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Earnhardt sides with Johnson in Chase showdown

FORT WORTH — Brad Keselowski was teammates with Jimmie Johnson for a handful of races a few years ago, and once drove a car owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Johnson won an unprecedented five consecutive Sprint Cup championships before that streak ended last year. Keselowski is wrapping up only his third full season at NASCAR’s highest level and should have plenty more title chances.

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They arrived at Texas Motor Speedway with Johnson leading Keselowski in the championship chase by 2 points with three races to go. They race Sunday in the AAA Texas 500 on the 1½-mile high-banked track where Johnson has 13 top-10 finishes in 18 starts, and where Keselowski has never finished better than 14th.

OK, Mr. Earnhardt, how would you handicap the chase between your current Hendrick Motorsports teammate and the friend who once drove your Nationwide Series car?

‘‘Obviously, I want to see Jimmie win the championship between the two,’’ Earnhardt said. ‘‘But I'm really happy for Brad to be experiencing the season he has had. He has earned it.’’

Keselowski, 28, agrees there should be plenty of other chances, but he quickly responded with a slight chuckle: ‘‘That doesn’t mean that I want to waste them,’’ he said.

Keselowski is trying to get the first Sprint Cup championship for Penske, who has 15 Indianapolis 500 victories and 23 national titles in different series. That includes Keselowski’s Nationwide championship in 2010 after moving from Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports, a stint during which he also ran nine Sprint Cup races for Hendrick.

‘‘My relationship with Brad has really been at the track or racing-related,’’ Johnson said. “We haven’t had a chance to hang out too much off the track. For the longest time, he hasn’t been old enough to have a beer, so it has been hard to hang out too much.’’

Without unexpected things happening, Johnson and Keselowski are set for a two-man chase much like Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards last season.

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Kevin Harvick led 127 laps and won the Nationwide race at Texas for the fifth time Saturday night, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr., with a fourth-place finish, got even with Elliott Sad­ler for the season points lead with two races left.

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