You knew it had to happen sooner than later. Kyle Busch has been running in the Top 5 all season with multiple runner up finishes. Few drivers win at Texas from the pole position so you knew he had a decent chance starting eighth. As expected, it was the Kevin Harvick and Kyle Bush show for much of the race. Polesittter Kurt Busch led 40 laps but could not keep up with Harvick or brother Kyle. Kurt went on to finish 7th giving Stewart-Haas racing another good day of Top 10 finishes expect for Aric Almirola who got caught up in one of the accidents.
I do have to say that the racing has been pretty good this season with cars exhibiting a lot of loose characteristics, which is supposedly what fans wanted. Texas was no exception. You were either hooked up or not at this race with only 10 cars finishing on the lead lap. Front tires were exploding, well, left and right it seemed. On this unusually cold Texas day, the cars were very fast and the drivers were really leaning on those right fronts. There were a few blowouts that sent cars hard into the outside fence. Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Larson were notable drivers that had right front issues and hard hits into the wall.
The other wrecks were the cause of cars getting loose when trapped on the inside lane and another car was on their outside. The Denny Hamlin wreck was the perfect example of a car getting loose and other cars not being able to check up in time. By the time that accordion affect was finished, several cars were headed to the garage including Jimmie Johnson who had been running well. He may not have won the race but he was capable of a Top 10 and possible a Top 5 finish.
The Kyle and Kevin show was a treat at the end after Harvick had pit road issues that put him a lap down. Harvick and others noted loose wheels after pit road stops and teams were once again blaming the NASCAR-mandated air guns. Harvick has one other lug nut issue that you just can’t make up. While changing right side tires, a lug nut few off and landed in the jack, jamming it so that it wouldn’t pump. The jack man quickly cleared the offending lug nut, but by then the damage was done.
Harvick got his lap back with some spectacular driving and unbelievable luck. Not only did a caution fall at the perfect time but then he had a tire get away from his pit crew. The tire entered the pit road driving lane before a team member could grab it. NASCAR declared the tire not a hazard and Harvick escaped another pit road issue. Unfortunately, NASCAR later admitted it blew the call and that the loose tire should have been a penalty. Add to it the fact that a NASCAR pit official was seen getting a fist bump and pat on the back from the Harvick team immediately after the no call and, well, it just doesn’t look good for NASCAR officiating.
But that lack of a penalty set up the final battle between Harvick and Busch.
Harvick drove like a demon through traffic to get behind Bush, but he was never able to cut the lead down to much less than .40 seconds. No one else had much for Bush so had Harvick been penalized, Busch most likely would have gone on to win by more than 3 seconds over Jamie McMurray and Erik Jones. Had Harvick caught Bush and won the race, NASCAR would have had some ‘splainin’ to do.
And speaking of McMurray and Jones, kudos to them for great finishes. Both stared deeper in the field and rallied for Top 5 finishes. Jones even led 64 laps.
Ryan Blaney managed a Top 5 even with significant front end damage. That just shows how powerful the Fords are right now.
I also have to give a shout out to Bubba Wallace for his second Top 10 of the year and Clint Bowyer for a consecutive Top 10. Lastly, a shout out to William Byron for being the highest finishing Hendrick car in 10th.
And you have to feel good for Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell, Matt Dibenedetto, Ross Chastain, Cole Whitt and Gray Gaulding for surviving and all finishing in the Top 20. Granted they were the beneficiaries of those less fortunate, but you have to take them when you can. Being successful at this level means surviving the event and taking advantage of others when you can.
And lastly, I just have to wonder how Kasey Kahne is feeling these days. He has struggled the last few years and that led to losing his ride at Hendrick. While Hendrick is struggling this season as well and there is no guarantee he would be doing much better than he is now, you still have to feel for the guy. He is driving for a third tier team (Leavine Family Racing) with his best start of 14th and his best finish of 17th – at Texas. Otherwise he has just two finishes inside the Top 20. That has to hurt. On the upside, they have just 1 DNF and they are running at the end.
Next up, Bristol Baby!
(Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media)