Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Food City 500
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, April 23
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 266.5 miles (500 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 125),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 250), Final Stage (Ends on lap 500)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Racking Up The Points: Larson Logs Another Runner-Up Finish
Kyle Larson continued his breakout season at Texas with his fourth runner-up showing. The result marked his fifth top-two finish in the last six races.
Only four other drivers have logged as many top-two finishes as Larson’s five through the first seven races of a season: Kevin Harvick (6 top fives; 2015), Dale Earnhardt (5; 1987), Bobby Allison (5; 1972, 1979), Cale Yarborough (5, 1974).
The No. 42 Chevrolet driver has the top average finish (5.4) in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but more importantly, he leads the points standings by 17 markers over second-place Chase Elliott. Martin Truex Jr. (-40) sits third, followed by Brad Keselowski (-41) and Joey Logano (-72). Ryan Blaney (-91), Kyle Busch (-104), Jamie McMurray (-106), Clint Bowyer (-111) and Kevin Harvick (-117) round out the top 10.
Remember, the regular season points leader earns 15 playoff points.
Superman’s Not Dead: Jimmie Johnson Picks Up First Win Of Season At Texas
Jimmie Johnson’s performance in the first six races of the season was uncharacteristic of the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. He had only one top-10 finish – a ninth-place showing at Phoenix.
Johnson may have turned his season around at Texas where he worked his way up from the rear of the field to win his first race of the season and 81st of his career. The Californian’s seven victories at Texas are the most in track history. Six of the wins have come in the last 10 races at the Fort Worth track.
With the victory, Johnson earned five playoff points. He now sits 11th in the points standings, 125 markers below first-place Kyle Larson.
Blaney Puts On Show At Texas
Despite a 12th-place finish, Ryan Blaney dazzled at Texas, winning both stages (to earn two playoff points) and leading a race-high 148 laps.
He stayed out on the track following a caution with seven laps left in Stage 2 – a move that allowed him to win the stage, but took him out of contention to take the checkered flag for the race. Blaney had to pit under the caution that ended the stage due to a tire rub and couldn’t work his way back up to the front from the 20th position.
The 23-year-old Wood Brothers Racing driver discussed how important it was to win the stages, saying:
“I think it’s really helpful for everybody. Helps you for the playoffs. It helps you throughout the race. You know, that was 20 points we gained right there. It’s just really, really helpful for your kind of long-term outlook on things, and to go and hold the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) off and then the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) that last restart before stage 2, that showed how strong our car was. So it definitely means a lot to everybody I feel like, and it’s nice to be a part of a couple stage wins with the 21 car. It means a lot.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Records First Top-10 Showing Of 2017
Dale Earnhardt Jr. headed into Texas with a season best finish of 16th (Las Vegas, Auto Club). The six races to start a season without a top 10 was the longest drought of his career.
He ended that drought Sunday with a fifth-place showing in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway – the site of his first career win in 2000. The Lone Star State has treated Earnhardt well lately. The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports driver has posted a top-six finish in his last five starts at Texas.
The top-10 showing was Earnhardt’s first since he finished runner-up at Pocono last June.
“I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it’s nice,” Earnhardt said. “I know our fans are really pulling for us. Could have finished a little better, we will take top five.”
Keselowski Off To Strong Start
Brad Keselowski has started the season off strong with six consecutive top-six finishes following his 27th-place showing in the DAYTONA 500.
The No. 2 Ford driver leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with 10 playoff points and is the only multi-race winner.
One of the top drivers in Loop Data so far, Keselowski ranks first in driver rating (113.6) and fastest laps run (250, 13.6%). He is third in average running position (7.2) and fourth in laps led (232).