DOES HE HAVE THE POWER TO BECOME THE FIRST REPEAT RACE CHAMP AT TEXAS SINCE 2002?

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FORT WORTH, Texas (May 16, 2018) – Team Penske driver Will Power made quick work of winning the INDYCAR Grand Prix for the second consecutive year – and third time overall – this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but repeating at Texas Motor Speedway will prove to be a much more difficult task.

When Power returns to defend his title in the DXC Technology 600 on Saturday, June 9, the Australian will be looking to become just the third driver in the 22-year history of Texas Motor Speedway to repeat as champion in an INDYCAR event.

The last driver to do so was Panther Racing’s Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001 and ’02, and that came in the fall race that Texas Motor Speedway hosted from 1998-2004.

The only driver to win the annual June event in consecutive seasons was Kelley Racing’s Scott Sharp in 2000 and ’01.

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Scott Sharp raises the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the 2001 Casino Magic 500k.

If there is a driver that can challenge history, it would be Power considering, ironically, his own history at the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval.

He is a two-time winner at Texas and ranks third all-time with an averaging finishing position of 7.0. He also is tied for the most career poles with three and ranks third all-time for laps led at 432.

Heading into the DXC Technology 600, he has finished eighth or better in seven of his last eight visits and never started worse than ninth in 10 career starts. That starting position came last year, but it didn’t deter him from leading 180 laps en route to the win.

The DXC Technology 600 (248 laps, 372 miles) begins at 7:45 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network.

  • POWER-PLAY GOAL

Will Power’s victory in Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the 200th career Indy-car win for Team Penske.

While Team Penske has an astounding 20 wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including a record 16 Indy 500 crowns, Roger Penske also holds the team record at Texas Motor Speedway.

Team Penske has recorded nine victories at Texas Motor Speedway, with the first coming in the 2003 Chevy 500k with Gil de Ferran.

The Team Penske leader at Texas is Helio Castroneves with a track record four victories (2004-fall, ’06, ’09, ’13). The other wins came from Power (2011, ’17), Ryan Briscoe (2010), Sam Hornish Jr. (2007), and de Ferran.

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Helio Castroneves celebrates his record-fourth victory at Texas Motor Speedway for Team Penske in the 2013 Firestone 550.
  • IT’S ELEMENTARY

Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and 2015 series rookie of the year Gabby Chaves will join 6,000 students from 11 Dallas/Fort Worth elementary schools at Tuesday’s Speeding To Read Championship Assembly to recognize the champion readers in the year-long competition.

It will be the first of two assemblies held over consecutive days to accommodate the program-record 12,061 students from 21 schools that participated in Texas Motor Speedway’s annual community educational program. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Todd Gilliland will serve as the special guest on the second day.

This will be the second appearance for Dixon at a Speeding To Read Championship Assembly – he attended in 2015 with Justin Wilson – while it will be the first for Chaves and Gilliland.

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Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Scott Dixon (R) and Justin Wilson take a selfie with the more than 3,000 elementary school students in attendance during the 2015 Speeding to Read championship assembly at Texas Motor Speedway.

The schools represent seven of the 25 largest ISDs in the Metroplex, including three (Dallas, Fort Worth, Lewisville) among the top 10.

The schools that participated this year are B.B. Owen, Homestead, McAuliffe, Peters Colony, Stewart’s Creek and Vickery of the Lewisville ISD; Black, Cannaday, Henrie and Shands of the Mesquite ISD; Hughes, Lakeview and Seven Hills of the Northwest ISD; Carter Park, Diamond Hill and Manuel Jara of the Fort Worth ISD; Gooch and Marsalis of the Dallas ISD; E.P. Rayzor of the Denton ISD; Hargrave of the Crowley ISD; and Brent of the Little Elm ISD.

The event will be held each day from 10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. CT in the frontstretch grandstands and will feature trophy presentations by the drivers to the top students, classrooms and schools; Q&A session and interactive games with the drivers; and a six-lap simulated stock car race by Team Texas, among other activities.

The drivers will be available immediately following the assembly for interview sessions in the deadline room of the infield media center.

Dixon and Chaves will be flying in for the day from Indianapolis, where they will be preparing for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27. Dixon won the Indy 500 in 2008.

In addition to taking part in the assembly, Gilliland will be spending Tuesday and Wednesday taking his first laps around Texas Motor Speedway for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He will be making his Texas Motor Speedway debut in the Rattlesnake 400 on Friday, June 8.

Dixon and Chaves will return for the DXC Technology 600 on Saturday, June 9.

  • BY THE NUMBERS

3 – Drivers who have won both the Indianapolis 500 and the June INDYCAR race at Texas in the same season. Arie Luyendyk was the first in 1997 while Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves did it in back-to-back years in 2008 and ’09, respectively.

5.16 – Average career finishing position of A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan at Texas Motor Speedway, which ranks first all-time among INDYCAR drivers.

9.5 – Average starting position of the race winner in the last six INDYCAR races at Texas Motor Speedway. The highest starting position of a race winner during that stretch was fifth (Ed Carpenter, 2014).

  • DIXON TALKS TEXAS

    Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, a two-time winner at Texas Motor Speedway, discusses what to expect when the series returns to Fort Worth for the DXC Technology 600 on Saturday, June 9. Click below for his interview.

  • CONCRETE ANSWER

U.S. Concrete will serve as the qualifying day sponsor for both the Verizon IndyCar Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series during the June race weekend.

USConcreteQualifying_2018U.S. Concrete Qualifying Day will be Friday, June 8, with pole qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series DXC Technology 600 beginning at 3 p.m. CT and then for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rattlesnake 400 at 4:45 p.m.

U.S. Concrete serves major construction markets in the United States in two business segments: ready-mixed concrete and aggregate products. The Company provides its products and services from its operating companies in Texas, Northern California, Oklahoma, New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and British Columbia.

The operating company that services the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area, Houston, Austin and San Antonio markets is Euless-based Custom-Crete.

  • WICKENS OFF TO WICKED GOOD START

Will Power has been simply dominant on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Grand Prix course. Over the last four races, he’s combined to lead 182 laps, winning three of those races in convincing fashion – all from the pole position.

So when Power qualified just .0870 of a second ahead of Canadian rookie Robert Wickens for this past Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix, it certainly drew the attention and respect of the 33-time race winner and 2014 series champion.

“I tell you, (Wickens) has been racing at a high level for a long time,” Power said of Wickens, who has raced in a variety of series on both sides of the Atlantic. “He’s definitely a guy that will be a champion in INDYCAR. I have no doubt in my mind, at some point and in the right situation – and that could be this year.”

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Canadian rookie Robert Wickens finishes third in last week’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Through his first five races, Wickens has two podium finishes –second at Phoenix and third at Indy on the road course – and a fourth-place effort in Birmingham, Ala. He took the pole in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla., where he led 69 of 110 laps and was less than two circuits away from victory before Alexander Rossi’s aggressive move sent the rookie spinning. He went on to finish 18th.

His strong start may have caught some off-guard, but Wickens’ Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate and childhood best friend, James Hinchcliffe, isn’t one of them.

“He’s going to surprise some people with how good he is and how fast he learns; I can guarantee you,” Hinchcliffe said. “I didn’t push for him to be on the team because he was my friend. I mean, that certainly doesn’t hurt, but I know what he can do. He will fit right in.”

While the Indianapolis 500 might be next on the docket, don’t expect one of racing’s most prestigious races to unsettle the rookie.

Despite gearbox issues during rookie testing requirements, Wickens used Hinchcliffe’s car to set the quickest lap at Indianapolis, recording an average speed of 220.111 mph that remained the fastest of the day even after the afternoon’s veteran refresher session.

  • FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

Six races into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season and veteran Johnny Sauter is showing no signs of slowing down in a sport that’s being besieged by youth.

The 40-year-old Sauter, who won his first NASCAR championship of any kind two years ago in the truck series, is the early favorite to finish on top this season. He already has recorded five top-five finishes, including a pair of wins, through the first half-dozen races.

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Johnny Sauter celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series JAG Metals 350 this past November at Texas Motor Speedway.

Prior to joining team owner Maury Gallagher’s GMS Racing for the 2016 season, Sauter had never finished better than second in the truck series. He was coming off three consecutive seasons (2013-15) of finishing fourth in the series standings.

But Gallagher’s conviction that Sauter could bring a championship to his program invigorated the veteran driver, who wasted little time in bringing his team owner’s words to fruition by winning the season-opening race at Daytona. He’d go on to win two more times in 2016, including at Texas Motor Speedway that November. He set career-highs for top 10s (19), which included 12 among the top five,  and average finishing position (8.0). Most importantly, he capped it off with his first Camping World Truck Series championship.

Sauter followed that up with an even better 2017. His win in this past November’s JAG Metals 350 not only gave him back-to-back fall wins here, but it gave him a new career high for wins in a season with four. He also established career highs in AFP (6.3) and laps led (455) while his 19 top-10s (13 of those were top fives) equaled his 2016 output, giving him 38 in 46 starts with GMS Racing.

“Once you win a championship you have that taste, and it’s a taste you want to keep,” Sauter said after coming up one spot short of a second consecutive series title. “We’re doing a lot of good things here, but at the end of the day it’s about that championship. That’s what we work hard all year for and that’s what we’ll continue to focus on.”

  • RIDE OF PASSAGE

Learning the two-step is a rite of passage in Texas. Consider going for a spin in a two-seater as a “ride of passage” at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Verizon IndyCar Series two-seater will be available for media rides on Monday, June 4 and Tuesday, June 5, while the Stadium SUPER Trucks will offer media a chance to ride shotgun on Thursday, June 7.

Whether it is getting picked up in your neighborhood to get a ride to the office, run errands or pick up lunch at a drive-thru, the INDYCAR two-seater will be one of the more entertaining experiences as a passenger in a vehicle. For those media that are interested, please contact the TMS Media Relations Department (pr@texasmotorspeedway.com) with your plans. Please be sure to touch base in advance so we can secure a spot in the lineup.

For the more conventional, Texas Motor Speedway also will have a limited amount of media rides in another INDYCAR two-seater that will takes laps on the speedway’s 1.5-mile oval. The rides, which will travel at speeds in excess of 160 miles per hour, will be available from 4-5 p.m. CT prior to the DXC Technology 600 on Saturday, June 9. The driver is traditionally a former INDYCAR driver, which has included the legendary Mario Andretti in the past.

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Media members hit the dirt ramp and go airborne during the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks ride-alongs with former NASCAR/INDYCAR star Robby Gordon behind the wheel last June at Texas Motor Speedway.

For members of the media looking for a more off-road experience, Robby Gordon will pilot a Stadium SUPER Truck around the course at Texas Motor Speedway. From 7-9 a.m. on Thursday of race week, media will have the opportunity to experience the thrill of what it’s like to get airborne and even drive on two wheels. The course features a massive dirt jump that will get the vehicle 20-30 feet in the air and a smaller one that sails you over the pit wall onto pit road and the frontstretch. The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department will be reserving time slots for media to experience the thrill of Stadium SUPER Trucks.

  • WHAT’S ALL THE RUCKUS?

In conjunction with the DXC Technology triple-header weekend, the Outdoor Powersports Off-Road Ruckus returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the second consecutive year June 8-9 from Noon-8 p.m. CT each day. The expo will provide off-road enthusiasts of all ages with an opportunity to not only spectate, but also take their personal vehicles onto a public obstacle course.

OutdoorPowersports_OffroadRuckus2018The two-day event will be held in the infield area next to Turn 2 and will feature Monster Truck exhibitions, a Monster Truck tug-of-war competition, Monster Truck ride-a-longs, an open activity area, a show-n-shine, live bands, and promotional giveaways throughout the course of the weekend.

Admission to the Outdoor Powersports Off-Road Ruckus is free with a race ticket purchase for that coinciding day.

Texas Motor Speedway
A fan takes his Jeep on the obstacle course during last year’s Off-Road Ruckus at Texas Motor Speedway. 

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O’REILLY AUTO PARTS 500 RECAP

BUSCH ADDS TO NASCAR NATIONAL SERIES WIN TOTAL AT TMS WITH SUNDAY’S O’REILLY AUTO PARTS 500 VICTORY

FORT WORTH, Texas (April 9, 2018) – Kyle Busch has enough cowboy hats to start a Western wear store in Charlotte, N.C.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, won Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 for his 14th national series victory — and 14th cowboy hat — at Texas Motor Speedway.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 was his third Cup win at the Fort Worth venue and moved him into third for most career wins at Texas, trailing only Jimmie Johnson (7) and Carl Edwards (4). Busch’s other Cup wins came in this spring event in 2013 and ’16. He also has a track-record eight Xfinity Series wins to go along with three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories.

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Kyle Busch celebrates with his wife, Samantha, and son, Brexton, in Victory Lane after winning Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo credit: Getty Images.

It was Busch’s 185th career NASCAR national series triumph and 44th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The victory moved him into a tie for 16th all time with Bill Elliott for career Cup wins and two behind Buck Baker for 15th.

“Yeah, it’s cool,” Busch said. “Certainly any time you keep winning races and kind of keep moving up the ladder, it’s really special.  For myself and for as much as I love to win and hate to lose, it obviously feels a heck of a lot better when you can be in this room talking about a win rather than a second or third, something like that, like we have been the past six weeks. That’s hopefully going to continue to grow and continue to get farther up.  We’ll see how far we can get.”

Busch led four times for a race-high 116 laps to give him 864 career laps led at Texas Motor Speedway. Sunday’s total allowed him to move past Tony Stewart and into third all time at Texas. He now only trails Johnson (1,041) and Matt Kenseth (883) in that category.

  • EARLY-SEASON SLUMP CONTINUES FOR JOHNSON

Texas Motor Speedway seemed like the perfect medicine to cure Jimmie Johnson’s early-season woes.

Johnson, with just one top-10 finish in the first six races and 17th in the standings, was arriving at a track where he was the defending race winner, owns a track-record seven Cup victories and ranks first in every major career statistical category.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet, qualified ninth for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and then showed additional speed as the seven-time Cup champion was the fastest in Saturday’s final practice.

Johnson, however, was collected in a multi-car accident early in Stage 3 of the 334-lap race, relegating him to a 35th-place finish. It was his worst finish at Texas Motor Speedway since finishing 38th in the fall race of 2009 and worst ever in the spring event.

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Jimmie Johnson finishes 35th in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway after being involved in a multi-car incident early in the third and final stage of the race. Photo credit: Getty Images

Johnson is far from discouraged from the weekend in Texas.

“By the time I saw what went on the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) was backwards and smoking the tires coming up the track,” Johnson said afterward.  “I knew where his arc was taking him and I knew that I was in trouble in the outside lane and going to get into him some.  And then the crash just kind of continued from there.

“So, unfortunate circumstances, but a lot to build on from this weekend.  A strong Friday, a fantastic Saturday and then not the best Sunday.  We had a lot of different things work against us today (Sunday), but we are getting closer each and every week and I’m really proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports.  We will get back to our winning ways soon.”

  • SEASON-BEST EFFORTS

Led by Kyle Busch‘s first win of the season, five of the top-10 finishers in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 posted season-best efforts.

Those Cup drivers recording season-best finishes through seven races were Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray (3rd), Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones (4th), Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch (7th) and Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron (10th).

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Jamie McMurray finishes a season-best third in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Photo credit: Getty Images  

For Jones, it was his first top-five finish of the season and fourth top 10.

For me, the top 10s this year are good, but we really want to run in the top five, get up there and contend and lead laps,” said Jones, who led twice for 64 laps in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.  “We really want to win a race this year.  Today was a step in the right direction.

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Erik Jones earns his first top-five finish of the season in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Photo credit: Getty Images

“This is a good two‑week stretch. Coming in, I was pretty excited going to Texas number one, then off to Bristol next week. Fun weeks for me, two of my favorite tracks. We just need to keep it going.”

The fifth-place effort by Team Penke’s Ryan Blaney matched his second-best finish of the season and Richard Petty Motorsports’ Bubba Wallace Jr.‘s eighth-place finish was his best outing since finishing second in the season-opening Daytona 500.

“Hell yeah, we needed that,” Wallace Jr. said. “That was a good week off for us to re-group.  The guys did a hell of a job all weekend long.  I thought we had pretty decent speed and a lot of people in the garage were like ‘your car is pretty good, so just don’t mess it up.’ ”

  • GOT YOUR NUMBER

In Phoenix, it was Brad Keselowski. In California, it was Joey Logano. In Texas on Saturday, it was Ryan Blaney.

Of late, it doesn’t seem to matter who is behind the wheel of the No. 22 Xfinity Series entry for Team Penske because the final stop always seems to end up in the same place: Victory Lane.

Blaney’s dominant win in the My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway was the third consecutive for the No. 22 Ford Mustang.  He led 132 of the 200 laps and cruised to a 2.327-second margin of victory over Christopher Bell.

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Ryan Blaney took the No. 22 Team Penske entry to Victory Lane for the third time in row with the Xfinity Series win in Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo credit: Getty Images

“I’m not going to lie, Brad and Joey definitely reminded me of that this week,” Blaney said. “It is in the back of your mind. You never want to be the person who breaks the streak of wins, especially when the car has been so fast. That’s a huge feat to do.”

In its last 12 starts dating to Sept. of 2017, the No. 22 entry has 11 top-five finishes, including four wins. Over the last three races, Keselowski, Logano and Blaney have combined to lead 337 of 550 laps. That translates to the No. 22 being on point 61 percent of the time.

With Logano providing color commentary for FOX Sports 1 at Bristol Motor Speedway this Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, that means it will be up to Blaney or Keselowski to keep the streak alive.

“That says a lot about Brian’s work that he has done and the whole team to bring fast race cars to the tracks lately,” said Blaney of the No. 22’s crew chief, Brian Wilson. “Hopefully we can keep this up.”

  • SHOW ME THE MONEY  

The Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter conducted its first 50/50 raffle over the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Volunteers sell 50/50 raffle tickets outside the gates during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend. Photo credit: Getty Images

The raffle raised $96,174 with $48,087 going to a lucky winner. The winning ticket number was 3447006096 and has yet to be claimed.

If you have the winning ticket, please send a photo of your ticket to scc@texasmotorspeedway.com with your preferred contact information. Winner must claim the prize within 30 days of draw date (by May 7, 2018).

  • UP NEXT 

Texas Motor Speedway willDXC.technology600 play host to a motorsports tripleheader June 7-9 that is highlighted by the DXC Technology 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race.

The weekend will feature the Rattlesnake 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, June 8, followed by the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Truck Series and DXC Technology 600 on Saturday, June 9.

 

 

 

SUNDAY’S NEWS & NOTES

The following are daily news and noteworthy items from the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

(All photos provided by Getty Images)

KYLE BUSCH HANGS ON FOR CUP WIN AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 5004:58 p.m. — Kyle Busch brushed-off his signature bow to the fans Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway after outlasting Kevin Harvick en route to victory in the 22nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

Busch scored his first win of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, and first for Joe Gibbs Racing, by a margin of 0.300-seconds over Harvick. Busch, who started eighth in his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, posted his third Cup win at TMS.

“They were probably a tick faster overall,” said Busch, referring to Harvick and his No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion. “I had to make sure I hit my marks. It feels awesome. Anytime you can win at a track that maybe is not one of your best, it definitely means more. You try to focus on those tracks and get it done. We punched our ticket into the Playoffs and continue our streak of being the point-leader.”

Interstate Batteries is based in nearby Irving, Texas. Chairman Norm Miller is a longtime supporter of the team owned by NFL Hall of Fame Coach Gibbs.

Busch now is third on the TMS Cup wins list behind seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson (7) and Carl Edwards (4), who retired after the 2016 season.

The top-five was rounded out by Jamie McMurray, rookie Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.


MAYHEM! RACE RED-FLAGGED AFTER SEVEN-CAR CRASH

3:10 p.m. — Stage 3 of the 22nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 began with MAYHEM! and a red flag stoppage initiated by Kyle Busch on the restart following Stage 2 pit stops at Texas Motor Speedway.

Despite fresh Goodyear tires, Busch’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry lost traction at the drop of the green and started a backward slide into the roaring pack. Trying to avoid Busch’s car, Aric Almirola triggered contact that collected the cars driven by Denny Hamlin, defending event champion Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne and David Ragan.

Almirola was left with little time to react to Busch’s “backward progress.”

“We just come to these repaves and we’re going really fast and all fighting for the bottom lane,” said Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion. “The second lane isn’t as good and the third lane is really not as good. So we got down to Turn 3 and I was trying to be smart and be patient and we still have a long way to go in the race. I backed out of it to let the No. 18 have the second lane and the No. 11 just got loose under me.

“It was a frustrating end of the day for us. Our Smithfield Ford was fast and I hate that we didn’t convert today into a top-10 if not better than that. We definitely had a car capable of a really good result today and unfortunately have nothing to show for it.”

Hamlin said he just got loose under Almirola. “We were kind of getting squeezed there a little bit and there was just _ running these speeds, you’ve got to have all the side force that you need,” said Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota. “He was battling beside the No. 18; I believe and you know we tried to go low and he was trying to fight for that real estate as well and we just got together.

“But it all started with me speeding off pit road. I shouldn’t have been in that position, but obviously the No. 18 was falling back there and I made a move to the inside and everyone is fighting for the bottom. I was obviously running the bottom there _ the No. 10 tried to squeeze and I realized that he was going to come down and I got out of the gas and I got loose underneath him.

“It’s my responsibility to keep the car under me, but we were just in such tight quarters there that it was nearly impossible to do. It all starts with me at the beginning of the race, it’s my fault and I hate it for this race team. We had a car that I thought was very capable of winning this race and unfortunately we’re back here.”

The carnage prompted NASCAR to red-flag the race for 11-minutes, 4-seconds. The top-10 running order at that time was Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, William Byron and Ryan Newman.

Johnson’s version of the crash was similar to Hamlin’s. “Yeah, by the time I saw what went on the No. 11 was backwards and smoking the tires coming up the track,” said Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s For Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. “I knew where his arch was taking him and I knew that I was in trouble in the outside lane and going to get into him some.  And then the crash just kind of continued from there.”

 


KYLE BUSCH WINS STAGE 2, LARSON ELIMINATED

2:58 p.m. — Kyle Busch won a spirited battle with older brother Kurt Busch to win Stage 2 of the 22nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kyle replaced Kurt at the point on Lap 167 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event, with the stage set to end on Lap 170. Kyle, of Joe Gibbs Racing, scored his second stage win of the season in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry.

Trailing The Brothers Busch in the top-10 were Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin and Aric Almirola.

Meanwhile, Kyle Larson’s day ended on Lap 128, when his No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 whacked the Turn 2 wall at speed after a right front tire failure. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was evaluated and released from the track’s infield media center after bringing out the race’s third caution, and only one of the stage.

“Yeah, I’m okay, thankfully,” Larson said. “Down the frontstretch I blew a right-front and slammed the wall. That was a pretty huge hit, but I’m relatively okay.  Thanks to NASCAR and all their safety features and SAFER barriers especially.  Yeah, I would have liked to have finished this thing out because I feel like our Chevy was really fast. Wasn’t very good there on the short run that run, but long runs I felt like we were as good or better than anybody. Just needed to get by Joey (Logano) and I felt like I was one of the faster cars out there.  So, felt like we could have had a shot at the end of the race, but it was cut short.”

Larson was forced to start from the back of the 37-car field after his car failed inspection. But he was running in the top-five on Lap 105.

Stage 1 winner Kevin Harvick’s day began to unravel during the subsequent pit stop on Lap 136 when a flying lug nut prevented his jack man from lower the jack while working the right side. Harvick then returned to the pits after reporting a loose wheel, putting him a lap down.

The stage ended in dramatic fashion, as Martin Truex Jr. crashed at full-throttle into the outside wall exiting Turn 4.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” Truex said over his in-car radio after what appeared to be a right front tire failure on Lap 82 of a segment scheduled for 85. Truex exited the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Power under his own power, but the car suffered extensive right side and front end damage and was done for the day.

The reigning Cup Series champion, Truex was checked out and released from the track’s infield medical center. Truex, whose car is fielded by Furniture Row Racing, now is 0-for-26 in his Cup career at TMS.

“I’m not sure if I run something over (and cut a tire),” Truex said. “We had a good car and had some room to make it better. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion, picked up his series-leading fourth stage win of the season after scoring only six stage wins last year. Truex’s early exit eliminated Harvick’s chief rival on 1.5-mile/intermediate layouts. Harvick, of Stewart-Haas Racing, is a three-time winner this season.

The top 10 after Stage 1: Harvick, Kyle, Kurt, Logano, Bowyer, Jamie McMurray, Keselowski, Elliott and Jones.

Meanwhile, Hamlin’s early run at the front of the field was hampered by a pair of pit road penalties. The second violation, for an uncontrolled tire, sent his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota to the end of the longest line after Stage 1 pit stops.

Harvick led twice for 73 laps, with Hamlin leading the remaining 12. There were two caution periods, starting on Lap 4 for a five-car mishap involving Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez and Paul Menard. Truex brought out the second yellow with his wall-banger.


HARVICK WINS STAGE 1, TRUEX ELIMINATED

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 5002 p.m. — Stage 1 of the 22nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 ended in dramatic fashion, as Martin Truex Jr. crashed at full-throttle into the outside wall exiting Turn 4 of Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” Truex said over his in-car radio after what appeared to be a right front tire failure on Lap 82 of a segment scheduled for 85. Truex exited the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Power under his own power, but the car suffered extensive right side and front end damage and was done for the day.

The reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Truex was checked out and released from the track’s infield medical center. Truex, whose car is fielded by Furniture Row Racing, now is 0-for-26 in his Cup career at TMS.

“I’m not sure if I run something over (and cut a tire),” Truex said. “We had a good car and had some room to make it better. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion, picked up his series-leading fourth stage win of the season after scoring only six stage wins last year. Truex’s early exit eliminated Harvick’s chief rival on 1.5-mile/intermediate layouts. Harvick, of Stewart-Haas Racing, is a three-time winner this season.

The top 10 after Stage 1: Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Erik Jones.

Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin’s early run at the front of the field was hampered by a pair of pit road penalties. The second violation, for an uncontrolled tire, sent his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota to the end of the longest line after Stage 1 pit stops.

Harvick led twice for 73 laps, with Hamlin leading the remaining 12. There were two caution periods, starting on Lap 4 for a five-car mishap involving Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez and Paul Menard. Truex brought out the second yellow with his wall-banger.


SMITHS VISIT COWTOWN WHILE MONITORING VEGAS

12:45 p.m. — Top executives of Speedway Motorsports Inc. are attending today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway while keeping track of what’s happening at a sister property in Las Vegas.

Texas Motor Speedway Media DayTMS founder O. Bruton Smith, executive chairman of SMI, has accompanied son Marcus Smith, SMI president/CEO, to Fort Worth for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Meanwhile, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is site of the 19th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals — a first for that side-by-side-by-side-by-side format on the West Coast.

“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback about the (Vegas) event,” Marcus said during a visit to TMS’ infield media center Sunday morning. “And it was a sellout crowd Saturday. We’re going to win more (skeptical) fans over to four-wide racing.”

NHRA confirmed the sellout in a news release Sunday morning. This marked the first time since 2010 The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway recorded a sellout for its spring race. It also was the third sellout crowd of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

“The fans have turned out in droves for the first ever four-wide event, and we’re ecstatic with the responses from the fans and competitors,” LVMS President Chris Powell said. “With our first spring sellout in nearly a decade on Saturday, our biggest Friday crowd for a spring race since our inaugural event in 2000 and a capacity crowd expected today, it’s clear that drag racing fans wanted to be a part of history as we brought four-wide drag racing to the West Coast.

“This success is a testament to the vision of Bruton and Marcus as well as the months and months of hard work by our staff and contractors who made this event a reality.”

The Strip’s modifications into a four-lane venue were completed during the recent offseason. SMI pioneered the concept at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals conducted annually since 2010 at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., near Charlotte.

FOX Sports 1 is televising both events back-to-back this afternoon. The Cup race will air beginning at 1 p.m. CT, with the NHRA four-wide event from Vegas to follow.

5 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN TODAY’S CUP RACE

By John Sturbin

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - PracticeWHICH JIMMIE JOHNSON WILL SHOW UP? — We’re talking either Mr. Seven-Time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion or Bobblehead Jimmie. Jimmie Johnson is mired in a career-worst 29-race winless streak heading into defense of his win in last April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. That was Jimmie’s track-record seventh Cup win at Texas Motor Speedway. But Johnson finished 27th in last November’s AAA Texas 500 here, swan song for the Chevrolet SS on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval. Perhaps crew chief Chad Knaus and Johnson are beginning to figure out their new-for-2018 Chevrolet, as J.J. posted the hottest lap of Saturday’s final practice at 198.143 mph in the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Camaro ZL1. Johnson starts today from the No. 9 spot.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - PracticeHARVICK LOOKS TO GO BACK-TO-BACK IN COWTOWN — Speaking of 29-race winless streaks … Kevin Harvick emerged from his personal purgatory at TMS with an overdue Cup victory in last November’s AAA Texas 500. That win placed the Stewart-Haas Racing ace in elusive company, as he joined Kyle Busch as the only drivers to record a victory here in all three NASCAR national series — Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. Harvick is smokin’ hot, having won three of the first six Cup races, including the event on sister track Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 1.54-mile oval. He will start today’s event second in the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - PracticeBLANEY WARMS UP FOR CUP BREAKTHROUGH VICTORY — Ryan Blaney’s first two Cup starts at Texas Motor Speedway were nothing short of disastrous, as he placed 42nd and 43rd during the 2015 season. But look at him now. Blaney led 148 laps in last April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 en route to a 12thplace finish (ill-timed pit stop) and improved that result by six positions in November’s AAA Texas 500. Those races were run with famed Wood Brothers Racing. Now a member of Team Penske, Blaney is poised for his first Cup win. Case in point, his dominating victory in Saturday’s My Bariatrics Solutions 300 Xfinity Series race in the No. 22 Ford Mustang. He starts fourth today in the Menards/Richmond The Water Heater Experts Fusion.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - PracticeSUAREZ RACING FOR FIRST CUP WIN AND MEXICAN PRIDE — Native Mexican Daniel Suarez has spent a good deal of time in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex the last three weeks promoting today’s race — and the pride in his heritage. The 26-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico, said on multiple occasions he considers Texas Motor Speedway his “home track,” as it’s the closest venue for his family and friends to see him compete in-person. Suarez showed speed during Saturday’s second practice, topping the chart at 198.998 mph in his No. 19 STANLEY Racing for a Miracle Toyota Camry. Today’s race will be Suarez’s third Cup start for Joe Gibbs Racing at TMS, where he has yet to lead a lap. He’ll have to charge from his 14th starting spot to do so today.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - QualifyingTRUEX NEEDS TO ADVANCE 1.508-SECONDS AT TMS — Martin Truex Jr. recorded a second-place finish by that margin to Kevin Harvick after leading 107 laps in last November’s AAA Texas 500. Truex, of course, went on to claim his first Cup title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hard to believe that Truex has yet to win a Cup race in Fort Worth, but his current streak is at 25 starts-and-counting. Truex will start today’s race sixth in the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry fielded by Furniture Row Racing. Go for it, champ!


SPEED PAINTING

Think about how hard it is to make perfect pattern lines in your lawn. Now think about trying to paint perfectly colored and shaped logos on that same grass. Impossible? Not for the Jones Sign Company out of Charlotte, N.C., who transformed the Texas Motor Speedway infield into a work-of-art for this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend.

The following is a time-lapse video of the process, which covers five days — March 31-April 4.


SUNDAY AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

8:31 a.m. — Today’s schedule:

7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Texas Motor Speedway Credentials Office Hours
7:30 a.m. MENCS Garage Opens
8 a.m. – 1 p.m. NASCAR Credentials Open
9 a.m. Gates 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 Opens
Luxury Suites & Victory Lane Club Opens
9:30-10:30 a.m. Trackside Live show at Gate 3
11 a.m. Loud & Proud Pre-Race Show
Powered by Ashley HomeStore featuring Bret Michaels TMSLoudProudApril2018_Ashley.png
12 p.m. MENCS HOT PASS IN EFFECT UNTIL ONE HOUR AFTER RACE
1 p.m. MENCS O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
(334 Laps, 501 Miles)OReilly500_nodate

SATURDAY’S NEWS & NOTES

The following are daily news and noteworthy items from the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

(All photos provided by Getty Images)

BACON SIZZLES IN SATURDAY NIGHT SPRINT CAR FEATURE

10:58 p.m. — FORT WORTH, Texas (April 7, 2018) — For the first six laps of Saturday night’s Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series A-Main 30-lap feature, it looked like Sam Hafertepe Jr. was going to cruise to his fifth handcrafted Justin Cowboy Hat at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on his side.

GettyImages-943333220.jpg
Brady Bacon cruises to the win in Saturday night’s Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series A-Main on Saturday night.

An incident with lap traffic on Lap 7 ended the night early for the native of Sunnyvale, Texas, allowing Brady Bacon the chance to cruise to Victory Lane in the Tony Stewart Presents The Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals.

“It’s really cool to win here, especially so close to home — I don’t get to do that very much,” said Bacon of Broken Arrow, Okla. “The guys worked really hard on this car and so to get the win and make this happen is great.”

Sammy Swindell of Bartlett, Tenn., Johnny Herrera of Denver, Colo., Travis Rilat of Forney, Texas, and Brandon Hanks of Burlison, Tenn. round out the top-five.

Tony Stewart held the lead for six laps, following Hefertepe Jr.’s exit, before Bacon sped passed and never looked back for the final 17 laps. Stewart had a mechanical issue with five laps to go and was forced to retire, finishing 15th.

Christopher Bell, who finished second earlier Saturday in the My Bariatric Solutions 300 Xfinity Series race, had engine troubles and was forced to exit midway through the race.

Tony Stewart Presents The Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals

Kale Westover celebrates his Limited Modified sweep with his family in Victory Lane Saturday night.

Kale Westover, of Blair, Okla., made it a clean sweep, taking the A-Main for the second straight night in the Limited Modified Division A-Main race of the Tony Stewart Presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals.

“Winning this means everything. This is the most prestigious sport mod race there is, so to sweep the weekend is unbelievable,” Westover said. “My dad works on this car so hard, I couldn’t do it without him. This is just awesome.”

Bailey Dosser of Rusk, Texas, Shane Herbert of Lafayette, La., Jessie Hoskins of Longdale, Okla., and Derick Grigsby of Marshall, Texas, round out the top-five behind Westover.


BLANEY STREAKS TO FIRST-EVER WIN AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

By John Sturbin

UPDATED 6:15 p.m. — FORT WORTH, Texas (April 7, 2018) — Pole-winner Ryan Blaney extended the growing legacy of Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Xfinity Series team Saturday afternoon, dominating the field en route to victory in the 22nd annual My Bariatrics Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Blaney handed the team led by crew chief Brian Wilson its third consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series victory after 200-laps/300-miles around TMS’ 1.5-mile oval. Blaney, driver of the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Mustang, finished 2.327-seconds ahead of Christopher Bell and his No. 20 Game Stop/Hello Neighbor Toyota Camry.

NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300
Ryan Blaney celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Blaney, a regular in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for car-owner Roger Penske, scored his seventh Xfinity victory and first at TMS after claiming his second pole in 66 series starts Saturday morning.

The No. 22 Ford had won the last two consecutive races at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., with Brad Keselowski and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., with Joey Logano to take the owner standings lead over JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro team and driver Elliott Sadler.

Blaney said there certainly was pressure to keep the win streak going. “Oh, yeah. I am not gonna lie about that,” said Blaney, who had logged three runner-up finishes in his first five Xfinity starts here. “Brad and Joey, they definitely reminded me of that this week. They told me that they won in that thing, that it has won two in a row and not to mess it up. They were definitely reminding me of that. And it is in the back of your mind.

“You never want to be the person that breaks a streak of wins, especially when the car has been so fast. That is a huge feat to do, win three in a row with three different drivers at pretty much three different racetracks. That is amazing. It’s nice to be a part of. There was that reminder in the back of my head to try to get this one.”

Meanwhile, second through fifth-place finishers Bell, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Ryan Preece qualified for the opening round of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program at Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend. As a Cup regular, Blaney is ineligible for the $100,000 bonus program.

Blaney led three times for a race-high 132 laps, almost 100 more than Hemric’s 39 laps-led. Blaney was replaced at the point for the first time on a restart on Lap 76, when he spun his tires and Bell bolted into the lead.

“We started up-front and there were a lot of cautions early and in the middle stages of that race,” said Blaney, 24, who posted his second top-10 result of 2018. “It was kind of hard to get going and really tell what your car was doing. The temperatures were so different today from when we practiced yesterday. We didn’t know where we would be at with balance at the beginning of the race.”

Ambient temperature at the drop of the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. CT was 34 degrees. According to the track’s unofficial records, the previous coldest race here was the O’Reilly 300 Xfinity Series event run on April 14, 2007, when the temp was an “unseasonable” 47 degrees. That event was won by Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 Ford over Denny Hamlin and his No. 20 Chevrolet by 0.128-seconds — still the closest Xfinity Series result in TMS history.

“We were pretty close to begin with but got behind a little when we got loose on that restart and then the stages got broken up,” Blaney said. “We were able to restart seventh and drive back up to the lead and lead the whole thing after that. It was just a really fast race car. That says a lot about Brian’s work that he has done and the whole team to bring fast race cars to the tracks lately. Hopefully we can keep this up. It was definitely a fun day.”

Bell wound up leading 10 laps en route to his second top-10 finish in two series races at TMS.

NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300
Christopher Bell pits during the NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“There’s been a lot of people that have run second to the No. 22 here recently, so they obviously have something figured out,” said Bell, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender and resident of Norman, Okla. “It doesn’t matter who’s driving that thing, it goes really fast, so we’re really close. We just need to get a little bit better to win. Maybe that’s just me getting a little bit more experience or me getting, pushing a little bit more out of the car.”

Blaney took the lead for the final time from Michael Annett and his No. 5 Pilot Flying J Camaro on Lap 154 and continued to extend his advantage while averaging 124.986 mph.

Since the series’ inception in 1982, a single car/team has only won three or more consecutive races 13 times. The last time a team in the Xfinity Series won three races in a row was 2016, when Kyle Busch — the series’ winningest driver — won at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota.

Team Penske, however, is no stranger to stringing wins together. The No. 22 Ford guys won three consecutive in 2013 with Keselowski earning the victory at Iowa and Watkins Glen and AJ Allmendinger winning at Mid-Ohio.

The Dash 4 Cash program provides four drivers with the opportunity to compete for an additional $100,000 prize at select races. Fulltime Xfinity Series drivers will compete for four positions in consecutive Dash 4 Cash events at Bristol Motor Speedway (April 14), Richmond Raceway (April 21), Talladega Superspeedway (April 28) and Dover International Speedway (May 5).

The top four Xfinity Series drivers at TMS qualified for the first Dash 4 Cash event at BMS. Of the four competing for Dash 4 Cash, the highest finisher wins a $100,000 prize. That winner and the three highest-finishing full-time Xfinity Series drivers, for a total of four contenders, will qualify for the next week’s event.

Hemric, driver of the No. 21 South Point Hotel & Casino Camaro, will head into the Dash 4 Cash after posting his first top-10 result in three races at TMS.

“Thank you to Xfinity for allowing us to race for $100,000,” said Bell, who cut his racing teeth on the dirt tracks in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex before graduating to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. “I think this is the first time in my life I’ve raced for $100,000, so that’s really special.”

Xfinity Series point-leader Sadler, driver of the No. 1 OneMain Financial Camaro, finished eighth and exited Texas with an 11-point lead in the championship over Tyler Reddick and his No. 9 BurgerFi Camaro.

Meanwhile, 76-year-old Morgan Shepherd’s landmark 1,000th NASCAR national series start saw him complete just 33 laps in his No. 89 Visone RV Camaro before retiring with a suspension problem. Shepherd finished 38th in the 40-car field.


JONES LEADS STAGE 2 … BUT NOT FOR LONG

3:35 p.m. — Chad Finchum generated his second caution period of the afternoon on Lap 81 of Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300, jumbling the field at the close of Stage 2 of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Brandon Jones emerged as the winner of a one-lap shootout at Lap 90 of the scheduled 200 after he opted to not pit his Toyota Service Centers Camry following Finchum’s wreck. The rear section of Finchum’s No. 40 Smithbilt Homes/TLC Resorts Toyota was crumpled from heavy wall contact. Finchum’s problems began early, with a crash in Turn 2 on Lap 3.

The second Finchum incident led to series of pit stops under yellow. Jones did not pit and emerged as the new leader of a pack of 13 cars that remained on track. Pole-sitter Ryan Blaney, who led all 45 laps of Stage 1, pitted for tires and fuel in his No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang and wound up 14th for the one-lap restart on Lap 89.

The top 10 after Stage 2 were Jones, Ryan Truex, Ryan Sieg, Ross Chastain, Ryan Reed, JJ Yeley, Spencer Gallagher, Garrett Smithley, Michael Annett and Jeremy Clements. But Jones’ day went completely awry when he lost traction through the track’s dogleg and hit the outside wall. The No. 19 suffered extensive right front wheel and rear section damage.

That race’s eighth caution handed the lead to Daniel Hemric in the No. 21 South Point Hotel & Casino Camaro. The race record for cautions is 10.

A regular in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Blaney is aiming to give Team Penske’s No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang team its third consecutive Xfinity victory.

Weather conditions continued to be a critical factor. Ambient temperature at the drop of the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. CT was 34 degrees. According to the track’s unofficial records, the previous coldest race here was the O’Reilly 300 Xfinity Series event run on April 14, 2007, when the temp was an “unseasonable” 47 degrees. That event was won by Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 Ford over Denny Hamlin and his No. 20 Chevrolet by 0.128-seconds — still the closest Xfinity Series result in TMS history.

Stage 1 produced three caution period for a total of 11 laps for separate spins involving Finchum in the No. 40 Toyota in Turn 2; Jamie McMurray in the No. 42 DC Solar Camaro in Turn 4 and Vinnie Miller in the No. 01 JAS Expedited Trucking LLC Camaro in Turn 2.

Meanwhile, 76-year-old Morgan Shepherd’s landmark 1,000th NASCAR national series start saw him complete just 38 laps in his No. 89 Visone RV Camaro before retiring.


BLANEY DOMINATES XFINITY STAGE 1

2:50 p.m. — Pole-sitter Ryan Blaney led all 45 laps in a dominating start to the 22nd annual My Bariatrics Solutions 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300A regular in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Blaney is aiming to give Team Penske’s No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang team its third consecutive Xfinity victory. Placing second was Brandon Jones in the No. 19 Toyota Service Centers Camry heading into the day’s fourth caution.

Tyler Reddick of JR Motorsports was third in the No. 9 BurgerFi Chevrolet Camaro. A total of 26 cars were on the lead lap at the first mandatory break.

Weather conditions continued to be a critical factor. Ambient temperature at the drop of the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. (CT) was 34 degrees. According to the track’s unofficial records, the previous coldest race here was the O’Reilly 300 Xfinity Series event run on April 14, 2007, when the temp was an “unseasonable” 47 degrees. That event was won by Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 Ford over Denny Hamlin and his No. 20 Chevrolet by 0.128-seconds — still the closest Xfinity Series result in TMS history.

Stage 1 produced three caution period for a total of 11 laps for separate spins involving Chad Finchum in the No. 40 Smithbilt Homes/TLC Resorts Toyota in Turn 2; Jamie McMurray in the No. 42 DC Solar Camaro in Turn 4 and Vinnie Miller in the No. 01 JAS Expedited Trucking LLC Camaro in Turn 2.


JOHNSON SHOWS SPEED IN FINAL CUP PRACTICE

1:05 p.m. — Mired in a season-opening slump, Jimmie Johnson — SURPRISE! — paced Saturday afternoon’s weather-delayed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice for the 22nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The defending event champion, Johnson ran only three laps around TMS’ 1.5-mile oval during the 40-minute session but wound up atop the chart at 27.253-seconds/198.143 mph. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, was the only driver to crack the 198 mph mark.

Saturday morning’s opening 55-minute practice saw Daniel Suarez and the top-12 drivers post laps faster than Kurt Busch’s pole-winning speed of 197.368 mph set late Friday afternoon. Johnson, a seven-time Cup champion, was fourth in that session at 198.639 mph.

Kevin Harvick, a three-time race-winner this season, was second-fast at 27.275-seconds/197.984 mph in the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing. Suarez, the series’ first Mexican-born driver, added to the manufacturer mix in third with a best lap of 27.303-seconds/197.780 mph in the No. 19 STANLEY Racing for a Miracle Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.

Pole-winner Busch improved from 12th in the morning to fourth in the final at 197.759 mph in the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford fielded by SHR. Reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five at 197.614 mph in the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota fielded by Furniture Row Racing.

Clint Bowyer, who broke a 190-race winless streak two weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway, was ninth after lapping at 197.527 mph in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who damaged his primary car in the morning session, hot-lapped in his backup No. 17 SunnyD Ford at 194.967 mph. Stenhouse turned six laps in his Roush Fenway Racing entry. Stenhouse scraped the Turn 4 wall at approximately 10:35 a.m. in his primary ride, resulting in heavy right-side damage.

Sunday’s race, scheduled for 334 laps/501-miles, will be televised by FOX Sports 1 at 1 p.m. CT.


FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN TODAY’S MY BARIATRIC SOLUTIONS 300

By John Sturbin

1:36 p.m. — BLANEY BIDS TO KEEP THE NO. 22 FORD STREAKING
Pole-winner Ryan Blaney is poised to add to the fast start Team Penske’s No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang team, led by crew chief Brian Wilson, is enjoying this season during the 22nd annual My Bariatrics Solutions 300.

NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 - PracticeThe No. 22 Ford has won the last two consecutive races at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., to take the owner standings lead by 19-points over JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro team.

Since the series’ inception in 1982, a single car/team has only won three or more consecutive races 13 times. The last time a team in the Xfinity Series won three races in a row was 2016, when Kyle Busch — the series’ winningest driver — won at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota Camry.

Team Penske is no stranger to stringing wins together. The No. 22 Ford guys won three consecutive in 2013 with Brad Keselowski earning the victory at Iowa (8/3) and Watkins Glen (8/10) and A.J. Allmendinger winning at Mid-Ohio (8/17).

Blaney has five series starts at Texas Motor Speedway, posting four top-fives, five top-10s and an average finish of 3.4. He finished as runner-up in both Texas races last season.

DASH 4 CASH MAKES 2018 DEBUT AT TMS — The My Bariatric Solutions 300 is a qualifier for the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program. Dash 4 Cash provides four talented drivers with the opportunity to compete for an additional $100,000 prize at select races.

Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash GIF by NASCAR-downsized_largeHere is the format. Fulltime Xfinity Series drivers will compete for four positions in consecutive Dash 4 Cash events at Bristol Motor Speedway (April 14), Richmond Raceway (April 21), Talladega Superspeedway (April 28) and Dover International Speedway (May 5).

The top four Xfinity Series drivers at TMS will qualify for the first Dash 4 Cash event at BMS. Of the four competing for Dash 4 Cash, the highest finisher wins a $100,000 prize. That winner and the three highest-finishing full-time Xfinity Series drivers, for a total of four contenders, will qualify for the next week’s event.

Here are the top-10 Xfinity Series championship contending drivers in average finish at Texas Motor Speedway: Cole Custer (5.0), Christopher Bell (6.0), Elliott Sadler (11.3), Matt Tifft (11.5), Justin Allgaier (12.3), Spencer Gallagher (14.5), Ryan Reed (15.9), Michael Annett (16.1), Ryan Sieg (18.0) and Brandon Jones (19.5).

SHEPHERD SECURES LANDMARK 1,000th START — No NASCAR driver better defines the term “veteran” than Morgan Shepherd.

NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 - QualifyingA self-described born-again Christian, the 76-year-old placed 31st in Round 1 of Saturday morning’s weather-plagued qualifying session with a lap at 178.962 mph in his No. 89 Visone RV Chevrolet Camaro — good enough to insure he will make his 1,000th career NASCAR national series start in the 200-lap/300-miler. The NASCAR national series consists of the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series.

NASCAR Race No. 1,000 also will be Shepherd’s 426th career Xfinity start. Shepherd roller-skated into the Fort Worth facility with 517 Cup starts and 57 in the Truck Series to put him at 999.

Known for that roller-skating dancing routine on pit road before races — a talent he began at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth — Shepherd made his first NASCAR start in the Cup Series on June 20, 1970 at Hickory Speedway in North Carolina.

A native of Ferguson, N.C., Shepherd joins an elite list of seven drivers who have made at least 1,000 career national series starts: “King” Richard Petty, 1,185 (all in the Cup Series); Mark Martin, 1,143 (882 Cup, 236 Xfinity and 25 Truck); “Front Row” Joe Nemechek, 1,139 (667/430/42); Kevin Harvick, 1,081 (616/342/123); Michael Waltrip, 1,072 (784/279/9); “Texas” Terry Labonte, 1,017 (890/124/3) and “The Mayor” Jeff Burton, 1,005 (695/306/4).

TEXAS NATIVE CURREY SET FOR XFINITY DEBUT — NASCAR Camping World Truck Series part-time driver Bayley Currey, of Dixieland, Texas, leads a list of 13 different drivers making Xfinity Series debuts at Texas Motor Speedway today.

NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 - PracticeCurrey will start 39th in the 40-car field in the B.J McLeod Motorsports No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro. Currey joins current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell making their first series starts on the 1.5-mile oval.

Currey has four NASCAR national series starts on his resume, all in the Camping World Truck Series. He ran three NCWTS races in 2017, posting one top-10 and an average finish of 21.0. He also made one NCWTS start this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, sister 1.5-mile layout to TMS, starting 23rd and finishing 20th.

Currey, 21, is the third different driver to wheel the No. 8 CHASCO Camaro this season. Caesar Bacarella ran the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, finishing a career-best 13th. The next four races saw Tommy Joe Martins wheel the No. 8, posting an average finish of 27.2.

CAN ANYONE SLOW THE JR MOTORSPORTS JUGGERNAUT? — Five points separate the top three in the championship standings after five Xfinity Series races this season, with a trio of JR Motorsports drivers dominating the standings.

NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 - PracticePopular veteran Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick (second-place, -4 points behind) and Justin Allgaier (third-place, -5 points), will be eager to pad their stats at TMS.

Sadler, driver of the No. 1 One Main Financial Chevrolet Camaro, holds the point lead after posting a series-best top-fives (four) and top-10s (five) through the first five races. The 42-year-old Virginian also leads the series in average finish with a solid 4.8. — the only series title-contender with an average finish inside the top-five.

Reddick, driver of the No. 21 South Point Hotel & Casino Camaro, basically locked himself into the Playoffs with a season-opening win at Daytona. A Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Reddick has posted that one win, four top-10s and an average finish of 9.0 — third-best among title contenders.

Allgaier has recorded two runner-ups, three top-fives and four top-10s in the first five races of the season. Allgaier’s average finish in the No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Camaro this season is (8.0), second only to point-leader Sadler’s 4.8.


RYAN BLANEY AWARDED WEATHER-AIDED XFINITY POLE

12:29 p.m. — Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney needed only one hot lap on an unseasonably cold April morning to qualify on-pole for Saturday’s 22nd annual My Bariatrics Solutions 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Ryan Blaney and crew pose don their jackets after taking the pole for Friday afternoon’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 2 CT.

A regular in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Blaney posted a hot lap of 189.880 mph in the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang during a 15-minute session interrupted three times by misty/cold conditions.

 

As was the case during Cup qualifying on Friday afternoon, NASCAR officials determined weather conditions were not conducive to continue with Rounds 2 and 3 of time trials around the 1.5-mile oval.

“We didn’t know what it was going to do out there,” Blaney said. “It was kind of misting pretty hard so we waited as long as we could in the first round. It’s going to be an interesting race.”

Second-fast was Xfinity regular Ryan Truex after a single lap at 189.314 mph in the No. 11 Bar Harbor/Sea Watch International Chevrolet Camaro fielded by Kaulig Motorsports. Brandon Jones will start third in the No. 19 Toyota Service Centers Camry after a four-lap run that produced a fast lap of 188.758 mph.

Meanwhile, veteran Morgan Shepherd placed 31st in Round 1 with a lap at 178.962 mph — good enough to insure he will make his 1,000th career NASCAR national series start in the 200-lap/300-miler. The NASCAR national series consist of the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series.

NASCAR Race No. 1,000 also will be Shepherd’s 426th career Xfinity start. Shepherd, 76, roller-skated into the Fort Worth facility with 517 Cup starts and 57 in the Truck Series to put him at 999.

Today’s race is scheduled to be televised by FOX beginning at 2 p.m. CT.


HIGHLIGHTS FROM BREHANNA DANIELS MEDIA AVAILABILITY 

10:55 a.m. —  Twenty-four-year-old Brehanna Daniels, the first African-American woman to pit a car in one of NASCAR’s three national series, met with media ahead of Friday afternoon’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Daniels will be a tire changer on the No. 55 Toyota for Stephen Leicht.

Here’s what she said:

On whether she’s seen more African-American fans come out to the races …
“I’ve seen a lot more African-Americans come out during the Fontana race in California. I think some of them actually asked what pit stall I was going to be in because they were walking down (before the race) and were like, ‘can I get a picture with you, girl? We were just looking for you. Can we get a picture?’ … It touches my heart and warms my heart to see that times are changing and I’m glad to be a part of that change.”

On being a role model for aspiring African-Americans or females …
“I think God put me in this position … and that I should be this example. It’s tough being the very first to do something, it’s going to come with a lot of things. But I think God put me in this position. I’m a strong person, so I’m enjoying the challenge and enjoying it every step of the way.”

On whether she and her family are NASCAR fans now …
“I’m bringing (NASCAR) to everybody I know. Literally, nobody in my family was a NASCAR fan. The only time we’d ever watch NASCAR was when we were looking for a basketball or football game on TV. But now I’m watching all the races now.”


SUAREZ PACES SECOND CUP PRACTICE

10:55 a.m. — In weather conditions better-suited for an NHL outdoors “classic,” Daniel Suarez got on-track action underway at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday morning by pacing the second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice for Sunday’s 22nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scraped the wall during the second practice session for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Saturday morning.

Suarez toured TMS’ 1.5-mile oval in 28.136-seconds/198.998 mph on the 19th of his 21 laps in the No. 19 STANELY Racing for a Miracle Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. Curiously, Suarez and the top 12 drivers in the 55-minute session were faster than Kurt Busch’s pole-winning speed of 197.368 mph set late Friday afternoon.

Second-fast was Denny Hamlin, Suarez’s JGR teammate, with a lap in 27.163-seconds/198.800 mph in the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota. Series rookie William Byron was third at 27.171-seconds/198.741 mph in the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 fielded by Hendrick Motorsports.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, the defending event winner, was fourth at 27.185-seconds/198.639 mph in the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Camaro. Rounding out the top-five was Kevin Harvick, a three-time race-winner this season, at 27.248-seconds/198.180 mph in the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing.

Busch, meanwhile, was 12th on the sheet and his best lap of 27.354-seconds/197.412 was faster than his pole-winning effort.

The lone incident occurred when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scraped the Turn 4 wall at approximately 10:35 a.m. in his No. 17 SunnyD Ford. Stenhouse was checked out at the infield medical center and released, but he will drive his backup Roush Fenway Ford in Sunday’s 334-lap/501-miler.

Final practice will run from 12:30-1:20 p.m. CT.


SATURDAY AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

8:03 a.m. — Today’s schedule:

7:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Texas Motor Speedway Credential Office Hours
7:30 a.m. NXS Garage Open
7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. NASCAR Credentials Open
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. MENCS Garage Open
9:30 a.m. Gates 3, 4, & 5 Luxury Suites & Victory Lane Club Open
9:30 a.m. Gates 2 & 6 Opens for Luxury Suites & Victory Lane Club Suites Only
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.  MENCS HOT PASS IN EFFECT
9:35 a.m.  Legends Racing at Lil TMS
10:00 – 10:55 a.m. MENCS 2nd Practice
11:10 a.m. NXS Sports Day Qualifying Powered by The Dallas Morning NewsSportsDayQualifying_2018nodate
12:30 – 1:20 p.m. MENCS Final Practice
2:00 p.m. NXS My Bariatric Solutions 300
(200 Laps, 300 Miles)MyBariatric300nodate
15 min after checkered flag Trackside Live show at Gate 3
30 min after checkered flag No Limits Live Auction in The Speedway Club
 TMS Dirt Track
6:00 p.m. Dirt Track Gates & Suites Open
7:00 p.m. Tony Stewart Presents The Vankor Texas Sprint Car NationalsVankorTexasSprint2018

 

FRIDAY’S NEWS & NOTES

The following are daily news and noteworthy items from the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

BERGMAN EDGES HAFERTEPE JR. IN FRIDAY NIGHT’S ASCS A-MAIN 

10:49 p.m. — Seth Bergman outlasted Sam Hafertepe Jr. in a green-white/checkered finish to win the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series A-Main on Friday during the Tony Stewart presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

Tony Stewart Presents The Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals
Seth Bergman celebrates his win in Friday night’s Tony Stewart Presents The Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals Sprint Car A-Main at the TMS Dirt Track.

Hafertepe Jr., the Sunnyvale, Texas resident who swept both features of this event last year, was in position for his third TMS win in the row when he overtook Bergman for the lead with one lap remaining. However, the caution came out and the field was reset by the positions of the last full lap, moving Bergman to the point and Hafertepe Jr. second.

Bergman, of Snohomish, Wash., had a strong restart and never looked back as Hafertepe Jr. never closed to challenge in the two-lap shootout of the 25-lap event. Bergman’s margin of victory was 1.007 seconds.

Sammy Swindell finished third, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart was fourth and Blake Hahn fifth.

Kale Westover, of Blair, Okla., won the A-Main of the Limited Modified Division of the Tony Stewart Presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals. Shane Herbert, of Lafayette, La., was second and Devin Burgess, of Stephenville, Texas, took third.

The Tony Stewart Presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals culminates Saturday with a full schedule of American Sprint Car Series and Limited Modified racing action beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT.

DIRT TRACK ACTION UNDERWAY

VankorTexasSprint20187:31 p.m. — The Tony Stewart Presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals is underway on Texas Motor Speedway’s .4-mile dirt oval as part of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Tony Stewart joins five-time Chili Bowl Nationals champion Sammy Swindell and defending champion Sam Hafertepe Jr. on the list of entries for Friday night’s events.
FOX Sports NASCAR personality Kenny Wallace, who raced in all three of NASCAR’s three national series during a 25-year career, will compete for the second consecutive year in the Limited Modified division.
Here’s a list of the night’s events:
6:00pm Gates and Suites Open
7:00pm Limited Modified Hot Laps (3 Laps)
7:15pm ASCS Sprint Car Hot Laps (3 Laps)
7:30pm Opening Ceremonies
7:35pm ASCS Sprint Car Heats (8 laps)
8:20pm Limited Modified Heats (8 laps)
8:50pm ASCS Sprint Car Qualifiers (8 laps)
9:15pm Limited Modified B-Mains (8 laps)
9:35pm ASCS Sprint Car B-Mains (12 laps)
10:00pm Limited Modified Feature (15 laps)
10:15pm ASCS Sprint Car Feature (25 laps)

KURT BUSCH WILL START ON CUP POLE AT TMS

5:50 p.m. — Knockout qualifying for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race began with series record-holder Kurt Busch emerging atop Round 1. Due to weather-related concerns about lightning in the area, Rounds 2 and 3 were cancelled, handing the pole to the 2004 Cup champion.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - QualifyingBusch topped a list of 37 entries with a Round 1 hot lap around TMS’ 1.5-mile oval at 197.368 mph. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion, began Friday’s Cup activity by pacing the opening practice at 196.200 mph after just seven laps.

As was the case during that practice, Busch led a sweep of the top three spots for Stewart-Haas Racing after 15 minutes of time trials. Kevin Harvick, a three-time race-winner this season, will start second in the No. 4 Busch Light Ford. And Clint Bowyer, winner of the most recent race at Martinsville Speedway, will grid third in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Fusion.

The team co-owned by Gene Haas and retired three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart never had posted a 1-2-3 start in Cup.

Busch, now a three-time Cup pole-winner here, set the series track qualifying record at 26.877-seconds/200.915 during time trials for last November’s AAA Texas 500 Playoff race.


HEMRIC PACES FINAL XFINITY PRACTICE

NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 - Practice4:20 p.m. — Daniel Hemric actually went slower to emerge atop the final practice sheet Friday afternoon for the My Bariatric Solutions 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hemric, of Richard Childress Racing, toured TMS’ 1.5-mile oval in 28.963-seconds/186.445 mph on the sixth of his 41 laps. Hemric, driver of the No. 21 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro, was second-fast in the first practice after lapping in 28.884-seconds/186.955 mph. That session was led by Ryan Truex of Kaulig Racing at 28.836-seconds/187.266 mph in the No. 11 Bar Harbor/Sea Watch International Camaro.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, who was third in the first practice at 28.894-seconds/186.890 mph, moved to second in the final at 28.995-seconds/186.239 mph in the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang.

The series’ qualifying record was set by Jeff Green in 2002 at 27.908-seconds/193.493 mph. Xfinity qualifying is scheduled for Saturday morning at 11:10 (CT). The 200-lap/300-mile race is set for 2 p.m. Saturday and will be televised by FOX Sports.


CHRIS BUESCHER DANCES OUT OF OFF-WEEK A NEW HUSBAND

By John Sturbin

4:06 p.m. — The majority of NASCAR drivers likely spent their Easter holiday off-weekend coloring eggs with the kids, watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament or knocking items off their honey-do lists.

Native Texan Chris Buescher added a partner for life.

“We went and got married over Easter weekend, so that was really good,” Buescher said during a media session Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. “Emma and I started planning last year before there was a schedule out for this season, and that made it very difficult because she didn’t want a winter wedding and we didn’t know our off-weekends yet. We knew we wouldn’t be racing on Easter. And then it threatened to rain-out Atlanta and threatened to snow-out Martinsville. It seemed like Easter weekend was always the fill-in date. So it definitely had us nervous through all of that.”

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - PracticeBuescher, of nearby Prosper, Texas, will wheel the No. 37 Bush’s Beans Camaro ZL1 in Sunday’s 334-lap/501-mile event around TMS’ 1.5-mile oval.

But back to the wedding of Chris and Emma. “We did it on Saturday because we didn’t want an April Fool’s Day wedding, which happened to be Easter this year, as well,” Buescher said. “And we didn’t want our anniversary to be a big joke every year. So, we tried to make it work out. We had a lot of friends and family come into town and come out and hang out with us. Now we’re back to racing. We’re done with our off-weekend, and I get to come home, of all places. So, not a bad last couple of weeks.”

Buescher admittedly is dealing with some post-wedding razzing from his Cup garage peers. In particular, JTG Daugherty teammate A.J. Allmendinger reported watching Buescher put on a display of “wicked dance moves” during the reception.

“I thought he was gone by then,” Buescher deadpanned. “I didn’t know he was still watching. We took dance lessons. We did two lessons. The woman that did it did a fantastic job. We met up with her in Uptown Charlotte and she asked what we wanted to know and first off, what you already know. I don’t know anything. I can’t sway. I can’t even do that. I can’t sit here and act like I know what I’m doing. And she’s like, “OK, what do you want to learn?’  I said, “The Dirty Dancing lift at the end.’ And she said, ‘All right, we’re going to back that down a bit.’

“We compromised and it actually came out really good. We were able to at least look like we had some clue of what we were doing out there. I got a big surprise from one of my best friends, so that was cool.

“I don’t come from a family of dancers, for sure. My mom was terrified of the mother/son dance. She was absolutely terrified; more than I was. And I will tell you, for the months leading up, the only thing I was worried about with the whole wedding was the dancing. I was good for everything else. We’ve been together almost six years. I was ready to get married and go through that. We had everything in place but the dancing was terrifying.”

Buescher said to the best of his recollection, no videos of his dancing performance exist.

“But who knows? You know A.J.’s got something,” Buescher said. “He hasn’t shown me anything yet, but I’m sure somebody’s got something.”


SUAREZ AIMING FOR “MIRACULOUS” CUP WIN

By John Sturbin

3:10 p.m. — Daniel Suarez’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win will break the bank … if he visits Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon.

The series’ first Mexican-born driver, Suarez is wheeling the No. 19 STANLEY “Racing for a Miracle” Toyota Camry this weekend at TMS. It’s a sponsorship that touched Suarez’s heart Thursday, when he visited Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - PracticeFor the 12th consecutive year, STANLEY and the ACE Foundation are teaming up to donate $100,000 to Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. If Suárez drives his Joe Gibbs Racing entry to victory here, the donation will increase to $1-million.

To kick-start the program, Suárez visited Cook Children’s Hospital to unveil a Camry designed by Chip Foose and four patient champions. Foose, the star of the Overhaulin’ reality series on Velocity, and the patient champions will be in attendance for Sunday’s 334-lap/501-mile event.

“Yesterday at the hospital, they were extremely excited,” Suarez said of the kids he met. “They wanted to be here every day and they are ready to go. They know that they are part … they know that they designed the car, but that’s not everything. They are part of the pit crew now. They are going to be before the race in the grid with us. They are going to be in the pit box. They are going to be part of the racing this weekend and they are extremely excited about that.

“We have a nickname for the car already as well, #GoFroggy. Overall, I feel like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I just have to do my part. But for whatever reason when you have that positive energy of kids, that transfers to yourself and I feel that already on me. I feel like I have a lot of positive energy from these kids and I’m sure we’re going to do very well this week.”

A 26-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico, Suarez calls TMS his home track as it’s the nearest venue for family and friends to see him compete in NASCAR’s premier series. Last month Suarez visited the Consulate de Mexico in Dallas to meet with Hispanic community leaders, curious onlookers, media and fans. He added a new group to the latter list via his visit to Cook Children’s.

“I feel like the most important part is just to give these kids an amazing experience. An experience that they will remember for life — forever,” Suarez said. “And I feel like so far it’s been just like that, but just on my side as well, designing the car with someone like Chip Foose. Actually, I’m a big fan of Chip. He’s an amazing car-builder that I’ve been following for a long time. And all these kids, you can tell right away the experience that they’re having.”


RYAN TRUEX PACES XFINITY PRACTICE

2:20 p.m. — Ryan Truex of Kaulig Racing upstaged the usual NASCAR Xfinity Series powerhouses by pacing Friday’s first practice for the My Bariatric Solutions 300.

775149959_JF_7245_4355AA0B22AC647F91F9E9BD21939A8DTruex toured Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval in 28.836-seconds/187.266 mph on the 21st and final of his laps in the No. 11 Bar Harbor/Sea Watch International Chevrolet Camaro. Daniel Hemric of Richard Childress Racing was second at 28.884-seconds/186.955 mph in the No. 21 South Pont Hotel & Casino Chevy. Ryan Blaney was third at 28.894-seconds/186.890 mph in the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang fielded by Team Penske.

The series’ qualifying record was set by Jeff Green in 2002 at 27.908-seconds/193.493 mph. A final, 50-minute practice for Saturday’s 200-lap/300-mile event is set for 3:05 p.m. Friday. Xfinity qualifying is scheduled for Saturday morning at 11:10 (CT).


KURT BUSCH FASTEST IN CUP PRACTICE

2:10 p.m. — NASCAR track record-holder Kurt Busch led a Stewart-Haas Racing sweep of the top three spots Friday following the first Monster Energy Cup Series practice for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

775149959_JF_6387_07EB8D1A617C24AD1B525889944F9F6FBusch, the 2004 Cup champion, toured Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval in 27.523-seconds/196.200 mph in his No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion. He was followed by Kevin Harvick, a three-time race-winner this season, at 27.559-seconds/195.943 mph in the No. 4 Busch Light Ford. Meanwhile, SHR teammate Clint Bowyer _ winner of the most recent event at Martinsville Speedway _ was third on the chart at 27.632-seconds/195.426 mph in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford.

Busch set TMS’ NASCAR qualifying record with a hot, hot lap of 26.877-seconds/200.915 mph during time trials for last November’s AAA Texas 500. A field of 37 cars are scheduled to qualify for Sunday’s 334-lap/501-mile event at 4:35 p.m. Friday.


THIS DRIVER KNOWS ABOUT SCREW DRIVERS

2:06 p.m. — Native Mexican Daniel Suarez will be sporting primary sponsorship from STANLEY “Racing for a Miracle” on his No. 19 Toyota Camry for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

So, does Daniel have a favorite STANLEY tool?

“I use tools a lot,” Suarez said. “I work on cars a lot, so it’s very hard to choose just one because you need more than one just to work on cars. Something that you need to have, it doesn’t matter what, are screw drivers. You need to have screw drivers to make everything work, you have to start with that. So for sure I have my STANLEY screw drivers.”


SMOKE’S FAVORITE WEEKEND HAS ARRIVED AT TMS

1:52 p.m. — Tony Stewart is anticipating “the best of both worlds” at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

Stewart, the retired three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, plans to patrol the Cup garage as co-owner with Gene Haas of Stewart-Haas Racing. But the majority of Smoke’s weekend will be spent at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track, site of Tony Stewart presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals.

“It’s the second year666455740 we’ve got to do this and it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year,” Stewart said during an interview session alongside Sunnyvale, Texas driver Sam Hafertepe Jr. “I get to work on the Cup side and then get to do what I really love to do, which is drive my Sprint Car.”

The Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series presented by Sawblade.com will run Friday and Saturday at 7:30 CT each night.

Stewart said the program here was championed by Kenton Nelson, TMS’ assistant general manager/vice president of event services.

“Kenton is a big dirt track fan and it’s a shame not to tie it in together (with the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series doubleheader),” Stewart said. “To have a first-class dirt track facility and not utilize it and bring NASCAR fans to dirt racing…the crowd was awesome last year on Saturday. It was a natural deal when you think about it. And the fans are always cool in Texas. It’s great cross-pollination.”

While retired from Cup competition, Stewart is anything but idle. His 2018 schedule features 95 races, including 91 in high-powered, open-wheel Sprint Cars.

In Fort Worth, Stewart expects a number of NASCAR crew members to fill the grandstands, along with Cup drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick. “They’ll all tell me what I’m doing wrong,” Stewart joked.

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Hafertepe earned the distinction of winningest Sprint Car driver at the TMS Dirt Track with his sweep of the Texas Sprint Car Nationals in 2017, giving him four wins on the four-tenths mile oval.  Hafertepe currently is second in the tour standings to Roger Crockett, winner of the 2018 season opener at the famed Devil’s Bowl Speedway in nearby Mesquite on March 16.

“This place means a lot to me,” said Hafertepe, 32. “It’s close to my house and for me it’s a big homecoming. And what Tony does for the sport is unbelievable. We need stuff like this to get our series some exposure. They race here once or twice a year and it’s really prestigious to win this race. I got four cowboy hats at home (as TMS Dirt Track winner) and want to add two to it.”

Stewart and Hafertepe will be joined by two-time/reigning Chili Bowl Nationals champion and NASCAR Xfinity regular Christopher Bell as well as dirt track legend Sammy Swindell. The program also includes Limited Modified racing, with former NASCAR regular Kenny Wallace scheduled to compete.

Grandstands will open both days at 6 p.m., with hot laps at 7.


ANHEUSER-BUSCH LANDS NAMING RIGHTS FOR SPEEDWAY’S NEW, EXCLUSIVE RESTART BAR

1:40 p.m. – Beer brewing giant Anheuser-Busch has signed a multi-year partnership with Texas Motor Speedway for the naming rights of the Restart Bar, the venue’s latest fan amenity that will debut at this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend.

Texas Motor Speedway - Day 2The deal was announced Friday during a special media sneak preview of the Busch Restart Bar featuring 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing; Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage and Anheuser-Busch Senior Manager of Experiential Marketing Doug Mraw.

The Busch Restart Bar will provide guests with an exclusive experience and one of the best views in motorsports. Located approximately 26 rows above the Restart Zone at the start of the dogleg section on the frontstretch of Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval, this is the area where the field picks up speed to take the green flag for the start of the race as well as following each of the caution periods.

Texas Motor Speedway - Day 2Fans will have the option to enjoy the race day from both spacious outdoor and indoor seating, combining the close proximity to the on-track action with a suite-style experience. The Busch Restart Bar will feature outdoor seating at half-round tables, bar stools and fixed seats as well as at bars backed by high-definition television monitors. There will be room to socialize and areas for games and other activities.

Guests also will have access to a climate-controlled indoor area to share conversation, enjoy food and beverage service, and follow the race action on high-definition televisions located throughout the area.

“After returning to NASCAR in 2016, we have continued to evolve our presence around the sport and make investments in the racing platform,” said Chelsea Phillips, VP of Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch. “NASCAR is a passion point for Busch drinkers, and we’re always looking for new ways to engage fans with unique experiences at track. Our new Busch Restart Bar at Texas Motor Speedway will do just that, allowing fans to enjoy even more crisp, cold Busch beer on race day.”

Admission to the Busch Restart Bar will include access to an all-inclusive food and beverage menu offering, a premium chair-back seat that sits above the Busch Restart Bar with every other row being removed to provide more spacious seating. There also will be room for in-seat, waiter service.

The Busch Restart Bar will debut with the NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, followed by the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday. Admission to the Busch Restart Bar is $150 for the My Bariatric Solutions 300 and $200 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. The Busch Restart Bar is sold out for Sunday’s race.

The Busch Restart Bar also will be open for the Rattlesnake 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Friday, June 8; DXC Technology 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race Saturday, June 9; JAG Metals 350 Camping World Truck Series race Friday, Nov. 2; O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Xfinity Series race Saturday, Nov. 3, and AAA Texas 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday, Nov. 4.

Anheuser-Busch, a long-time NASCAR partner and sponsor that currently is aligned with Harvick, will receive significant Busch branding in addition to featuring its beer brands. Busch will enjoy signage throughout the Restart Bar and on the concourse level as well as other prominent areas of the facility. The track wall below the bar will incorporate the Busch brand and be known as the Busch Restart Zone.


ELLIOTT SADLER RE-INTRODUCES HIS BAD SELF

1:29 p.m. — NASCAR Xfinity Series point-leader Elliott Sadler walked into his media availability at Texas Motor Speedway’s infield media center Friday brandishing extra identification, just in case anyone dared ask … who are you?

“I’m so nervous right now. I haven’t been in a media availability in so long I forgot how this works,” Sadler joked. “I even wore my (NASCAR) Hard Card in case you guys wouldn’t let me in. I thought you were mad at me. I thought I did something wrong. Who decides who comes in here anyway for media availability?”

Check with NASCAR Integrated Marketing.

Sadler has built a four-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Tyler Reddick in the championship standings after five events. In addition, teammate Justin Allgaier sits third, five points behind the leader going into Saturday’s My Bariatrics Solutions 300.

Sadler has posted four top-five and five top-10 results through the first five races of 2018. The Virginia native also leads the series in average finish with a solid 4.8 — the only series title-contender with an average finish inside the top-five. Sadler took home the XFINITY Series regular-season championship in 2017 on his way to the Playoffs.

“We’re off to a good start and we’ve got some momentum on our side,” said Sadler, driver of the No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet Camaro. “But I’m 42, not 24, and it’s all about Homestead (and the season-finale). We’re going to keep our emotions level because we know we have to come back here in the fall and be good. It’s part of the Playoffs when we come back.”

Recall that Sadler emerged as a popular winner of the Samsung/RadioShack 500 Cup Series race here driving the No. 38 M&Ms Ford in his sixth TMS start on April 4, 2004. Sadler ended a 108-race winless streak that day edging series rookie Kasey Kahne by 0.028-seconds — still the closest Cup Series finish in track history. It was Sadler’s second career Cup win and first with Robert Yates Racing.


BRISCOE’S EXTENDED SPRING BREAK IS OVER

11:09 a.m. — Chase Briscoe will make his second start of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 Nutri Chomps Ford Mustang.

Saturday’s My Bariatrics Solutions 300 on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval will be the resumption of a 12-race schedule for the native of Mitchell, Ind. Briscoe started 18th and finished 15th in his first start in the RINNAI 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, sister 1.5-mile oval to TMS, on Feb. 24. Briscoe, 23, finished one lap down to race-winner/Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick.

Briscoe, whose family has a rich history driving and owning Sprint Cars, competed as a rookie in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017.

“Going into Atlanta we didn’t test anywhere and it was a big learning curve for me, and honestly, pretty humbling,” said Briscoe, comparing competition in the Truck and Xfinity series. “I honestly felt like it was going to drive like an ARCA car. Competition-wise, it’s tougher every level you go. In Truck, there was probably eight or nine guys that can win a race realistically, where here there’s 15 guys that can win a race. It’s been a lot of learning.”

Briscoe finished the Truck Series schedule with a flourish, scoring a victory in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway — another 1.5-mile layout — to go with 10 top-five and 14 top-10 results.

Briscoe made two starts at TMS last year in the Truck Series, finishing second in the June 9 winstaronlinegaming.com 400 night race to Christopher Bell of Kyle Busch Motorsports. Bell edged Briscoe after a dramatic side-by-side, closing laps battle in a race that ended under caution.

Briscoe finished fourth in the JAG Metals 350 Driving Hurricane Relief event on Nov. 3, a race won by eventual series champion Johnny Sauter.


ICYMI

8:39 a.m. — On Thursday, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola visited B.B. Owen Elementary and Diamond Hill Elementary School to visit the winners Lionel Racing “Design A Die-Cast” contest. The following video is a final package of the day:

 

THURSDAY NEWS & NOTES

The following are daily news and noteworthy items from the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.


PORTACOOL FANDANGO DROPS GREEN FLAG ON RACE WEEKEND

7:08 p.m. — Poor Jamie Little. The FOX pit reporter is going to have her hands full  as she serves as the guest host for tonight’s Portacool Fandango event on the Texas Motor Speedway start/finish line at 7:30.

PortacoolFandangoNEGAdvertised as an unfiltered and uncensored night with the stars of NASCAR, this year’s Portacool Fandango lineup includes cast of racing legends and stars, including Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Austin Dillon, Michael Waltrip and Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage.

With live entrance music and fire extinguisher powered office furniture drag racing, it’s sure to be a memorable event.

 


MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES HAULERS ENTER

 5:17 p.m. — With horns blaring and fans lined up near the infield tunnel, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend has begun to take shape as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series haulers entered the south tunnel at Texas Motor Speedway.

Some photos from the hauler parade:

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BURGOYNE TAKES SECOND TA SERVICE CHALLENGE EVENT

4:02 p.m.  Eric Burgoyne of Champion Tire won Round 2 of the TA Service Challenge Event at Texas Motor speedway.

The TA Truck Service Challenge test transport drivers’ skill behind the wheel as well as their knowledge of Department of Transportation (DOT) rules of the highway. Each team transport driver competes in six competitions, earning points for both their driving skills in a driver course and their knowledge of DOT regulations in a written exam.

Burgoyne picked up a $1,000 check for his victory and will move up from his eighth-place spot in the overall standings. Burgoyne finished eighth at the opening event at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 22. At the end of the season, a Grand Champion will be crowned on Sept. 30 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, with the first place driver netting $25,000, second place $10,000 and third place $5,000.

The results and schedule for the four remaining TA Truck Service Challenge events:

  • Atlanta Motor Speedway – Brendan Greene, No. 18 Hauler for Joe Gibbs Racing
  • Texas Motor Speedway – Eric Burgoyne, Champion Tire Hauler
  • Sonoma Raceway – Thursday, June 21
  • Kentucky Speedway – Thursday, July 12
  • Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Thursday, September 13
  • Charlotte Motor Speedway – Thursday, September 27

ALMIROLA VISITS WITH 1,100 DFW AREA ELEMENTARY STUDENTS

2:38 p.m. — Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Foods Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing, visited B.B. Owen Elementary and Diamond Hill Elementary School this morning to visit the winners Lionel Racing “Design A Die-Cast” contest.
Earlier this year, 12,061 students at 21 DFW-area schools participating in Texas Motor Speedway’s Speeding To Read program were eligible to take part in the paint scheme contest. The winners received an actual 1:24 scale Lionel Racing die-cast with their paint scheme reproduced on the car. The overall winner’s design also will become part of the Lionel Racing NASCAR die-cast line that is available nationally at major retailers including Wal-mart and Target stores.
Mariyah Wortman was the KG-2nd grade division winner from B.B. Owen Elementary. She went with a red, orange and yellow paint scheme with a flame on the hood. The design is a tribute to firefighters and how brave they are to go into fires to save people.
Alondra Villa, the overall winner from Diamond Hill Elementary, went with a patriotic paint scheme that included the American flag in the car numbers because she loves her country. She added an eagle on the hood to represent her country and her school mascot. She also had a peace sign on the side of the car because she wants peace in the world.

“To leave a lasting impact like this for Alondra and what Texas Motor Speedway does and what Lionel does with the Speeding To Read program, it’s incredible,” Almirola said. “I’m just the lucky guy to be part of it, but it’s such a cool thing to encourage kids to read.”

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES ADVANCE FOR O’REILLY AUTO PARTS 500

A look ahead to this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 1 p.m. CT and also on PRN and SiriusXM Radio.

REIGNING CUP SERIES CHAMPION TRUEX JR.
EYES FIRST WIN AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY  

FORT WORTH, Texas (April 4, 2018) — Martin Truex Jr. won just two races in his first 382 starts in NASCAR’s Cup Series. A win at Pocono Raceway on June 7, 2015 changed everything for the native of Mayetta, N.J.

Over the last 100 races since that win, Truex Jr. has been to Victory Lane another 13 times, the most of any driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series during that span. Truex’s 16 wins have come at 12 different tracks with multiple wins coming at Chicago, Charlotte, Dover and Kansas. Truex Jr. has led a total of 2,314 laps at the latter three of those four tracks, respectively. In fact, Truex Jr. has led more than 500 laps at five different tracks, the others being New Hampshire Motor Speedway (661 laps) and right here in Fort Worth at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I feel really good about going to Texas,” said Truex Jr., who led 156 laps last year at TMS, where he finished eighth (April) and second (November). “We’ve definitely been successful there and led laps and feel like we’ve had a shot to win quite a few races.”

winless

In 44 combined starts, Truex Jr. (595 laps led) and Brad Keselowski (589) have combined to lead 1,184 laps at Texas Motor Speedway — far and away the most by drivers that have never been to Victory Lane here.

For Truex Jr., that first win is so close he can taste it. Over the course of the last four races at TMS, Truex Jr. has led the field around the 1.5-mile high-banked oval for 363 total laps.

“We’ve had a car to win there, we just haven’t been able to close the deal for one reason or another,” Truex Jr. said. “Hopefully this time around it’ll be our time.”

Truex Jr. arrives at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 riding a streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes and has 14 top-10 performances in his 25 career starts. His best finish is second, the first coming in this event in 2013 and matched in this past November’s AAA Texas 500.

MILE-AND-A-HALF MONSTER

It took all of four races for Kevin Harvick to eclipse his win total from the 2017 season. Consecutive victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway (Phoenix), respectively, put the rest of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage on notice.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500
Kevin Harvick’s most recent visit to Texas Motor Speedway last November ended in Victory Lane.

“I don’t think anybody’s got anything for Harvick,” said Kyle Busch after Harvick’s win at ISM Raceway, his third victory in a row.

“Our … Chevy was fast.  Nowhere near Harvick’s level,” added Kyle Larson after Harvick’s win at Las Vegas.
Harvick has cooled off a bit over the last two races, but a week off and a return to Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval may just be the perfect recipe for a fourth trip to Victory Lane this season.
Harvick’s last trip to the Lone Star State was a memorable one. He broke an 0-for-29 winless streak at the Fort Worth speedway when he passed Martin Truex Jr. for the lead with 10 to go and sped away for his first Texas Motor Speedway Cup Series victory in last November’s AAA Texas 500 Playoff race. The win locked Harvick into the Championship Race, where he’d eventually fall short to Truex Jr.
Dating back to last year, Harvick has three wins in his last four starts on intermediate (1.5-mile) tracks and has finished outside the top 10 only eight times in his last 50 starts on such tracks dating back to 2015.
It’s a safe bet that Harvick will be a factor on Sunday.

SLUMPBUSTER

Jimmie Johnson averaged an impressive 22 top 10s per season through his first 14 years as a full-time driver in NASCAR’s Cup Series. Not once did he have a season with less than 20 top 10s.

He managed just 16 of those efforts in 2015, which was masked by coming out of nowhere to win his seventh series championship in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He followed that up with arguably the worst season of his storied career in 2017. But again, a pedestrian (for Johnson’s standards) 11 top-10s was scoffed at thanks to three trips to Victory Lane.

Texas Motor Speedway Media Day
Jimmie Johnson is hoping to emulate his bobblehead’s pose in Victory Lane on Sunday.

One of those three wins came here at Texas Motor Speedway, a track Johnson has dominated over the course of his career. He’s won seven times, five more than the next closest driver(s). He owns 21 top-10 finishes, with 15 of those being among the top five. And his 8.8 average finishing position in 29 career starts is the only AFP inside the top 10 among active drivers.

So, with just one top 10 in his first six starts of 2018, it’s safe to say that Texas Motor Speedway could be just the track for Johnson to break a current 29-race winless slump that dates back to June 4 of last year — the longest drought between wins of his career.

“It doesn’t get in my head, but I want to win for my own reasons. I’m very motivated for that,” said Johnson when asked about his winless streak. “The streak and to be reminded of it every week, I just kind of just chuckle at. It is so tough to win in our sport and it’s so tough to operate at a high level in pro sports for any length of time. I just know what I have to do and how hard I’m working and that makes it much easier than it does to the outsiders looking in.” 

Don’t expect Johnson to bobble the opportunity in front of him. After all, there will be versions of his bobblehead, sponsored by Blue Bunny Ice Cream and fit with a handcrafted Justin Cowboy Hat, handed out to the first 30,000 fans attending Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

CUP SERIES DATES ANNOUNCED FOR 2019 SEASON 

On Tuesday, NASCAR announced its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule for the 2019 season. No big changes were made, as Texas Motor Speedway will remain the seventh race of the season and the second race in the Final Eight segment of the Playoffs.
With Easter falling later in 2019, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be held one week earlier than this year, dropping the green flag on Sunday, March 31. The fall AAA Texas 500 Playoff race will run on Sunday, November 3.
Other key race dates include the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 17), the All-Star Race in Charlotte (May 18), the Coca-Cola 600 (May 26), the opening round of the NASCAR Playoffs in Las Vegas (Sept. 15) and the Championship Race in Miami (Nov. 17).       

TEXAN BUESCHER REFLECTS ON TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

A native of Prosper, Texas, Chris Buescher recounts his first visit to Texas Motor Speedway, why he fell in love with the sport of racing, and the special place this track has in the 25-year-old’s heart as he’s climbed the ladder all the way to the top series of NASCAR. 

UNDER THE HOOD: TEXAS EDITION

Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will feature nearly a dozen Texans working for eight different Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams on pit road. Here’s a list of the Texans and their respective roles: 

  • Kenny M. De Guisto of Garland — Underneath Mechanic for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  • Marcos D. Castro of Denton — Shock Technician for Paul Menard
  • Larry J. Robinette of Dallas — Utility for Paul Menard
  • Sam T. Abney of Austin — Front Carrier/ Fueler for Ryan Newman
  • Colin J. Fambrough of Tyler — Rear Changer for Chris Buescher
  • Philippe J Lopez of San Antonio — Competition VP, Director for Bubba Wallace
  • Pedro Martinez Jr. of San Antonio — Front Changer for Harrison Rhodes
  • Robert G Best II of Arlington — Underneath Mechanic for Trevor Bayne
  • Eric W. Wallace of Austin — Front Carrier for Trevor Bayne
  • Michael A Leavine of Bullard — Competition VP, Director for Kasey Kahne
  • Ryan R Dextraze (no city listed) — Underneath Mechanic for Kasey Kahne

NASCAR ON FOX TV SCHEDULE AT TEXAS

FRIDAY

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES practice, Noon-1 PM CENTRAL,  FS1

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES practice, 1-2 PM CT – FS1

NASCAR RACE HUB: WEEKEND EDITION, 2-3 PM CT – FS1

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES final practice, 3-4 PM CT – FS1

NASCAR RACE HUB: WEEKEND EDITION, 4-4:30 PM CT – FS1

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES qualifying, 4:30-6 PM CT – FS1

SATURDAY

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES practice, 10-11 AM CT – FS1

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES qualifying, 11-Noon PM CT – FS1

NASCAR RACE HUB: WEEKEND EDITION, Noon-12:30 PM CT – FS1

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES final practice, 12:30-1:30 PM CT – FS1

NASCAR RACEDAY-NXS, 1:30-2 PM CT – FOX

MY BARIATRIC SOLUTIONS 300 NASCAR XFINITY SERIES Racing, 2-4:30 PM CT – FOX

 SUNDAY

NASCAR RACEDAY, 11:30-1 PM – FS1

O’REILLY AUTO PARTS 500 MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES Racing, 1-5 PM CT – FS1

NOTES

Only three of the 34 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the Busch Pole position. The most victory-friendly starting position is third, the grid spot race winner Kevin Harvick started from last November. Seven times the race winner has started third … Jimmie Johnson (seven), Denny Hamlin (two) and Kyle Busch (two) are the only multi-time Texas winners in the field this weekend … Reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. is among a threesome sporting the longest active winless streaks at TMS. Truex is winless in 25 starts in the Lone Star State. Jamie McMurray is 0-for-28 and Clint Bowyer hasn’t won in 24 tries at Texas … Kurt Busch needs to lead only 49 laps to become the 20th driver in NASCAR history to lead at least 9,000 laps in his career.

-TMS-