Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Texas Race Recap

Key Moment – Martin Truex Jr. was comfortably ahead, in position to break a six-year drought since his lone Cup win when the caution flew with 21 laps to go. As the cars came off pit road, Kyle Busch screeched out in front and from there, it was all she wrote. He went on to lead the final 20 laps and take the win.

In a Nutshell – Dominance for Kyle Busch. Heartbreak for Truex. Waiting for Fontana’s action that never came.

Dramatic Moment – During pre-race inspection, both cars fielded by Penske Racing were told that the tech inspectors did not like their rear end housings. The No. 2 and 22 cars had to change their rear ends in order to pass technical inspection. After the No. 22 swapped their rear end, it took them three tries to get through a laser inspection. By the time they got to the grid, the command to start engines had been given and Joey Logano had to start at the back.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski’s teams should expect their “rear ends” to get beaten with the rulebook this week, as loss of points, fines, and suspensions for crew members are all possible outcomes. You have to piss NASCAR off pretty good to have them take parts from your car, to the point the beginning of the race was slightly delayed.

After Saturday’s race Terry Blount from ESPN reported Brad Keselowski let fly at NASCAR, which will most certainly draw some additional ire from the suits in Daytona. A snippet of his quotes are below… a lot of inferences are given but not a whole lot of actual information. You know, like those “secret fines” from NASCAR back in the day…

“I have one good thing to say. That’s my team and effort they put in today in fighting back with the absolute bull that’s been the last seven days in this garage area. The things I’ve seen over the last seven days have me questioning everything that I believe in, and I’m not happy about it. I don’t have anything positive to say and I probably should just leave it at that. There’s so much stuff going on … you have no f——— idea what’s going on, And that’s not your fault and that’s not a slam on you. I could tell you there’s nobody, no team in this garage with the integrity of the 2 team. And the way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve ever seen a team targeted. But my guys kept their heads on straight and they showcased why they are a winning team and championship team. We’re not going to take it. We’re not going to be treated this way.”

Texas Motor Speedway has a worn out surface that allows for all kinds of racing all over the track. While that was good for the battling back in the pack, the racing at the front of the pack was a mirror of what we’ve seen for years. Whether it was Busch or Truex, the driver in the lead had a very big advantage over the rest of the field and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.

NASCAR, once again has developed the itchy caution flag finger. Between the Nationwide race having multiple cautions for debris, in locations where a car could not physically go and the Cup race, with cautions for cars that “looked like” they were blowing up, the sanctioning body was looking to find any old reason to throw the yellow. News flash: bad racing, fixed by automatic manipulation doesn’t get the fans back in their seats. It gets them to change the channel…

Fans called into the Masters on Friday to report a penalty that should have been called on Tiger Woods but wasn’t assessed until after the round. Wonder how many fans called into NASCAR to tell them that Tony Stewart’s sideways pit stop had him touching the line, like Brad Keselowski did last week and that he should be penalized just the same.

Rumors are flying around that Chip Ganassi is looking to sell off his race team. That organization has been somewhat rudderless for a few years; the last thing they need is the distraction of team selloff rumors. Hopefully, Ganassi can either quash them or make it official quickly, so that the teams can remain focused on trying to make their cars better. Jamie McMurray, at least is showing some signs of life as of late but any type of recovery is fragile at best.

The NRA sponsorship of the race this weekend was a hot topic; however, the race itself was hardly affected. Perhaps the only cave to those angry over the partnership was when FOX never showed the ceremonial “six shooter” shots of Kyle Busch in Victory Lane, firing blanks out of two silver-plated revolvers.

Someone needs to tell Jeff Hammond that his fake bake suntan makes his Dillon Brothers’ edition cowboy hat look orange.

Karl Malone showed again that he is truly a NASCAR fan with a fine effort at the command to start engines.

Hey, Sara Evans, Francis Scott Key was a good song writer. Just sing the anthem the way he wrote it, not how you think it will best show off your dynamic vocal range.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Hendrick Motorsports may be battling Joe Gibbs Racing for the top rung of the NASCAR team ladder but Sunday, they were battling some of their own demons. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a battery inexplicably die and lost four laps due to the issue, while Jeff Gordon burned up a right front hub, dropping him from the race after 306 laps. Kasey Kahne, so dominant at Las Vegas was never a factor and Jimmie Johnson had a quiet night, the only one of the foursome to wind up inside the top 10 (sixth).

Kurt Busch had another bad day at the track. He broke a fuel rail and had to go to the garage to get it fixed. At least this time, there wasn’t a fiery ending to the story although 37th is hardly a consolation prize. After back-to-back top-5 finishes, the last two races have been far from memorable for Furniture Row.

Austin Dillon put together his own deal to run the No. 51 in the race this weekend, but didn’t even make it to a lap that matched his car number. 45 laps in, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. bounced off him on the back straight to put him into the wall and make for a long day for Richard Childress’ grandson.

Jeff Burton had a bad time on Saturday when his spotter didn’t tell him to check up when Marcos Ambrose spun on the back straight. Bouncing off a couple of walls, Burton at least got on the race broadcasts, flailing his hands around in the car to show his displeasure. He ran 23rd.

Not only did Martin Truex, Jr. fail to break his winless streak, but he also failed to pass post race inspection. Truex’s shocks would not rebound which meant the nose was too low. Imagine the uproar if he’d have won the race.

Bobby Labonte had the stomach flu but his team couldn’t find a substitute driver for a bunch of laps, which resulted in his team finishing the race in 42nd place.

Matt Kenseth shot a lug nut out from under his tire on pit exit, starting a fire in some spilled fuel. The crew members played it off as no big deal and actually looked pissed that the fireman in their pit sprayed their pit stall with the fire extinguisher.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Aric Almirola was very fast this weekend and his Petty Blue No. 43 was almost conjuring up memories of the King. Only failing to make it to Victory Lane caused that delusion to fall apart but a seventh-place result, for this program must feel like a win.

Kyle Busch was going to finish second behind Martin Truex Jr. until the caution flag flew for Mark Martin almost spinning off of Turn 4. That caution gave his team the chance to rip off a sub 12 second stop and give Busch the win.

For all Joey Logano had been through Saturday night, ending the race in fifth had to feel like a minor miracle. Teammate Brad Keselowski struggled after the rear end change but received the Lucky Dog on the last caution and passed his way to a top-10 finish.

Ryan Newman and Matt Borland tried some of their old fuel mileage/tire trickeration in the middle of the race that didn’t pay off. They still managed to get a Lucky Dog after going a lap down, though and ended up 10th.

Carl Edwards had some whacky mechanical issues going on with his car this weekend. Initially, the team thought there was an engine issue, one that went away only to be followed by tire problems and poor track position. After all that, Edwards came home third and moved into the top 5 in points.

Worth Noting

  • The biggest fine in NASCAR history was the $200,000 dumped on Carl Long, effectively ending his Cup career. While that won’t put an end to Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski, I expect a similar total assessed to them or the team this week. Keselowski’s postrace rant about a witch hunt certainly won’t help matters much.
  • The win for Kyle Busch this weekend is his 26th of his Cup career. He is now tied with NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Fred Lorenzen for 23rd all-time. It’s also his first at the track.
  • Busch has the most top 5s on the circuit with five in seven races. Brad Keselowski has the most top 10s by a driver this year with six.
  • Martin Truex Jr. has now gone 210 races since he won his ;one Cup event.
  • The top 10 at Texas was made up of:

Ford – 5
Toyota – 3
Chevrolet – 2

  • Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of James Smith, an SK Modified driver at Thompson Speedway who passed away from a heart attack after competing in a race during the Icebreaker on Saturday. Cool to hear that Thompson is going to extend the Icebreaker feature to 33 laps to honor Smith on Sunday.

What’s the Points?

Jimmie Johnson’s night was enough to keep him on top, nine points ahead of Brad Keselowski, who soldiered his way to an amazing ninth-place finish. Kyle Busch is now third, tied for the series lead in wins with two. Roush Fenway Racing drivers Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards round out the top 5 in the standings.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home with his worst finish of the season on Saturday after battery and pit lane issues (29th). That’s dropped him to sixth in points, 35 behind Johnson. Kasey Kahne is enjoying his sophomore season more than his freshman year at Hendrick and is now seventh in points after his 11th-place finish Saturday night. Clint Bowyer continues to battle the runner-up jinx, maintaining eighth in points after Texas. Joey Logano and Paul Menard finish off the top 10, followed by Matt Kenseth in the top Wild Card spot. Kevin Harvick, sitting 12th would round out the Chasers as of today.

For those interested, Denny Hamlin is now 17 points out of the top 20 in points, the cutoff for Wild Card eligibility. With at least three more races to miss, it is going to be a substantial hole for him to climb out of once he gets back behind the wheel of the No. 11.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – Two flat Busch Lights. After California, it looked like the new car had found its groove and the racing was going to be great. Texas slapped the fans in the face and reminded them that having a car with the nose planted on the ground is most likely going to cause the car in front to be too much better than the cars chasing. The end result is the lead car running away from the pack and that is what happened again at Texas.

Next Up – The series heads to Kansas. Um, if you think Texas was bad, wait until you go to a track that has fresh pavement. The race will be on FOX Sunday, April 21st at 1:00 PM Eastern. You can also catch the action on MRN radio.

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