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

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