For a newly repaved track, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway did not deliver on the chaos that practice and qualifying foreshadowed. With only 6 lead changes and 8 cautions – 7 for debris and 1 for minimal contact – the race was much tamer and perhaps less entertaining than was expected, but for a few interesting moments.
To start, Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon ran into issues before the green flag even fell. After completing just one pace lap, the No. 3 car and its frantic team members made their way back to the garage to fix a problem with the rear suspension. Dillon then joined the race 12 laps down after the team was able to repair the issue. Without further incident, he finished 12 laps down in the 33 position.
Ryan Blaney, a third-generation driver who recently has made a name for himself as ‘The Kid Who Keeps Pissing off Dale Jr’, made an impressive showing on Sunday winning Stages 1 and 2. The 23-year-old started on the front row and forged past veteran drivers like Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr to nab both wins. Unfortunately, Blaney suffered a problem in the pits with 34 laps to go and fell back. He went on to finish in the 12th position.
And finally, if Sunday’s race was any kind of indication, then Hendrick Motorsports is back… unfortunately, not quite so much for Kasey Kahne but the rest of the drivers are, starting with Dale Earnhardt Jr. After taking time out of the 2016 season for a concussion, Jr. has had a mediocre season thus far with consistent Top 20 finishes. But he displayed a strong presence on Sunday as he drove through the field from his 37th starting position and remained in P5 most of the day. Everyone thought Hendrick’s golden boy Chase Elliott – who has been carrying the team thus far this season with consistent Top 10 finishes – would have gotten his first win by now as he has been a contender for it in every single race. Alas, the winless streak continues for Elliott as he comes away from Texas with yet another Top 10 finish; meanwhile, it was his teammate Jimmie Johnson‘s turn to shine. Despite winning his record-tying 7th championship last year and proving he is the driver to beat, Johnson has been having a rather cringeworthy season with bad luck at every turn. As a matter of fact, Johnson recently commented that he’d used up all his luck at Homestead last year. However, Texas finally showed some love and Johnson rallied on Sunday to grab a well-deserved win.
That said, it wasn’t without incident as Johnson was whisked to the infield Care Centre after his post-race interview due to dehydration. During the interview, it was clear that Johnson was struggling as he lowered his head and put his hands to his face for an extended period of time. When he removed his hands, he didn’t look well. As it turned out, the intense heat inside the car had taken its toll on Johnson during the course of 500 laps and he required an IV for fluids.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be off next weekend due to Easter holidays but will return April 23rd at Bristol Motor Speedway. You don’t want to miss it, so get your tickets HERE