Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX — November 3, 2019
After today’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, there is only 1 more race before the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But, before we get to ISM Raceway in Phoenix for the elimination race, Texas is going to determine exactly where everyone stands and each driver will know what they need to do to advance.
Kevin Harvick(4), last year’s winner of this race, starts on the pole. Erik Jones(20) sits next to him on the front row. Harvick currently is 14 points below the cut line, that position is held by Joey Logano(20).
The AAA Texas 500 is 334 laps, with Stages of 85/85/164 laps and Stage points will be critical for the playoff drivers. NASCAR has applied traction compound to the top lanes in the corners of the 1.5-mile speedway. How that plays out in today’s race remains to be seen.
Jones led the first lap as he raced side-by-side with Harvick until Kevin took control the next time around. Just 8 laps in, Chase Elliott(9) got loose in Turn 2. He could not catch the car in the traction compound and slammed the wall. Elliott started the race in 8th place, 44 points below the cut line. Significant damage to Elliott’s car is going to put him in a must-win next week at Phoenix.
Corey Lajoie(32) damaged the right rear of his car when he got up high and slid through the traction compound in Turn 4. The caution flag waved on Lap 42 and most of the leaders took the opportunity to pit for fresh tires and fuel.
When the race restarted Clint Bowyer(14), Jones, Martin Truex Jr(19), Harvick, and Ryan Preece(47) were the top 5. Unfortunately, the green flag did not stay out for long as both Brad Keselowski(2) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) got loose in the traction compound on Turn 4 on Lap 53. Stenhouse slammed into the back of Keselowski destroying both race cars.
Cars must run in the traction compound to activate it, early on it appears it’s going to take some more work to have it perform as intended.
On Lap 71, Corey Lajoie wrecked again, this time in Turn 3. The caution allowed some teams to pit and vie for track position at the end of the Stage. The race restarted with nine laps to go and Bowyer still in the lead. This time Harvick and Kyle Busch(18) were battling for 2nd.
Denny Hamlin(11), another of the playoff contenders, spun off Turn 4 on Lap 80, just five laps from the green and white checkered flag. He slid through the grass on the tri-oval tearing up the front splitter and undercarriage of his car.
Hamlin’s crew worked to repair the car, while track crews worked to get the race back to green for the end of the Stage. On the restart with one lap to go in the Stage Harvick jumped to the lead and took the win with the 10 bonus points, Bowyer finished in 2nd.
The timing of the green flag proved beneficial to Hamlin. He was able to get back on the track prior to the restart and catch the end of the field when the green flag waved. Hamlin exceeded the minimum speed necessary to come off the damaged vehicle clock. That was important because it allowed his crew to call Denny back to pit road several times during the Stage ending caution to work on the car.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
Playoff drivers Elliott, Hamlin, Truex, and Joey Logano(22) failed to score a bonus point at the end of Stage 1. Harvick’s Stage win and Hamlin’s trouble was enough to move Kevin above the cut line while Denny dropped out of the top 4.
Jimmie Johnson(48) and Alex Bowman(88) led the field back to the green flag to start Stage 2. They swapped the lead until Johnson pulled out front and set the pace. Aric Almirola(10), Jones and Daniel Suarez(41) made up the top 5.
After six cautions in Stage 1, things settled down in Stage 2 and green flag pit stops started 55 laps in. After pit stops cycled through, Almirola was the leader over Jones and Johnson. Aric held on for the Stage win with Michigan’s own Erik Jones moving up to 2nd.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Suarez took the lead at the beginning of the Final Stage followed by William Byron(24), Johnson, Jones, and Kurt Busch(1). On Lap 186, Johnson spun in the middle of Turns 1 & 2, not due to the traction compound, he just lost it. The #48 car tapped the wall damaging the right rear and ultimately putting Johnson out of the race.
During the caution, several drivers opted to pit as teams began developing strategies for the end of the race. Harvick was penalized on his stop for equipment over the wall, a tire was resting in the pit stall in case they needed to make a change, that is not legal and Harvick was sent to the rear of the field.
On the restart David Ragan(38) and Garrett Smithley(52) got together in Turn 2, bringing out the caution again.
As he was at the rear of the field already, Harvick pitted again to take on four tires and fill his gas tank.
Back to green, Suarez led briefly until Almirola passed him for the top spot. Almirola led for 39 laps until pitting from the lead. During green flag pit stops, Bubba Wallace had a tire go down and spun on the apron. The caution caught a number of cars a lap down, as pit stop finish out under caution it will scramble the field for the restart.
When the race restarted Almirola was back out front. He had to fight off a challenge from Suarez but lurking in 3rd was Harvick. Having overcome the penalty earlier in the race Harvick passed Suarez and set his sites on the leader. With 79 laps to go Harvick was back out front. Almirola held onto 2nd, he was followed by Kyle Busch, Suarez, and Logano.
Without another caution, the race may come down to a late pit stop, likely gas and go. Getting on and off pit road without a speeding penalty will be key. Larson was the first to pit with 31 laps to go and he took fuel only. Logano pitted with 28 to go and took two tires and fuel. A lap later, Harvick pitted for just a can of Sunoco Racing Fuel. Kyle Busch was the last of the leaders to pit with 22 laps to go. He stalled the car on pit road costing him a number of positions on the track.
Harvick led after all pit stops were complete. But, his lead was cut in half by Almirola in 2nd. Harvick likely gave up that time being careful entering and exiting pit road. Because once back on the track, he again began to pull away.
Holding on to the lead, Harvick booked his ticket to Homestead with the victory. Ford Performance finished 1,2, 3, 4 with Almirola in 2nd, Suarez 3rd, and Logano 4th.
Chase Elliott will have to win to advance to Homestead at 78 below the cut line there is no way he can qualify on points. Hamlin’s troubles dropped him below the cut line, he sits 20 points below Logano who is on the bubble. Kyle Busch is only two points ahead of Logano, both could be in danger is someone below the cut lines posts a win at Phoenix.
Hamlin, Blaney, and Larson would need a big day and probably a little help to make up a 20-23 point deficit. But, no one is going to feel safe until the checkered flag drops at Phoenix and the in-car radio says “you’re on to Homestead!”
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr||In / Win|
|2||4||Kevin Harvick*||In / Win|
|Championship Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the AAA Texas 500 from Texas Motor Speedway
|1||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||—||334|
|4||22||Joey Logano (P)||8.305||334|
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||12.315||334|
|7||18||Kyle Busch (P)||12.480||334|
|8||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||15.150||334|
|12||42||Kyle Larson (P)||25.297||334|
|21||36||John Hunter Nemechek||-1||333|
|28||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||-6||328|
|32||9||Chase Elliott (P)||-22||312|
|40||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-252||52|