Kyle Busch lassoed the field on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway to capture his 44th career victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Busch, a native of Las Vegas, led the field for 116 circuits on Sunday to score his third win at the 1.5-mile oval after starting eighth on the grid.
“They were probably just a tick faster overall, but I just had to make sure to do everything I could to hit all my marks and everything to focus on making sure that I did the right things to block his air a little bit,” said Busch in victory lane after the race. “This Interstate Batteries Camry was really awesome today. Really want to thank Interstate. It’s their hometown. This has been a trying couple of months I guess. You know after Daytona, we’ve just been on a roll of finishing really good and getting really pumped and excited about that and the momentum we were able to carry, but frustrated at the same time trying to get to Victory Lane.”
The series veteran will leave Texas with a win, five top five and six top 10 finishes through seven races in 2018. Going into Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend, a track where Busch has gone to victory lane at six times in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Busch holds an average finish of 6.0 in 2018.
Kevin Harvick came into the day as one of the favorites to win. However, despite leading the field for 87 circuits after a runner-up start, Harvick and the No. 4 team experienced pit road issues that later determined a second-place finish for the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
“Kyle’s car was good enough to where he could get out there and run pretty good in clean air,” said Harvick after the race. “It took us the whole run to be able to get everything back together and do everything we needed to do to make up a position. We weren’t as good behind him as we were in front of him. His car would run fast enough. There is only so much you can make up.”
On lap 237, Harvick was hit with a tire violation that sent him to the tail of the field. Harvick also described issues with the pit guns that he felt prevented them from going to victory lane.
“We did overcome a lot. That was unfortunate. We had a pathetic day on pit road, two days on pit road because of pit guns,” Harvick added. “When you have a pit gun problem like we have multiple times and been able to overcome it and then today we couldn’t overcome it. Time after time you can’t get the lug nuts tight because the pit guns don’t work.”
Jamie McMurray rounded out the top three finishers on Sunday at Texas. McMurray, from Joplin, Missouri, captured his first top five and top 10 finish of the new season after starting the afternoon in 24th.
“We just had a really good car and were able to miss some of those accidents,” said McMurray after posting the third-place finish. “The off-weekend couldn’t have come at a better time for us. We had such a horrible season going and it’s awesome to run as good as we did today at a 1.5-mile. We have so many of these and I feel like we have been a little bit behind on the 1.5-miles but had a really good run today.”
Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five finishers.
Numerous heavy hitters going into the weekend found trouble all throughout the 500-mile event. That included Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman with blown right-front tires. Other drivers being involved in accidents included Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne. Each of these drivers were able to walk away uninjured.
Truex and Larson described their separate incidents that resulted in a right-front tire failure.
“Well, just blew a right-front tire out of nowhere. Not sure what happened there - if we run something over or what,” said Truex after the heavy impact with the outside wall. “I think the first set of tires that came off the car looked great. We were just making our way towards the front. I think we were second when we blew a tire there. Would’ve been nice to have at least finished that first stage before it happened, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
“Yeah, I’m okay thankfully. Thanks to NASCAR and their safety because that was a huge hit,” said Larson after falling out of the race on lap 128. “Just hate that I blew a right-front (tire) there. I was pretty tight but didn’t really expect to blow a right-front. Restarted up front there and was just really tight for a few laps and then actually got going pretty good. Just needed to get by Joey (Logano) there 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.”
The fifth caution flag of the day involved a number of drivers that took out numerous contenders and drew a 11-minute and five-second red flag period. That wreck in turn four involved Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, David Ragan and Jimmie Johnson.
Because of the accident on lap 179, Almirola’s streak of six top 15 finishes since the beginning of 2018 came to an end at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. The No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford left the 1.5-mile oval with a 32nd-place finish.
“We just come to these repaves and we are going really fast and all fighting for the bottom lane and the second lane isn’t as good and the third lane is really not as good,” Almirola said describing the incident. “So we got down to turn three 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 18 have the second lane and the 11 just got loose under me. It was a frustrating end of the day for us. Our Smithfield Ford Fusion 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.”
Keselowski offered his view of what happened in front of his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford.
“Somebody got loose and the next thing I knew there was a big mess in front of me and it was either pick left or pick right and I made a quick decision to pick right and it was the wrong decision,” said Keselowski. “Tough break. I hate it for everybody on the team. We were sludging along with the Miller Lite Ford, right in that fifth to 10th range every day and we just didn’t make it through.”
Darrell Wallace Jr. brought home an eighth-place finish at Texas to score his second top 10 finish of the season. Wallace, who finished runner-up in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, started 15th on the leaderboard in his No. 43 Chevrolet and was running inside the top three late into the running. However, following the restart with 23 laps to go, Wallace slipped down the leaderboard to the eighth position.
“Absolutely. Hell yeah, we needed that. That was a good week off for us to re-group. The guys did a hell of a job all weekend long,” said Wallace after the long Sunday afternoon. “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.’ I had a couple of opportunities there, especially the first stop coming down, but our Click N’ Close Chevrolet was pretty decent all day for us. Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) did a great job doing some pit strategy on that last call to get us out there to fourth. I don’t know if we were on the splitter on that last run, but she just wouldn’t turn going down into the corners and gave up a couple of spots. I will beat myself up over that one, but still walking away with my first top 10 in the Cup Series is pretty good.”
The series will now head to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500. Coverage will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET. on FOX and PRN Radio.