USA TODAY2019-03-31 22:50:02
How the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, the seventh race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, played out Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway:
WINNER: Denny Hamlin overcame two penalties and pulled away for his second victory of the season.
Hamlin became the fifth driver this season to win the second stage and then go on to win the race. Hamlin, who won the Daytona 500 to open the 2019 season, led 45 laps on Sunday for his 33rd career victory and his third in Fort Worth.
Hamlin, who was hit with both a pit-road speeding penalty and an uncontrolled tire penalty, said speed was the key to overcoming his miscues.
“Just a fast car. They gave me fast car and one that could pass anyone in the field,” Hamlin said after climbing out of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “It definitely was a different type of race in trying to draft and trying to get out of everyone’s wake, but proud of this whole FedEx Office team here.”
Clint Bowyer finished second, 2.7 seconds behind Hamlin. Daniel Suarez finished third, Erik Jones fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth. It was the best result of the season for Bowyer, Suarez and Johnson.
William Byron, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.
TIRE TROUBLES: Daniel Hemric spun out as his right-rear tire came apart with 80 laps remaining, bringing out the caution and the field to pit road. Some teams chose fuel only, some two tires and some went for a four-tire change.
BLOWING UP: Ryan Blaney, who led 45 laps, brought his car to pit road and then to garage after smoke began pouring out of his car with roughly 100 laps to remaining. Blaney, who became the third Team Penske driver with issues at Texas, was perplexed as he talked to his team on the radio while bringing the car to pit road: “I don’t know, it just blew up.” Blaney, who finished 37th out of 39 cars, later commented, “We’ve had a shot to win pretty much every race and something happens. That’s getting old, but the car is fast. That’s the bright side, but I’m kind of tired of looking at the bright side.”
STAGE 2: Hamlin used a fuel-only pit stop during a late caution to seize the lead and win his first stage of the season. Blaney finished second, followed by Suarez, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Byron, Michael McDowell and Johnson.
DAY OVER: Kyle Larson slammed into the wall coming out of Turn 2 with 21 laps remaining, bringing out the caution as drivers were in the middle of green-flag pit stops. As Larson’s No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing crew began removing his right-front tire, a fire broke out under the Chevrolet and the NASCAR safety crews rushed to extinguish it. A disappointed Larson climbed out his car, ending his race prematurely.
KESELOWSKI CONFOUNDED: While scrubbing his tires for the restart to start the second stage, Brad Keselowski told his team he felt like he had no gears and brought his car back down pit road just before the green flag dropped. The No. 2 Team Penske crew worked on the Ford on pit road for several laps before bringing the car to the garage. Keselowski finally returned to the track with 23 laps remaining in the segment, 56 laps down.
STAGE 1: Joey Logano led the final five laps to win the opening stage and the playoff point. Johnson, who led 60 laps and dominated most of the segment, got passed by Logano during a round of green-flag pit stops and finished second. Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Blaney, Menard, Suarez, Kyle Busch, Larson and Chris Buescher rounded out the top 10.
FIRST YELLOW: Jones spun out driving through Turn 2 on lap 15 to bring out the first caution of the race. A number of cars came down pit road to top off their fuel, but Kyle Busch missed his pit stall and drove back out onto the track without refueling.
UP FRONT: Johnson won his 36th career pole and his first since July 17, 2016 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to lead a Hendrick Motorsports sweep of the top three spots, as qualifying again left at least one driver fuming over the chaos. Alex Bowman, who had to go to a backup car, and Ryan Newman, who failed inspection twice, were forced to start in the rear of the field.
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