After a weekend off for Easter, the NASCAR Cup Series hit the 1.5 mile track that it Texas Motor Speedway. Drivers faced quite the weather challenge as qualifying was rained out and there was a 50-degree temperature difference between first and third practice. The cooler temperature affected the track and tires and created an ice-like atmosphere for the cars, resulting in some intense and entertaining racing.
The mayhem kicked off almost immediately when on Lap 2 Alex Bowman in the #88 Nationwide Camaro got loose in Turn 4. Bowman’s side-skirt just touched the apron and the car snapped around. The spin collected Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, and Paul Menard. All 4 cars managed to remain on track after stopping on pit road to repair damage. Towards the end of the stage, on Lap 81, defending series champion Martin Truex Jr hit the wall hard in Turn 4 after a right front tire went down. The incident marked the beginning of several right front tire issues throughout the day. Truex and his #78 Toyota were out for the day and went on to finish dead last. The stage ended under a caution flag and it was Kevin Harvick who picked up the playoff point.
Later in Stage 2, on Lap 128 to be exact, Kyle Larson in the #42 suffered the same incident as Martin Truex Jr when the right front tire popped on his Chevy Camaro and sent him hard into the wall in Turn 2. Larson was also out for the day. The restart saw brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch in first and second place. The bros got into a heated battle for the lead that went on for several laps before Kyle in the #18 Toyota finally broke away. At the end of the stage, the #18 got the win.
On the Stage 3 restart, Kyle Busch got loose and drifted up the track. Refusing to lift but without any grip, Busch slid back 6 positions causing Aric Almirola in the #10 Ford to let off the gas. Behind Almirola, Denny Hamlin also checked up and immediately got loose. He attempted to wiggle underneath Almirola but tapped the left rear. The tap was enough for Hamlin to spin around and collect Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, and Trevor Bayne in an intense wreck that saw Johnson’s car lift the tire wall upon impact. Johnson, Hamlin, Almirola, and Keselowski were out for the rest of the day. The race was then red flagged for 11 minutes as crews rushed to remove multiple torn-up race cars and clean up the track.
Fifty-seven laps after the race resumed, Paul Menard in the #21 fell victim to the right-front tire pop and abruptly hit the wall in Turn 2, much like Kyle Larson and Martin Truex. A little over 10 laps later, Trevor Bayne and Kasey Kahne tangled and both cars spun through the front straightaway grass. Both drivers returned to the track and were able to finish the race multiple laps down. The final caution that arguably changed the outcome of the race happened with just 30 laps remaining when Ryan Newman… I’ll give you a second to guess what happened… yep, blew a right-front tire and slammed the wall on the front-stretch.
The restart was hard-fought between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick as neither gave an inch to the other. Eventually, Busch pulled away to an uncomfortable 0.6 second lead with Harvick nearly on his back-bumper by the final 5 laps. Busch was able to hold on until the checkered flag flew and left Texas with his first win of the 2018 season.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be at the great Colosseum of Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend. You won’t want to miss the action of 500 laps around the 0.5 mile track so get your tickets HERE.