of us or even worry about. We are going to
 need some help from the other guys to stay in this deal."
 
 Kahne  moved from  fifth to fourth in the Chase rankings after his third-place
 run at Martinsville. He has one win at Texas, which came in April 2006.
 
 "I  still feel like  I have a chance because of the way the points are," Kahne
 said.  "We definitely still  have a shot, but we're a ways out. I wish we were
 within 20 or 15 (points). I think we'd be a lot more legit at that point."
 
 Fifth  through  12th in Chase  points right now  are: Denny Hamlin (-49), Jeff
 Gordon  (-54), Martin  Truex Jr. (-63), Matt Kenseth (-65), Greg Biffle (-69),
 Tony Stewart (-71), Kevin Harvick (-88) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-140).
 
 Stewart  won at  Texas one year ago,  and Biffle took the checkered flag there
 earlier this season.
 
 No  member in  the Chase  field has  been mathematically  eliminated from  the
 championship  yet,  but any driver  who is  97 points or  more out of the lead
 following Texas will be out of title contention.
 
 Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the AAA Texas 500.
 
 Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, Nov. 4. Race: AAA Texas 500. Site:
 Texas Motor Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 3:00 p.m.(ET). Laps:
 334. Miles: 501. 2011 Winner: Tony Stewart. Television: ESPN. Radio:
 Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
 
 11/01 13:03:41 ET

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