Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
OBSERVATIONS: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
Everything may be bigger in Texas, and that includes the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 because the twists and turns never stopped all day long.
After coming close on multiple occasions this year, Kyle Busch was finally able to make it happen, holding off Kevin Harvick in the final stages en route to victory. However, we didn’t say he had the most dominant car as that would go to Harvick.
Harvick could’ve made it easier on himself and had a substantial gap over the field for most of the day and cruised away, but pit road mistakes slowed progress. A lug nut stuck the jack caused a delay on one stop, along with a crew member falling over the wall trying to retrieve a tire for too many men on pit road infraction. That didn’t leave crew chief Rodney Childers happy, displaying his displeasure in NASCAR’s new pit gun procedure in saying, “At some point, we have to get these guns better, and I’m tired of biting my lip so far.”
The Stewart-Haas Racing team rebounded for a runner-up but also got lucky in a decision that NASCAR made. Their final pit stop should’ve seen them handed another infraction for an uncontrolled tire, but officials didn’t make the call. Even NASCAR admitted they were wrong post-race, releasing a statement stating, “It was a judgment call, and after conducting a post-race review of the incident an uncontrolled tire penalty for the four-car would have been correct. We missed that call.”
They got a lucky today, and they certainly have the speed but have to clean up the pit road issues if they’re going to mount a charge for a title. But for now, Harvick will go home frustrated after “an absolutely pathetic two days on pit road” as he also fought similar issues in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race.
You have to give a shout-out to Ryan Blaney for rebounding from a pit road penalty and front end damage for a top-five.
The other side of the coin saw Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson both made substantial contact with the wall, following tire issues. Certainly not what neither driver wanted after the early season momentum and something to think about moving forward. Was it due to going to aggressive on their set-up?
Alex Bowman also didn’t have the day he wanted, spinning around on Lap 2 and spending multiple laps in the garage fixing a suspension issue. However, his teammates William Byron and Chase Elliott proved that Hendrick Motorsports is on the road to turning it around. Byron scored his first career top-10, and Elliott ran up front until getting trapped a lap down with green flag pit stops, and Alan Gustafson brought Elliott down pit road sooner than allowed for a pitting too soon infraction.
If you combine everything, there’s one thing for sure – we’re setting up for an excellent season.
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