The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway looked like a race Ford would win handily. Ryan Blaney, in the Wood Brother’s Fusion, led 148 laps during the first half of Sunday’s race. Blaney won stage one and stage two. However, the stage two win probably cost him a chance at the victory. When the caution flag flew late in stage two Blaney choose to stay on the track and protect his position. Most of the field pitted. Blaney won the stage and the 10 championship points. But, during the stage ending caution, he had to pit while the remainder of the field stayed on the track. Blaney came out of the pits in 20th and never challenged for the lead again.
A long green flag run to start the final stage of the race strung out the field. Joey Logano got out of sequence with the leaders pitting later that any other competitor. The strategy allowed Logano to lead 38 laps. Unfortunately, it seemed Logano would finish well back in the pack when he pitted with 46 laps to go. A caution flag with 35 laps remaining changed Logano’s fortunes. As the lead lap cars pitted Logano stayed out and inherited the lead. But, he could not hold off a hard charging Jimmie Johnson who took the checkered flag. Johnson’s first win of 2017. Points leader Kyle Larson posted another fine finish taking second. Logano held on to finish third. Just ahead of pole sitter Kevin Harvick. Harvick, the Stewart-Hass driver led 77 laps and contended throughout most of the final stage.
Brad Keselowski finished sixth and Blue oval drivers took 10th through 14th in a strong showing for the brand. Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Blaney placed 10th, 11th, and 12th. With Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 13th and 14th respectively.
Team Penske continues to lead playoff contenders driving Fords with Keselowski in fourth and Logano in fifth. Penske’s partner, the 21 team, with Blaney, holds sixth. Bowyer and Harvick sit ninth and 10th. With Trevor Bayne 12th and Kurt Busch in 15th.
Next week the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes a break for Easter Sunday. Action resumes on April 23rd with the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The month concludes with another short track event at Richmond on the 30th. Both races are slated to take the green flag shortly after 2 pm.