Late Caution at Texas Ruins Dominate Day for Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon Steals the Win

0
724

Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX — July 19, 2020

Kyle Busch could have been well on his way to a weekend sweep at Texas Motor Speedway, winning the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race and the Xfinity Series Race. However, the post-race inspection of his Xfinity car determined it to be “out of compliance with the height requirements, according to the NASCAR Rule Book.” The disqualification gave the win to 2nd place Austin Cindric.

Busch will start 4th today in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. After posting a 2nd in the NASCAR All-Star race Wednesday evening at Bristol. Aric Almirola drew the pole for today’s race, Ryan Blaney will start beside him on the front row. Kurt Busch will join his brother on row two.

Wednesday’s Million Dollar All-Star winner, Chase Elliott, will start from the rear after failing pre-race inspection twice.

A total of 344 laps around the 1.44-mile speedway make up the 500.5-mile race distance, Stage lengths are 105/105/144 laps. Denny Hamlin won last year’s edition of the race, he will start 7th on the grid this afternoon.

Stage 1

Almirola reported a brake problem before the start of the race, a spongy pedal is a bit of a concern when turning laps in the 180 mph range. But Almirola had no trouble driving off into Turn 1 with the lead.

The start of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway / NASCAR Photo

The competition caution after 20 laps gave teams a chance to come in and check tires. Almirola chose to stay out, nothing you can do with bad brakes in a quick pit stop. Jimmie Johnson had too many crew members over the wall during his stop, the penalty sent him to the rear of the field. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Alex Bowman will follow Almirola back to the green flag restart.

Harvick took the lead and Almirola tried to pass him going side-by-side for a lap, Harvick held off his teammate to retain the top spot as the two slowly pulled away from the field. Almirola kept the pressure on and recaptured the lead when Harvick bobbled after getting out of the groove.

On lap 64, Almirola gave up the lead to pit for tires and Sunoco Racing Fuel, despite dealing with brake problems, he was able to make it safely into the pits. Unfortunately, he returned to the track and did not blend into traffic properly. The resulting drive-through penalty put the #10 car two laps down.

Ryan Blaney inherited the lead, followed by Kyle Busch. After most of the field stopped on the competition caution, they will still have to pit before the end of the Stage. Erik Jones, one of the guys who pushed his fuel economy to the limit, took the lead for five laps during green-flag stops. When pit stops cycled through Blaney held the lead, followed by Kyle Buch, Harvick, Tyler Redick, and William Byron, with five laps to go in the stage.

Blaney held on for the Stage win, the 10 points, and 1 playoff point earned by Stage winners. Almirola was able to gain back the two laps he lost after the remainder of the field pitted.

Blaney leads the field at Texas / NASCAR Photo

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver
1 12 Ryan Blaney
2 18 Kyle Busch
3 4 Kevin Harvick
4 8 Tyler Reddick
5 24 William Byron
6 1 Kurt Busch
7 48 Jimmie Johnson
8 88 Alex Bowman
9 17 Chris Buescher
10 19 Martin Truex Jr.

Stage 2

With pit strategies all over the board, the leaders heading to the restart were jumbled. Blaney stayed out and retained the lead, followed by Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, and Chase Elliott.

Blaney and Busch raced door handle to door handle for a lap until Kyle moved to the lead. Jimmie Johnson hit the wall on the front stretch bringing out the caution again. Johnson’s crew worked to repair the severe damage to the car sending too many men over the wall and incurring a two-lap penalty.

On the restart, it was Kyle Busch back to the front. Then the lead began to swap, Hamlin went out front for three laps. Followed by Blaney back to the lead, with Joey Logano moving into 2nd for the first time today. Almirola worked his way back into the top 10 after being two laps down after his 1st pit stop.

Pit Stops for those who did not pit at the end of Stage 1 began at Lap 160 when Blaney came in for service and Logano inherited the lead. As more cars pitted, Harvick retook the lead. Almirola inherited the top spot as Harvick pitted.

Truex was the last to pit with 21 laps to go in the Stage and Blaney returned to the lead. He was followed by Logano, Hamlin, Truex, and Kurt Busch. Blaney stretched the lead and swept both Stage 1 & 2 for the 2nd time in his career.

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver
1 12 Ryan Blaney
2 22 Joey Logano
3 11 Denny Hamlin
4 1 Kurt Busch
5 4 Kevin Harvick
6 19 Martin Truex Jr.
7 9 Chase Elliott
8 10 Aric Almirola
9 20 Erik Jones
10 18 Kyle Busch

The Final Stage

With this Stage 39 laps longer than the first two, it’s going to be difficult to figure out how all the different pit strategies are going to pan put. Other than Jimmie Johnson’s caution, the race has been virtually incident-free. A Final Stage caution could really throw a wrench in the works. All the lead lap cars pitted during the Stage 2 ending yellow flag.

All 40 starters are still in the race, Johnson sits 39th, 11 laps down. That type of finish will not bode well for his drive to make the playoffs on points. Blaney and Keselowski led the field back to the green flag. They race side-by-side through Turn 4 when Blaney got out of shape and the field, racing three-wide, began to stack up. Almirola tapped Kyle Busch who spun and hit teammate, Truex.

The incident involved the cars of Chris Buescher, Matt Kenseth, Cole Custer, Almirola, Kurt Busch, Byron, Ryan Preece, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Bubba Wallace. Then Jimmie Johnson and Ty Dillon got together after the caution came out adding to the carnage. NASCAR displayed the red flag.

The leaders stayed out, but most of the field pitted to repair damage or pack in extra fuel. The accident eliminated the cars of Custer, Stenhouse, and Preece, gaining Johnson some much-needed positions. The others involved returned to the race with minor repairs.

Battle for the Lead

Keselowski and Hamlin led the pack back to the restart. Brad jumped to the lead but Hamlin closed quickly and the fight for first was on. As the top 2 went at each other, Blaney joined the fray. Hamlin finally took the lead and the extended battle brought Logano and Almirola in contention for the top spot. Runs and bumper pushes moved the cars around and Blaney went back into the lead.

On Lap 242, John Hunter Nemechek spun and backed his car into the wall on the backstretch bringing out the caution again. Too many laps left for teams to make it on fuel, still, some chose to pit again.

On this restart, it was Hamlin and Blaney out front with Ryan getting the lead. Ty Dillon and Byron got together with 83 laps to go and the race was back under caution. Damage to Byron’s car sent him to the garage. Another driver in the battle for playoff points.

After another restart, the front of the field settled into a single file run. Blaney led Hamlin, Matt DiBenedetto, Almirola, and Logano made up the top 5.

Green flag pit stops began with 47 laps to go. With Elliott and then Blaney the first of the leaders to hit pit road. Logano picked up the lead and he was one of the last of the leaders to hit pit road previously. Will he stay out and chance a gas & go to pull off the win.

Late Cautions

With 29 laps to go, Quin Huff, 11 laps down, tried to pit from the middle of the race track. He hit Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto, then spun into the wall destroying his car. The caution is a big break for those who stayed out on the track as they will line up at the front of the field while those a lap down will have to take the wave around to get back even with the leaders.

Rookie Tyler Reddick leads with Austin Dillon beside him on the restart. Kyle Busch and Joey Logano line up behind them. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch on row three. The green came back out with 23 laps to go.

Dillon took the lead off Turn 2 with Reddick falling in behind to push. Logano, Kyle Busch, and Harvick gave chase.

With 15 laps to go Hamlin and Alex Bowman got together bringing out the caution again. Setting up a sprint to the finish. Bowman went directly to the garage while Hamlin’s crew tried to repair his car.

The Finish

The race restarted with 11 laps to go. Dillon again grabbed the lead. Logano and Kyle Busch swapped the 3rd position allowing the top two to pull away. Denny Hamlin’s damaged race car spun with 6 laps to go and the race will likely go to overtime.

NASCAR managed to restart with 2 laps to go, a green, white, checkered to finish the race on time. Dillon easily pulled away from his teammate and built a slight lead. He took the win while Reddick held on for 2nd. A 1-2 finish for Richard Childress Racing. Logano got 3rd while Kyle Busch finished in the 4th spot. Blaney finished 7th after leading a race-high 150 laps.

Dillon, who was behind the playoff cut line entering the race now has a spot locked into the top 16 playoff positions. Further scrambling those who are trying to make it in on points alone.

Playoff Point Standings

Austin Dillon’s entry into the winner’s club further narrowed the possibilities for drivers trying to qualify on points. Aric Almirola and the Busch brothers appear to have a safe distance between them and the cut line. Matt DiBenedetto, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson have some work left to do. Johnson looked to be in dire trouble early in the race running in 39th position until wrecks allowed him to move up and finish 26th, earning enough points to stay on the bubble.

William Byron dropped out of the top 16. Good finishes for Tyler Reddick and Erik Jones moved them into contention. Bubba Wallace is likely going to need a win to make it in. Any driver that pulls off a surprise win will further complicate the math for entry into the playoff club.

Rank Driver Points Wins Status
1 Kevin Harvick 721* 4 In-Win
2 Denny Hamlin 578 4 In-Win
3 Brad Keselowski 615* 2 In-Win
4 Joey Logano 607* 2 In-Win
5 Ryan Blaney 630* 1 In-Win
6 Chase Elliott 604 1 In-Win
7 Martin Truex Jr. 557 1 In-Win
8 Alex Bowman 508 1 In-Win
9 Austin Dillon 428 1 In-Win
10 Cole Custer 322* 1 In-Win
11 Aric Almirola 534* 0 +109
12 Kurt Busch 533 0 +108
13 Kyle Busch 520 0 +105
14 Matt DiBenedetto 476* 0 +51
15 Clint Bowyer 461* 0 +36
16 Jimmie Johnson 427 0 +2
Playoff Cut Line
17 William Byron 425 0 -2
18 Tyler Reddick 413 0 -14
19 Erik Jones 403 0 -24
20 Bubba Wallace 351 0 -76

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Post Script

Following up on a storyline from the All-Star Open race. Bubba Wallace was spun by Michael McDowell turning down into Wallace’s fender after Bubba used the bump and run to pass McDowell. The accident destroyed Wallace’s car and took him out of the event.

To show his displeasure Wallace took the front bumper of his car and left in on the rear doorstep of the Love’s sponsored #34 Ford Mustang’s trailer. Front row Motor Sports, McDowell’s car owners, took the bumper and put it up for auction on eBay with proceeds going to Motor Racing Outreach ministry.

“We want to thank Bob Jenkins, Front Row Motorsports and Michael for thinking of us during this time,” said Billy Mauldin, President, and CEO of Motor Racing Outreach. ‘Like everyone, we are fighting our own challenges of not being at the track. Donations are important to us right now and will help all drivers, crews, and their families.”

Fans can bid on the bumper by going to https://www.nascarfoundation.org/motorracingoutreach. As of post-race, the leading bid stood at $15,300.

Photo Courtesy of The NASCAR Foundation

 

Results of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 3 Austin Dillon 334
2 8 Tyler Reddick 0.149 334
3 22 Joey Logano 0.420 334
4 18 Kyle Busch 0.452 334
5 4 Kevin Harvick 0.602 334
6 20 Erik Jones 0.756 334
7 12 Ryan Blaney 1.350 334
8 1 Kurt Busch 1.408 334
9 2 Brad Keselowski 1.623 334
10 10 Aric Almirola 1.714 334
11 14 Clint Bowyer 1.868 334
12 9 Chase Elliott 2.029 334
13 6 Ryan Newman 2.151 334
14 43 Bubba Wallace 2.515 334
15 34 Michael McDowell 2.609 334
16 32 Corey LaJoie 3.019 334
17 21 Matt DiBenedetto 3.282 334
18 42 Matt Kenseth 3.457 334
19 17 Chris Buescher -1 333
20 11 Denny Hamlin -1 333
21 95 Christopher Bell -3 331
22 38 John Hunter Nemechek -3 331
23 96 Daniel Suarez -5 329
24 77 JJ Yeley -6 328
25 27 Gray Gaulding -11 323
26 48 Jimmie Johnson -12 322
27 15 Brennan Poole -12 322
28 7 Reed Sorenson -12 322
29 19 Martin Truex Jr. -14 320
30 88 Alex Bowman -15 319
31 53 Josh Bilicki -16 318
32 51 Joey Gase -16 318
33 78 BJ McLeod -16 318
34 0 Quin Houff -39 295
35 13 Ty Dillon -71 263
36 66 Timmy Hill -80 254
37 24 William Byron -82 252
38 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -113 221
39 41 Cole Custer -115 219
40 37 Ryan Preece -117 217