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Keselowski standing in Johnson's way of 6th title

Associated Press Published: October 31, 2012
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Denny Hamlin has conceded his championship chances, and Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne are fading fast.

So what's stopping Jimmie Johnson from cruising to a sixth NASCAR championship?

Brad Keselowski.

Johnson's win last weekend at Martinsville pushed him into the points lead with three races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. His margin is just two points over Keselowski, who has given no indication he's not going to fight all the way to the Nov. 18 season finale.

"We like our role is in this Chase," Keselowski said. "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 the 48 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 next month."

The next stop is Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway, where Johnson has a statistical edge. The five-time champion won at Texas in 2007 and has 13 top-10 finishes in 18 career starts.

Keselowski has had some challenges there, with a best finish of 14th in eight career starts. He's led only 34 laps, too. But he had a good car there in April's long fuel-mileage race and has no reason to believe Penske Racing isn't sending him back with another strong No. 2 Dodge.

"We had an awesome car in April at Texas, probably the best car I've ever had there," he said. "But fuel issues kept us from challenging for the win. This weekend, I'm expecting to challenge for the win."

It's not a must-win situation, largely because Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe salvaged last weekend at Martinsville.

A poor qualifying effort put him 32nd on the starting grid, with Johnson on the pole. Still, Keselowski found himself in position for a solid finish when the caution waved 23 laps from the finish. He was sixth, with 18 cars on the lead lap, and unsure how strategy might play out.

Keselowski asked Wolfe if he could make the call whether or not to pit instead of leaving the decision to the crew chief.

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