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.
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.
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.
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
* Ford Mustang Drivers
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.
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.
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.
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
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||4|
* 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).
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.
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.
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.
Hamlin, the Daytona 500 Champion, held on for his 2nd win of the season.
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
|12||19||Martin Truex Jr.||13.641||334|
|16||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-1||333|
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||232||0|
|13||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||179||0|
|Playoff Cut Line|