The first off-week of the Sprint Cup season led to a lot of anticipation for last night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Plus, the 1.5 mile oval provided fighting among two of the biggest-name drivers, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon, with help from eventual 2014 champion Kevin Harvick, last fall. So, Dallas was buzzing with excitement at the drop of the green flag.

As the race drew closer to the checkered flag being waved, the best racing of the season was taking place. Jimmie Johnson and Harvick, with a surprise contender in Dale Earhnardt Jr. , blew past slower cars in the final laps and created an exciting finish.

The evening ended with Johnson shooting the celebratory pistols in Victory Lane, and Harvick still atop the points standings. Both drivers now have two wins in 2015 and appear to be setting up a season-long battle for the championship.

Locked & Loaded

Johnson and Crew Chief Chad Knaus corrected a minor, mid-race struggle, and the 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet led a race-high 128 laps. The ammunition of these two seems to be well stocked for a seventh championship chase. The duo has combined to win 72 times at NASCAR’s premier level, and hitting 80 is within reach this year.

Hammering Harvick

As strong as Johnson was in the final laps, Harvick’s 4 Budweiser Chevrolet was equal, until he hit the wall near the finish. There’s no doubt that Harvick has the ability to defend his title.

Junior’s Fives

With his third place finish, Dale Jr. now has 4 Top Five finishes and 5 Top Tens. His speed and ability to battle Harvick for second place late in the race were surprising.

The Rest Of Stewart-Haas 

While Harvick continues to dominate, his teammates struggle. Kurt Busch was on the pole, but was not a contender for the win, despite leading 45 laps. Danica Patrick finished 16th and dropped two places in the Sprint Cup standings to 17th. Team Co-Owner Tony Stewart was 24th and remains in 32nd place with 0 Top Ten finishes.

Where’s Roush?

The television crew couldn’t stop talking about how good the off-week was for Roush Fenway Racing. Improvements were allegedly made and optimism was high entering the race. Whatever was discovered last week didn’t translate on the track, as the highest finisher for The Cat In The Hat was Ricky Stenhouse in 15th. He was followed by Greg Biffle in 17th and Trevor  Bayne in 18th. Biffle has the highest spot in the standings at 19th, and he has the lone Top ten finish for Roush Fenway.

Lug Nuts

  • The title found in each of my race recaps is very appropriate this week. Loose lug nuts were a big issue. Dale Jr., Keselowski and Kasey Kahne suffered from this problem.
  • Once again, there was no need for a ticket broker, as plenty of good seats were available.
  • This was the first night race of the season ,and I’ll continue to bang the drum for more, especially during The Chase.
  • There were 8 cautions, and most were due to debris on the track.
  • In keeping with the theme of this section and last night… I’m feeling a vibration…

Next Week

#ItsBristolBaby! For those unfamiliar with twitter, there is no punctuation in the middle of hash tags.

FOX will begin coverage at 1:00 ET on next Sunday. If you’re new to racing, take time to watch the action at the World’s Fastest Half Mile.