Lee Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
FORT WORTH, Texas — A fast car can cure a lot of mistakes. Just ask Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.
The reigning Daytona 500 winner overcame a slew of penalties—some self-inflicted—to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Although the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry got down, he was never out of contention. Hamlin led three times for 45 laps en route to his third win at Texas, his second win of the season and the fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory for Joe Gibbs Racing in the first seven races of 2019.
“I missed pit road under green, that cost us three or four seconds, as well,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know. We tried every way we could to give it away, and we found a way to do it with this FedEx Camry.”
With a splash-and-go fuel stop on Lap 319, Hamlin cycled back to the lead four laps later and extended his advantage over Clint Bowyer by 2.743-seconds at the finish.
“Our car was really, really fast,” Hamlin said. “We obviously saw that. Once we got out front, we were able to pull away from the pack a little bit. Got a little bit loose when we were racing our teammates in the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones). So wasn’t able to be as aggressive as I was earlier in the race. We had a super-fast car. That’s why we won.”
Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and polesitter Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five. Suarez was proud of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang team’s solid performance.
“We’ve been working very hard to make our race cars better and definitely, we’re heading in the right direction,” Suarez said. “This is the second week in a row where all the Stewart-Haas Racing cars are in the top-10 and that’s something very, very good. Overall, very proud of the 41 crew because we’ve been working hard to slowly get better and better. We’re showing that.”
Joey Logano won the first stage, but had experienced issues with his hood flapping, pitted before pit road was open for service, and ultimately dropped to 22nd, one lap down.
William Byron, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
The fifth and final caution occurred on Lap 255 when Daniel Hemric spun in Turn 2. Over the next 55 laps, the lead changed between Kyle Busch, Johnson, Suarez, Almirola and Jones as different pit strategies played out. Although the race appeared to be leaning in Kyle Busch’s direction, his car became loose in Turn 1 allowing Jones to pass him for the lead on Lap 276. After dropping to fourth, Busch hit the wall in Turn 2 on Lap 282 and was forced to pit.
“We were in a good position there to get the win today with our Interstate Batteries Toyota, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Busch, who led a race-high 66 laps. “We will go on to next week and get back on it at Bristol.”
Kyle Busch continues to lead the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings. He has an eight point advantage over Denny Hamlin as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend.
Denny Hamlin’s victory was quite the feat
Jordan Bianchi – NASCAR Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Conventional wisdom suggests one pit road penalty can be overcome, but two pit road penalties is something a driver and team generally cannot recover from if they have any intention of winning a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. It just doesn’t happen with any regularity.
Denny Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Camry team, however, don’t care about conventional wisdom. In spite of incurring not one but two penalties on pit road, Hamlin won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
The first penalty occurred when Hamlin exceeded the 45 mph pit road speed limit while making a pit stop on Lap 64. The second penalty was for an uncontrolled tire violation on Lap 173, seemingly cementing that this wouldn’t be the day Hamlin won his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2019 season.
And yet when it was all said and done, there was Hamlin in Victory Lane, having rallied back to overcome both penalties, celebrating his 33rd career win in NASCAR’s premier division. Oh, and Hamlin also missed pit road while attempting to make a green-flag stop during Stage 1, then later the No. 11 team had a slow pit stop due to a tire changer dropping a pit gun.
Hamlin is the first driver to win a race despite being penalized twice on pit road penalties since Brad Keselowski won at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2014.
“I told them when I was making my way through the pack, I know this really sucks because we’re probably not going to win with the fastest car,” Hamlin said. “It was fun passing all those cars, it really was.”
Issues on pit road have been a recurring theme for Hamlin and his JGR team this season. He has now been penalized four times in the past three races for various infractions on pit road, yet in each instance he still a managed to record a top-10 finish: a seventh at Auto Club Speedway even though he sped on pit road; a fifth at ISM Raceway, a race that saw the No. 11 team penalized for an uncontrolled tire; and then both penalties on Sunday in Texas.
It’s almost as if Hamlin, crew chief Chris Gabehart and the No. 11 team are attempting to earn bonus points for degree of difficulty. Just imagine the outcome if they could avoid being penalized.
“We haven’t optimized our races yet,” Gabehart said. “That’s encouraging to know. You’re racing against the best teams in the world. It’s difficult to have a flawless race; it’s not an easy thing. It’s one thing to identify, it’s another thing to fix. That’s something we got to work on.
“The exciting thing is we never leave the racetrack guessing where we could have did better. So in that regard we definitely haven’t reached our potential.”
But while Hamlin and company may have had some gaffes on pit road in recent weeks, their collective excellence on pit road also factored heavily into Hamlin winning at Texas.
Hamlin’s final pit stop Sunday came under green flag conditions, with him holding a narrow lead over second-place Clint Bowyer. But Hamlin got on and off pit road quickly and smoothly, while the No. 11 team also flawlessly executed a fuel-only stop. The mistake-free sequence allowed Hamlin to extend his lead over Bowyer. He was unchallenged the rest of the way, winning by almost 3 seconds.
“We were fast enough to overcome everything that kind of got thrown at us,” Hamlin said. “We tried every way we could to give it away, and we found a way to do it with this FedEx Camry.”
Speed is a cure-all. And there is no doubt Hamlin has had that in abundance this season.
Hamlin’s two victories are tied with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski for most in the series, marking the first time in his 14-year career he has had that many wins through the first seven races. And Hamlin sits second in the standings, trailing leader Busch by just eight points heading into next weekend’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
There is every reason to think Hamlin can continue his winning ways at Bristol, then carry that to subsequent races at Richmond Raceway (April 13) and Talladega Superspeedway (April 28). The Bristol-Richmond-Talladega stretch sets up favorably for Hamlin, who’s won a combined five times at these three tracks.
Now, if Hamlin and the No. 11 team can just avoid having to overcome a penalty or two every week their path to Victory Lane would be all the easier.
“We have speed,” Hamlin said. “With a little execution I certainly believe we easily could be leading the points. (Busch’s team) has out-executed us a few races. That’s really been the difference. I really believe that this team is not even close to where it’s going to be in two months.”
Kyle Busch grabs the Xfinity win at Texas
Lee Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
FORT WORTH, Texas — Kyle Busch moved one win closer to a Lone Star sweep with his victory this afternoon in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, the My Bariatric Solutions 300.
While his car wasn’t the class of the field on Saturday, Busch executed a perfect launch on the final restart to take the lead. Over the final eight laps, Busch held off Tyler Reddick to secure his ninth NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Texas Motor Speedway and the 95th of his series career.
“This Toyota Supra was awesome today,” Busch said. “It was really fast on the long run I could just never get people away from me on the front side of the run to get settled into my rhythm and be able to go. Every time I got to the outside, people would just drive by me on the bottom. Then when I’d get to the inside, somebody would bust it on the outside on me and make me loose.
“We were just all over the place today. Certainly a fast race car once I could get rolling. Christopher Bell ran a great race, he should have won this thing today.”
Bell, who finished third, led a race-high 128 laps. But the “fuel only” decision by crew chief Ben Beshore on the final pit stop afforded the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra to the lead for the last run. Busch extended his advantage over Reddick by .861-seconds at the finish line.
“Not taking any tires was certainly a help,” Busch said. “We jumped the field there and I was worried about the restart because I didn’t think there was going to be enough grip, but the car certainly had enough grip in it.”
Chase Briscoe, Jeb Burton, Michael Annett, Justin Haley, Jeffrey Earnhardt, John Hunter Nemechek and Ryan Sieg rounded out the top 10.
Bell ran flag-to-flag in the first stage to score his fourth stage win of 2019. However, he was busted for speeding on pit road during his pit stop. Bell wasn’t the only JGR driver with a penalty. Brandon Jones left his pits with a jack still underneath the No. 19 Toyota Supra. Both drivers dropped to the rear of the field for the Lap 54 restart.
The second stage was slowed by two cautions in the early laps. Tyler Hill and David Starr collided on Lap 57. Before the drivers were up to full speed, Justin Haley’s car became loose and he slid into Brad Keselowski.
“Frustrating day,” Keselowski said after he was released from the infield care center. The 2010 Xfinity Series champion finished 35th.
Gragson took the lead from Busch on the Lap 71 restart. Ray Black Jr., went for a wild ride when he spun backward into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 79. Five laps later, the leaders pitted with just six laps remaining in the stage.
Ryan Sieg remained on the track and assumed the lead. Ross Chastain and Haley lined up second and third. Busch, the first car off of pit road, restarted fourth on Lap 87. Sieg held on for the first stage win of his career followed by Chastain, Reddick, Busch and Bell.
Reddick restarted on the point, but the Joe Gibbs Racing tandem of Bell and Busch teamed up on the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Bell returned to the lead on Lap 99. He held the position for 28 laps until Allgaier, who was battling the lapped vehicle of Gray Gaulding and Cole Custer for sixth, entered the spin cycle. The No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro went for a ride through the front stretch grass before a trip to pit road.
Reddick exited the pits with the lead. Bell, Busch, Jones and Custer lined up for the Lap 131 restart. As the field completed the first lap and rolled into Turn 2, Jones and Custer collided to trigger Caution 8. Entering Texas, Custer and Jones were second and fourth, respectively in the standings. They were scored 32nd and 33rd.
Bell and Reddick battled for the next 15 laps until the No. 20. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra finally checked out. The final 20 laps became an exercise in fuel management before Jeremy Clements ran out of fuel on pit road to bring out the ninth and final caution.
Bell led the field onto pit lane but when the No. 20 team opted for tires, Busch exited the pit with the lead.
“I was starting to struggle on that long run,” Bell said. “It was frustrating to be beat by guys with no tires, but that’s just how it goes at Texas.
Busch nailed the restart and sailed off to a .824-second lead after taking the white flag. He easily held off Reddick for his third Xfinity win of the season and his ninth victory across NASCAR’s top three series this season.
While Busch has swept the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck, Xfinity and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races before at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2010 and 2017, he’s never pulled off the feat at Texas.
“Excited for my group to bring home a win for Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch said. “I look forward to hopefully getting another one tomorrow.”
Reddick retained the lead in the Xfinity Series standings by 12 points over Bell.
“He wasn’t better anywhere, he just had track position,” Reddick said of Busch. “I want to beat him one of these days. We’re getting there. Every time I race against Kyle, it makes me a better driver.”
Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe and Michael Annett are qualified for the Dash 4 Cash program starting next weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. All four drivers will have a chance to compete for the $100,000 bonus.