Racers run wild in Texas
NASCAR headed out to the great state of Texas and descended on the Texas Motor Speedway.
This track has been resurfaced and reconfigured so that the banking in turns 1 and 2 is lower than that in turns 3 and 4. If that wasn’t enough to make the crew chiefs a little crazy, Friday saw the temperature top 80 degrees with bright sunshine. Then on Saturday the temps plunged into the 30s and it was overcast at rainy with some snow flurries mixed in for good measure.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series had practice and an abbreviated qualifying session Saturday. The Xfinity series had to figure it out and race in those conditions Saturday. The My Bariatric Solutions 300 rolled off on time in the afternoon. Ryan Blaney was in the Xfinity Mustang number 22 for Penske Racing and he was strong, capturing the first stage win. Kevin Harvick had the Hunt Bro’s Pizza Mustang dialed in but several issues kept him from being a factor.
Stage two saw Brandon Jones in the JGR number 18 Camry make his way to the front and capture this stage. Shortly after the start of stage three he blew a tire, crashed and his day was over. Ryan Blaney was able to work his way back to the lead and held off Christopher Bell to take the victory. Daniel Hemric had a very strong run and finished third behind Bell. Youngsters Cole Custer and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five. Pretty sure the coffee and hot chocolate venders were very happy as the few hardy souls that came out to watch purchased lots of the brew.
On Sunday, the weather was a little more civilized; there was sunshine and temperatures rose into the 60s. The Monster Energy girls were still wearing jackets though, as the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 took the green flag.
There had been several crashes Saturday due to reduced grip caused by the cold weather and the hard compound tire that Good Year had brought to the track because of the newer pavement. Sunday was not really any different. Several cars spun out and others abused the right front with more aggressive set ups to try and find a compromise for the reduced grip. This caused several blown tires and hard crashes into the wall.
Kevin Harvick once again showed that he’s the new king of the mile and a half speedways. He picked up the first stage win and really had no one close. Kyle Busch was lurking in the shadows, though, and all he needed was an opening and he would take full advantage of it. This opening came during a pit stop for Harvick when a flying lug nut wedged in the jack and cost them precious time when the jack wouldn’t retract low enough to go back under the left side.
Kyle beat the 4 car out of the pits, then in just a few laps Harvick had to pit for a loose wheel vibration and went a lap down. Busch was able to grab the second stage win.
Kevin was not a happy camper with his crew and rightfully so. The jack problem was a freak situation but not getting the tire tight has happened too many times.
Kevin stayed calm and raced his heart out and finally was able to get back on the lead lap and run down Busch. It seemed Busch was strong on short runs and Harvick was unbeatable on long runs.
It came down to a final pit stop and Kyle was able to beat Kevin on pit road and hold on to the lead.
With both cars on new tires Busch had the faster car and he was able to grab his first victory of the year. Harvick finished a disappointing second.
The biggest surprise came from third place. Jamie McMurray ran very solid all day and finished right behind Busch and Harvick.
Eric Jones had his best finish in the JGR Camry number 20 in fourth.
Ryan Blaney continues to impress! He ran in the top five all day and finished fifth.
The weather was crazy and cold but the action was hot and Texas will be one those there will always remember.
This weekend it’s Bristol, baby! The Xfinity series runs Saturday and the Monster Energy Cup cars race Sunday afternoon. This high-banked half mile is where “Rubbin’ is Racin’!”
I’ll try to bring you details of every action-packed lap and remember, at the end of those short straightaways there is another left turn.