Jimmie Johnson led for 255 of 334 laps for a dominating victory on Sunday to put the five-time champion back in the Chase for the Sprint Cup lead with two races remaining.
Johnson and Matt Kenseth arrived at Texas Motor Speedway level on points, though Kenseth was leading based on seven wins.
Johnson scored his sixth victory this season, becoming only the second three-time Cup winner at Texas. The No.48 Hendrick Chevrolet team take a seven-point lead to Phoenix next week.
“I’ve been watching a lot of MMA fighting lately, and you’ll fall into a rhythm and think that somebody’s got a fight won, and it doesn’t end that way,” Johnson said. “It’s how this is going to be. Matt didn’t have maybe the best day, but he still finished fourth. This thing is going to the last lap at Homestead. It’s going to come down to a mistake.”
Kenseth was second for much of the first half of the race before getting penalised for speeding on pit road. That dropped Kenseth to 16th place and more than 28 seconds back, though the No.20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota recovered to finish fourth.
“We were just being too aggressive. Honestly, the 48 had us … they were just dominant all weekend,” Kenseth said. “That speeding penalty got us behind.”
Johnson bagged his 66th career victory, with a record 24 Chase victories.
Last November, Johnson also left Texas with a seven-point lead. Brad Keselowski overcame that in the last two races to give Roger Penske his first Cup championship.
Dale Earnhardt Jr had his fifth runner-up finish of the season, more than four seconds after his Hendrick teammate, with Joey Logano third.
Earnhardt has finished top 10 in all but one of the eight Chase races so far, but has still gone 55 races since a win.
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon was in contention for another championship after his win a week earlier at Martinsville moved him up to a season-high third in points.
But on lap 74, the front left tyre on the No.24 Chevrolet blew, sending Gordon high and hard into the wall between the first and second turns. His team took a long time to make repairs and he was able to return to the race late, finishing 38th.