Does anyone remember the gauntlet that Tony Stewart threw down to Carl Edwards last year? Of course we do, his words "he ain't gonna have an easy three weeks" will forever be remembered as the years pass.
Fast forward to one year later, a similar gauntlet is being thrown down. This one isn't being thrown using words, instead it's being thrown while behind the wheel. The two drivers that started the battle in the Chase eight weeks ago are once again battling one another, for points and victories.
Brad Keselowski lost ground one week ago when Jimmie Johnson took victory at Martinsville. Entering Texas, he was two points back from the lead, but knew it was not done yet. Johnson, meanwhile, threw his first punch at Texas on Friday, winning the pole.
His second came on Sunday, leading the most laps. But, Keselowski countered with a late pit call to just take right-side tires.
The first battle was a win, as he pulled away from the field, looking as though he was getting the lead back. But a caution flew, and another round was set to go off. On that restart, it was Johnson throwing the winning blow. It was not a knockout punch, but it was a major decision when the checkered flag waved.
Two straight weeks, it was Johnson carrying the checkered flag to victory lane. Now seven points ahead of the No. 2 car, time is running out on the opportunities to snatch away that championship.
Johnson's second straight win also gave one writer a victory this week, the second straight week someone picked the winning driver. But, only half the field had a strong finish, with everyone else finishing outside the top-15. The leader, however, is still the same. The closest competitor though is different.
Here's where everyone stacks up after the AAA Texas 500:
Rob Tiongson (2320) Matt Kenseth finished 4th (4)
Dustin Parks (2302) Clint Bowyer finished 6th (2)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2300) Matt Kenseth finished 4th (3)
Ryan O'Hara (2295) Jimmie Johnson WON (3)
James Broomhead (2288) Denny Hamlin finished 20th (3)
Kelly Crandall (2274) Mark Martin finished 29th (4)
Christopher Leone (2259) Kasey Kahne finished 25th (4)
Michael Hirshbein (2247) Brad Keselowski finished 2nd (1)
Billy Fellin (2243) Matt Kenseth finished 4th (5)
Patti Rodisch (2242) NO PICK SENT (2)
Kara Martin (2237) Carl Edwards finished 16th (3)
Misan Akuya (2224) Mark Martin finished 29th (1)
Next Race: It's appropriate that the next race on the schedule is in a location that is hot, because the action at Texas when it became crunch time certainly was hot and heavy on the race track.
Avoiding all the tumbleweeds, keeping away from cactus, and withstanding some strong sunshine and hot air, NASCAR will make the trip out west to the Phoenix International Speedway for the next-to-last event of the year. With the top two drivers finishing 1-2 in the latest race, this title hunt will becoming down to the wire. It's almost deja vu from one year ago, as the gloves are coming off with time running out.
Writers, the pool of drivers is narrowing, but there's still an opportunity for everyone to win this championship. Have your choices for the AdvoCare 500 submitted by Thursday, November 8, at 10 p.m. ET.