AAA Texas 500 – Texas Motor Speedway

Storylines going into a race at Texas Motor Speedway almost always sound as though the event will be action-packed when the green flag drops.  But somehow the race itself doesn’t live up to the hype. Races where Kevin Harvick dominates and drives away from the rest of the field, leaving little hope for passing or drag racing to the finish, also have a tendency to be humdrum.  Put it all together and you have a playoff race that delivers a winner but little else in the way of thrills.  And for the AAA Texas 500, even the obligatory six shooters in the winner’s circle failed to produce a bang as Harvick appeared to struggle when firing them off.

Green Flag at Texas Motor Speedway, Nov 4, 2018

The second race in the Round of 8 began with several cars incurring penalties that sent them to the rear of the field, including Martin Truex Jr, Daniel Suarez, and Chris Buescher, all for engine changes. Unexpectedly and last minute, it also included Aric Almirola in the SHR #10 Smithfield Ford, when NASCAR officials noticed an unapproved adjustment as the car sat on pit road awaiting the command.

Straight out of the gate, playoff driver Clint Bowyer made contact with Denny Hamlin on Lap 1 when Bowyer complained his car was so tight it failed to make the turn.  The incident squeezed Hamlin up the track where there was zero grip and he quickly fell to 25th place as he lost momentum.  Only 9 laps later he headed for his pit crew due to a tire rub and smoke.  On Lap 11, Bowyer also had to pit for the damage he sustained and he instantly fell 2 laps down.

Seeing as the speedway repave has caused tire issues and rain the night before the race washed the rubber from the track, Lap 30 called for a Competition Caution. Unfortunately, it resulted in speeding penalties on pit road for playoff driver Kyle Busch, as well as Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, and Micheal McDowell.  

Kevin Harvick claimed the win for Stage 1, making it his 17th stage win of the season.

On Lap 96 of Stage 2, Jimmie Johnson got loose in Turn 4 and wiggled up the track, causing the #24 of teammate William Byron to plow into him from behind, crunching the hood of the #24 and he spun out.

Again, Kevin Harvick claimed the stage win.

In the final stage, on Lap 224, Daniel Suarez had a right front tire go down and he slammed the wall entering Turn 2.  The 6th caution of the day came out for David Starr who spun out with 37 laps to go.  With 28 to go, Bubba Wallace cut across the nose of Matt DiBenedetto who checked up in an effort to avoid contact and he spun out down the track.  With 3 to go, AJ Allmendinger wobbled up the track and door slammed Joey Gase.  Gase spun which also caused Suarez to spinout.

Harvick Celebrates AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Nov 4th, 2018

Meanwhile, the only car giving Kevin Harvick a run for his money was Ryan Blaney in the #12 Ford, who got Harvick on the restarts but he couldn’t hold the position.  On the last restart, in overtime, Harvick finally aced it and went on to win the AAA Texas 500, despite a big push to Blaney from Kyle Larson. This locks Harvick into the final race at Homestead-Miami even though points would have carried him there regardless.

Continuing on with last week’s controversy over the bump-and-run finish between Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr, Logano again drew criticism, this time from a frustrated Aric Almirola who got loose on the final restart and slid up the track toward Logano, though Logano quickly pulled up and out of the way. Almirola was vocal on the radio and again in a post-race interview, with the opinion that Logano had put his car on Almirola’s door, though the playback does not bear that out at all.  Race commentators also noted there was quite a bit of room between the cars and Logano did not leave his lane. Be that as it may, Almirola has vowed that Logano is now a target.

Despite several weeks of pit road errors and bad luck, Harvick was the only one of the ‘Big 3’ that managed to avoid setbacks on Sunday.  Though Kyle Busch incurred the speeding penalty early in the race and later made an unscheduled pit stop due to a loose wheel, he finished 17th as the last driver on the lead lap.

Martin Truex Jr. also suffered a loose wheel on Lap 247 and drew a penalty for driving through too many pit stalls when entering his box. The pass-through penalty put Truex 2 laps down but he managed to drive back to a finish of 9th place.

With the elimination race at Phoenix next Sunday, it places the 4 drivers below the cut line in a must-win situation, which includes Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, and Chase Elliott, who started 16th and finished 6th.

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