Denny Hamlin Captures Texas for 2nd Win of the Year

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Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX (March 31, 2019)

Jimmie Johnson(48) sits on the pole for today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway. It has been 65 races since the 7-time Cup Champion visited victory lane in the Cup Series. Johnson has won 7-times at Texas Motor Speedway and would love to break his winless streak this weekend. But, 38 other drivers are determined to keep that from happening.

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

At Texas, 334 laps make up the 501 miles the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will run. Stages are 85/85/164 laps. Kyle Busch(18) won last year and is seeking the weekend triple. Busch won the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck race Friday and the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday. He starts 16th today as qualifying again turned into a farce with delays in taking to the track. Something NASCAR says they will do whatever is necessary to correct.

Traction compound was applied to the corners this weekend. But drivers have been reluctant to fully embrace the upper grooves. Cool weather may be the reason, as the PJ1 responds better on a hot track.

The Start

Johnson drove off into the lead as the field raced side-by-side for the early laps of the race. Michigan’s Erik Jones(20) spun in Turn 2 on Lap 14 bringing out the first caution of the day. No damage to Jones’ car and he managed to stay on the lead lap. The leaders stayed on the track, but from 10th on back drivers opted to bring their cars to pit road. Kyle Busch missed his pit and drove through pit road without making a service stop. He picked up a spot in track position.

Stage 1

On the restart, Johnson maintained the lead. Joey Logano(22) and Chase Elliott(9) followed close behind, with Austin Dillon(3) and Denny Hamlin(11) rounding out the top 5. Green flag pit stops commenced with 26 laps to go in the Stage. When things cycled through Logano led and held on to earn the Stage win.

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
22 Joey Logano* 10
48 Jimmie Johnson 9
9 Chase Elliott 8
3 Austin Dillon 7
12 Ryan Blaney* 6
21 Paul Menard* 5
41 Daniel Suarez* 4
18 Kyle Busch 3
42 Kyle Larson 2
37 Chris Buescher 1

* Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

Pit stops jumbled the field as some drivers opted to stay on the track after pitting late in Stage 1. Martin Truex Jr.(19) held the lead into the restart. He was followed by Kurt Busch(1), Kevin Harvick(4), Clint Bowyer(14) and Kyle Busch.

Brad Keselowski coasted into the pits just before the race went back to green. On the radio, he told his crew the engine would rev but no power transferred to the rear wheels. A broken differential sent the car to the garage.

Photo Credit: Torey Fox / NASCAR Digital Media

Several drivers lead during Stage 2. Truex for 10 laps, Kyle Busch for 10 laps, and Chase Elliott for 35 laps. Pit stops began for those drivers who stayed out at the end of Stage 1 with 32 laps to go in Stage 2. Most of the leaders pitted within the next 10 laps.

Caution

Kyle Larson hit the wall out of Turn 2 bringing out the caution with 22 laps to go in Stage 2. Severe damage to his car resulted in an underhood fire by the time Larson made it back to pit road. Taking him out of the race. Fire trucks on pit road kept the cars on track until there were 15 laps to go in the Stage.

Photo Credit: Torey Fox / NASCAR Digital Media

The race restarted with 12 to go in the Stage. Hamlin in first, Kyle Busch in 2nd, Daniel Suarez(41) 3rd, Blaney 4th, and Ryan Newman(6) in 5th. Logano was penalized for an uncontrolled tire on his pitstop and had to restart at the rear of the lead lap. Hamlin held onto the top spot, winning Stage 2.

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
11 Denny Hamlin 10
12 Ryan Blaney* 9
41 Daniel Suarez* 8
18 Kyle Busch 7
21 Paul Menard* 6
6 Ryan Newman* 5
17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* 4
24 William Byron 3
34 Michael McDowell* 2
48 Jimmie Johnson 1

* Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick were penalized during pit stops at the end of Stage 2 sending them to the back of the 20 cars on the lead lap. The race restarted with five Ford Mustangs at the front. Blaney, Suarez, Paul Menard(21), Newman, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17).

Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan / Getty Images

Blaney, with clean air on the nose of his Mustang, held a lead of over a second on Suarez until he pitted with 116 laps to go. Shortly after returning to the track, Blaney’s engine let go taking him out of the race. Kyle Busch worked his way back to the lead and the opportunity for the weekend triple looked promising.

Tire Trouble

Daniel Hemric(8) cut down a tire bringing out the caution with 80 laps to go. Aric Almirola(10) led the field with Erik Jones recovering from his early mishap to restart in 2nd. Jones quickly took the lead when the race went back to green. Kyle Busch joined the battle at the front and passed Jones for the lead.

Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan / Getty Images

A big bobble out the leader’s car returned the top spot to Jones. Busch seemed to just dart up the track. A few laps later a similar incident occurred and Kyle tapped the outside wall. His crew brought him to the pits and changed tires setting him up for the run to the finish.

Late Pit Stops

Jones pitted with 32 laps to go and Hamlin inherited the lead. Hamlin and 10 other drivers were on off-cycle pit stops. However, they all will need to make 1 more stop before the end of the race. Jones leads the pack of cars that already pitted running 1 lap down.

The final stops started with 15 laps to go. All the cars just taking a splash of fuel and returning quickly to the track. With 11 laps to go, all of the leaders had pitted and Hamlin was back out front. He held a two and a half second lead on Bowyer. Suarez ran 3rd, Jones 4th, and Johnson 5th. Kyle Busch was 10th, 12 seconds out of the lead.

The Finish

Hamlin, the Daytona 500 Champion, held on for his 2nd win of the season.

Photo Courtesy of NASCAR.com

The running order of the top 5 remained unchanged in the final laps. After leading the most laps, Kyle Busch finished 10th. Brad Keselowski’s crew repaired the differential in his car. Brad returned to the track 55 laps down. He earned a 36th place finish instead of dead last. That honor went to Kyle Larson.

Next week “It’s Bristol Baby” and the Lasco Press will be live all weekend for coverage from “The Last Great Colosseum.”

 

 

Results of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 11 Denny Hamlin 334
2 14 Clint Bowyer 2.743 334
3 41 Daniel Suarez 5.099 334
4 20 Erik Jones 5.321 334
5 48 Jimmie Johnson 6.625 334
6 24 William Byron 7.260 334
7 10 Aric Almirola 9.377 334
8 4 Kevin Harvick 9.638 334
9 1 Kurt Busch 9.773 334
10 18 Kyle Busch 11.616 334
11 6 Ryan Newman 13.272 334
12 19 Martin Truex Jr. 13.641 334
13 9 Chase Elliott 17.223 334
14 3 Austin Dillon 17.456 334
15 34 Michael McDowell 22.902 334
16 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 333
17 22 Joey Logano -1 333
18 88 Alex Bowman -1 333
19 21 Paul Menard -1 333
20 37 Chris Buescher -1 333
21 13 Ty Dillon -2 332
22 47 Ryan Preece -2 332
23 43 Bubba Wallace -2 332
24 36 Matt Tifft -2 332
25 38 David Ragan -3 331
26 95 Matt DiBenedetto -3 331
27 96 Parker Kligerman -4 330
28 32 Corey LaJoie -4 330
29 15 Ross Chastain -5 329
30 0 Landon Cassill -8 326
31 51 BJ McLeod -9 325
32 77 Garrett Smithley -9 325
33 8 Daniel Hemric -10 324
34 27 Reed Sorenson -12 322
35 52 Bayley Currey -14 320
36 2 Brad Keselowski -55 279
37 12 Ryan Blaney -108 225
38 66 Timmy Hill -165 168
39 42 Kyle Larson -186 147

Points/Playoff Standings

Rank Driver Points Wins
1 Kyle Busch 300 2
2 Denny Hamlin 292 2
3 Brad Keselowski* 237 2
4 Joey Logano* 265 1
5 Kevin Harvick* 277 0
6 Aric Almirola* 245 0
7 Martin Truex Jr. 232 0
8 Kurt Busch 213 0
9 Chase Elliott 210 0
10 Ryan Blaney* 204 0
11 Clint Bowyer* 192 0
12 Kyle Larson 183 0
13 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* 179 0
14 Erik Jones 173 0
15 Daniel Suarez* 168 0
16 Jimmie Johnson 166 0
Playoff Cut Line
17 Austin Dillon 153 0
18 Alex Bowman 152 0
19 William Byron 150 0
20 Ryan Newman* 147 0