FORT WORTH, Texas -- The two-man battle that emerged over the final laps of Sunday's AAA Texas 500 left two others in the dust. And little doubt that this pursuit of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series championship is a race between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski and no one else.
Clint Bowyer entered Sunday's race third in the points standings, 26 points behind Jimmie Johnson. And in NASCAR nomenclature, he had a "good points day," running in the top five for most of the day and finishing sixth. But because Johnson and Keselowski were 1-2, he now trails by 36 points with two races to go in his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing.
"I've said this all along -- it's fun to be racing for the championship, but I'm more proud of where we're at contending for that championship, winning three races our first year together as a group," Bowyer said. "Got a long time to work. We just keep polishing the edges and keep getting better fixing our program week in and week out. We'll be there."
And unfortunately for Bowyer, it's not going to be this year. The same goes for Kasey Kahne, who, much like Bowyer, ran near the front of the field all day. But after contact with Jeff Gordon on lap 321, Kahne cut down a left-rear tire that exploded in turns one and two on lap 322 and brought out a caution.
Kahne entered the race 29 points behind Johnson. Thanks to repairs for the damage, he finished 25th. He's now 58 points back.
Who's up? Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth and jumped to fifth in the points standings from eighth. If it wasn't for two horrible races to start the Chase, Flatline would be right in the midst of this thing.
Who's down? This is a tie between Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., who each fell two spots in the standings. It was especially surprising for both, given how well they've performed at Texas in the past. Truex finished 13th. Hamlin finished 20th.
Who's out? Are you named Jimmie Johnson or Brad Keselowski? No. OK, then you are.