Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (16679)

With 53 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins and 203 overall wins amongst NASCAR’s top three series, Kyle Busch knows a thing or two about tasting victory whenever he straps into a racecar.

 

Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is the only driver to score top-10 finishes in all seven Cup Series races contested so far this season, a distinction he’s held since the fourth race of the season when he brought the Skittles colors to victory lane at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. Even more, Busch was close to at least three more victories during these first two months of the season.

 

With another win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California the weekend after Phoenix, and five top-five finishes among his seven top-10s – no doubt a very strong start to the season – Busch sits atop the point standings heading into this weekend’s race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

 

As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the .533-mile, high-banked, concrete oval for Sunday’s Food City 500, Busch returns as the defending winner of the spring race at a venue where he now has seven career Cup Series victories – the most wins of any active driver.

 

This weekend, Busch and his team travel to Bristol looking to continue their consistency while also aiming to start another win streak after their back-to-back wins at Phoenix and Fontana were followed by a third-place run at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and last weekend’s 10th-place result at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The Skittles team has every reason to feel confident since the Bristol bullring and next weekend’s stop at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway are among Busch’s strongest tracks on the circuit. In addition to his seven career Cup Series wins at Bristol, Busch has notched 10 top-fives and 15 top-10s in 27 career starts at Northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley.” Three of Busch’s Cup Series wins there came over a four-race span in 2009 and 2010.


While he is one of the favorites to win any time he travels to Bristol, it’s interesting to note Busch didn’t immediately take to the place. During his rookie year in 2005, he posted finishes of 28th and 33rd. But his record since then has been impressive, to say the least. After bringing home finishes of eighth and second in 2006, Busch captured his first Bristol Cup Series win in March 2007. The track was resurfaced after that race and, from 2008 to 2011, nobody has been better at Bristol than Busch. He scored four wins and six top-10s from 2008 until another change to the track surface prior to the August 2012 race weekend. Busch seems to have recaptured the magic from his four years of dominance there into a new era of strong runs.

 

So as Busch and the Skittles team head to the Bristol bullring this weekend, they’ll hope the strong start to the season is just the start of something even bigger. Another checkered flag at a Bristol track that has treated him quite well over the years is certainly not out of the question. With the Skittles tagline of “Taste the Rainbow” in mind, Busch will certainly not tire of tasting victory every chance he gets.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Date Track Team/Member Level Infraction Remarks
3/31/2019 (post-race inspection) Texas No. 10 Safety Sections 10.9.10.4: Tires and Wheels
Note: Lug nut(s) not properly installed.
Crew chief (John Klausmeier) has been fined $10,000.
NASCAR
Issue Date Track Team/Member Level Infraction Remarks
4/1/2019 N/A Austin W. Self Behavioral
(SAP)
Sections 12.1 & 19 Indefinite suspension from NASCAR

Racecar drivers don’t easily forget.

 

No. 14 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver Clint Bowyer remembers how close he came in August to winning his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

 

After struggling in practice and qualifying, in the race Bowyer showed early speed on the half-mile track moving from his 16th starting spot to third by lap 90. He held that position through the start of the second stage before drifting back to sixth.

 

The final stage was when things began to get interesting.

 

He started seventh and charged to the front, passing his then-SHR teammate Kurt Busch for second on lap 344 of the 500-lap race. During a caution about 10 laps later, the No. 14 pit crew returned Bowyer to the track in first place. He held that position for nearly every lap until a restart with 33 laps to go.

 

That’s when the night took a turn for the worse.

 

“I thought I got a good jump and, about the time I shifted, Kurt (Busch) hit me in the door and it just lit the tires up,” Bowyer said. “He didn’t do anything wrong – it’s just a product of it. Then, when I was on the bottom, I spun the tires really bad and they all got around me.”

 

Four more cars passed the No. 14 and Bowyer finished sixth despite leading 120 laps. It was a bittersweet performance, to say the least. He was mad at himself for not winning his third race of the season, but also happy with the progress the team made from qualifying to the race.

 

“It was disappointing,” Bowyer said. “You get a car that good and you get that close, you hate to not come home with it. But, all in all, for as terrible as we started the weekend and as bad as our day was on that Friday before the race, to lead laps and run in the top-10, I was pretty surprised, to be honest with you. In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty good run for us, but you hate to give them up like that.”

 

Bowyer would like another chance when he races Sunday in the Food City 500 at Bristol, where his No 14 will carry the black-and-red paint scheme of Haas Automation, Inc. Haas Automation is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

 

Haas co-owns SHR with three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. SHR has two points-paying victories at Bristol – Busch in August 2018 and Kevin Harvick in August 2016 – and has 10 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s in 62 starts.

 

Bowyer has raced well over his career on the Tennessee track, posting seven top-fives and 13 top-10s in 26 starts. He arrives at Bristol on a roll after a second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The finish moved him to 11th in the season standings. At the first short-track race of the season two weekends ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Bowyer finished seventh.

 

A win Sunday would help him in the standings, likely securing him a spot in the NASCAR playoffs and earning Bowyer a trophy at a track he has long admired.

 

Bristol Motor Speedway is the third-largest sports venue in America and the seventh-largest in the world, seating up to 162,000 people. It’s a place Bowyer claims is a symbol of NASCAR’s success.

 

“Look at Bristol now versus what it was before,” he said. “I remember seeing videos of just a grass bank people are parked on, and now it’s just a wall of grandstands. Bristol has not only stood the test of time, it has grown with the sport of NASCAR and our fan base. Its growth has been our growth.”

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Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 SHAZAM!/Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), makes his second short-track start of the season this weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. After finishing seventh last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, the No. 10 Ford team extended its streak of top-10 finishes to six and feels on the verge of a win this weekend at The Last Great Colosseum.

  

A departure from last weekend’s high speeds at Texas, Bristol provides a completely new style of racing that challenges drivers both physically and mentally. 

 

“Bristol is a very challenging and demanding racetrack but, at the same time, it takes a level of finesse and rhythm,” Almirola said. “You can pound it in there and get after it and get really aggressive to maybe make some lap times, but it’s hard to sustain that lap after lap for 500 laps around that bullring. That’s one of the racetracks we go to that, when you look at it, you say, ‘I need to go attack this place,’ and you do. But it takes a finesse, which is kind of an oxymoron, trying to finesse and manhandle that racetrack. This is why we love short tracks.”

 

Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR’s most elite level, takes an elite level of physical and mental stamina. When Almirola isn’t in a racecar, he can usually be found cycling or working out. During the plane ride back from the previous race or down time between practice sessions, you can find him studying film from his last race, or in conversation with his crew chief Johnny Klausmeier or his engineers to find out how they can improve. His diet consists of high-quality Smithfield Food proteins combined with foods with other key vitamins and nutrients that help fuel his mind and body for the grueling race weekends. 

 

“I try to stay in peak physical condition throughout the year,” Almirola said. “I believe it helps me in the car when it’s time to make split decisions and I like to just stay fit, in general. It makes me feel good that I know I’ve prepared myself to perform at the highest level every weekend.” 

 

While the 35-year-old trains like a superhero to stay in peak conditions, he’ll have a superhero adorning his No. 10 Ford this weekend at Bristol for the second time this season. SHAZAM! is a DC Comics movie opening nationwide April 5 that is based on a streetwise 14-year-old who can magically transform into the adult superhero Shazam simply by shouting out one word. His newfound powers soon get put to the test when he squares off against the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Like at Martinsville two weekends ago, when the SHAZAM! scheme first appeared, Almirola hopes his superpower this weekend will once again come in the form of Roush Yates Engines horsepower. 

 

This season, Almirola has earned one pole, one top-five finish, six top-10s and has led 72 laps – surpassing his previous best over a season’s first seven races. He has one top-five and three top-10s in 19 starts at the high-banked, .533-mile Bristol oval since 2007. His best finish at Bristol was third in the Food City 500 on March 16, 2004.

 

In addition to his Cup Series experience at Bristol, Almirola has seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with four of those resulting in top-10 finishes. 

 

His previous short-track race this season was at Martinsville, where he started second, ran inside the top-five for the majority of the race and earned his first Martinsville top-10 with SHR. Ford’s third of three wins this season was at Martinsville two weekends ago. 

 

The No. 10 SHAZAM!/Smithfield Ford team heads to Bristol fifth in the season standings – 65 points behind the leader. 

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Conventional wisdom suggests one pit road penalty can be overcome, but two pit road penalties is something a driver and team generally cannot recover from if they have any intention of winning a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. It just doesn’t happen with any regularity.

Denny Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Camry team, however, don’t care about conventional wisdom. In spite of incurring not one but two penalties on pit road, Hamlin won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The first penalty occurred when Hamlin exceeded the 45 mph pit road speed limit while making a pit stop on Lap 64. The second penalty was for an uncontrolled tire violation on Lap 173, seemingly cementing that this wouldn’t be the day Hamlin won his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2019 season.

And yet when it was all said and done, there was Hamlin in Victory Lane, having rallied back to overcome both penalties, celebrating his 33rd career win in NASCAR’s premier division. Oh, and Hamlin also missed pit road while attempting to make a green-flag stop during Stage 1, then later the No. 11 team had a slow pit stop due to a tire changer dropping a pit gun.

Hamlin is the first driver to win a race despite being penalized twice on pit road penalties since Brad Keselowski won at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2014.

“I told them when I was making my way through the pack, I know this really sucks because we’re probably not going to win with the fastest car,” Hamlin said. “It was fun passing all those cars, it really was.”

Issues on pit road have been a recurring theme for Hamlin and his JGR team this season. He has now been penalized four times in the past three races for various infractions on pit road, yet in each instance he still a managed to record a top-10 finish: a seventh at Auto Club Speedway even though he sped on pit road; a fifth at ISM Raceway, a race that saw the No. 11 team penalized for an uncontrolled tire; and then both penalties on Sunday in Texas.

It’s almost as if Hamlin, crew chief Chris Gabehart and the No. 11 team are attempting to earn bonus points for degree of difficulty. Just imagine the outcome if they could avoid being penalized.

“We haven't optimized our races yet,” Gabehart said. “That's encouraging to know. You're racing against the best teams in the world. It's difficult to have a flawless race; it's not an easy thing. It's one thing to identify, it's another thing to fix. That's something we got to work on.

“The exciting thing is we never leave the racetrack guessing where we could have did better. So in that regard we definitely haven't reached our potential.”

But while Hamlin and company may have had some gaffes on pit road in recent weeks, their collective excellence on pit road also factored heavily into Hamlin winning at Texas.

Hamlin’s final pit stop Sunday came under green flag conditions, with him holding a narrow lead over second-place Clint Bowyer. But Hamlin got on and off pit road quickly and smoothly, while the No. 11 team also flawlessly executed a fuel-only stop. The mistake-free sequence allowed Hamlin to extend his lead over Bowyer. He was unchallenged the rest of the way, winning by almost 3 seconds.

“We were fast enough to overcome everything that kind of got thrown at us,” Hamlin said. “We tried every way we could to give it away, and we found a way to do it with this FedEx Camry.”

Speed is a cure-all. And there is no doubt Hamlin has had that in abundance this season.

Hamlin’s two victories are tied with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski for most in the series, marking the first time in his 14-year career he has had that many wins through the first seven races. And Hamlin sits second in the standings, trailing leader Busch by just eight points heading into next weekend’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

There is every reason to think Hamlin can continue his winning ways at Bristol, then carry that to subsequent races at Richmond Raceway (April 13) and Talladega Superspeedway (April 28). The Bristol-Richmond-Talladega stretch sets up favorably for Hamlin, who’s won a combined five times at these three tracks.

Now, if Hamlin and the No. 11 team can just avoid having to overcome a penalty or two every week their path to Victory Lane would be all the easier.

“We have speed,” Hamlin said. “With a little execution I certainly believe we easily could be leading the points. (Busch’s team) has out-executed us a few races. That's really been the difference. I really believe that this team is not even close to where it's going to be in two months.”

Michael McDowell
No. 34 Love's Travel Stops Ford Mustang
Started: 15th | Finished: 15th
"We really needed this. We had a great weekend, starting with qualifying on Friday and earning a 15th place starting position. Today, we pretty much ran 15th all day, executing and not making any mistakes. This is the best that we’ve ran in a while so it felt really good. Thanks to Love’s Travel Stops for all of their support. I’m really glad that I could bring them home a solid finish."
Matt Tifft
No. 36 Tunity/Surface Sunscreen Ford Mustang
Started: 29th | Finished: 24th
"I thought our speed this whole weekend was really good. It was ultimately kind of bittersweet because we feel like we were one or two changes away from being very good like the No. 34, but just got a lap down too early on. After that point, we were pretty solid, just needed our lap back but there was never a wave around opportunity. We definitely tried some new things this weekend and I’m excited for the direction that can bring moving forward."
David Ragan
No. 38 MDS Trucking Ford Mustang
Started: 28th | Finished: 25th
"I was really encouraged with our No. 38 Ford Mustang today. Seth and the team made some really good adjustments yesterday and I felt like we had a top 15 or top 18 car, but we ran out of fuel early in the first segment and it cost us a lap and a half to where we were never able to recover. It was encouraging to see all of our Fords a little faster at the mile and a half and was great to see Michael run so well. It gives us optimism looking ahead to Kansas in a few weeks."

FRM PR

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 2 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-85):

● Daniel Suárez started Stage 1 from the fourth position and ended the stage seventh to earn four bonus points.

● Suárez was in the fifth position when the first caution was displayed on lap 16. He did not visit pit road, as the No. 41 Mustang would still have to make another stop for fuel during the stage.

● Crew chief Billy Scott made the call for Suárez to make a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 60 for fuel, two right-side tires and adjustments.

● The remainder of the stage ran under green. After pit stops cycled through, Suárez was in the seventh position, where he finished the stage.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 86-160):

● The No. 41 driver started Stage 2 in 17th and completed it in third to accumulate eight bonus points.

● On lap 148, during the second caution of the race, Suárez pitted from fifth for fuel, four tires and adjustments.

● After restarting fourth, he worked his way up to a third-place stage finish.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 161-334):

● The Ruckus driver began the final stage in second and concluded it in third.

● Suárez remained in the second position until lap 218, when he gained the lead. Shortly thereafter, the Ruckus driver had to relinquish the top spot to make a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 221.

● After pit stops cycled through, he regained the lead on lap 239 and remained in the position until he was passed by Kyle Busch on lap 245 when another competitor impeded his run.

● Suárez maintained the second position until the caution came out on lap 254 and he pitted for fuel and four tires.

● He restarted ninth on lap 259 and eventually regained the lead once again on lap 316.

● On lap 320 Suarez made a scheduled green-flag pit stop for a splash of fuel and returned to the track. As pit stops cycled through, the Ford driver took over the third position.

● Suárez maintained the position to finish third at Texas.

 

Notes:

● Suárez earned his first top-five of the season and his first top-five in five career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.

● Suárez’s third-place result bettered his previous best finish at Texas – 14th in October 2017.

● Suárez finished seventh in Stage 1 to earn four bonus points and third in Stage 2 to earn an additional eight bonus points.

● Suárez led twice for nine laps – his first laps led at Texas.

● Denny Hamlin won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 to score his 33rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his third at Texas. His margin of victory over second-place Clint Bowyer was 2.743 seconds.

● There were five caution periods for a total of 29 laps.

● Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 finished on the lead lap.

● Kyle Busch leaves Texas as the championship leader with an eight-point advantage over second-place Hamlin.

 

Daniel Suárez, Driver of the No. 41 Ruckus Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“I’m happy with today. The entire weekend was strong for us, and we had the speed all weekend long in the Ruckus Ford. I feel like we had for sure a top-five car and at times probably the best car out there on the long runs. We were just trying to find the right balance back and forth, but I’m just very proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Performance, and especially the 41 guys. They worked extremely hard to bring a good piece for Texas and we did it, so I’m grateful.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Food City 500 on Sunday, April 7 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

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Despite battling an ill-handling machine for a majority of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Texas Motor Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drove his Fastenal Ford to a 16th-place finish.

“We struggled with the handling today,” Stenhouse said. “Our Fastenal Ford was just too loose for a majority of the race. We probably would have finished a few positions higher but unfortunately we got a penalty that last stop. We will go back and look at what we need to improve on and be ready for Kansas.”

After rolling off in the 17th position for the 334-lap race, the Olive Branch, Mississippi, native gained three positions in the first 14 laps before the yellow flag was displayed. Crew chief Brian Pattie opted to take two tires under the caution. With the remainder of the stage going green and another scheduled green flag pit-stop, Stenhouse Jr. took the first green checkered in the 21st position.

Due to penalty during the caution, the two-time Xfinity champion had to line up at the tail end of the field for the restart. Still battling a loose handling machine, Stenhouse caught a lucky break when the caution waved on lap 148 trapping some of the leaders a lap down. With 12 laps remaining in stage two, Stenhouse restarted in the 10th position and was able to work his way up to seventh by the time the second green checkered waved earning valuable stage points.

When the green flag waved at the start of the final stage, the Roush Fenway Racing driver started in the fifth position after staying out under the stage break. Due to other competitors having fresher tires, Stenhouse dropped to 13th by the time he brought his Ford to pit-road for four tires and fuel.

As he was working his way through the field, the caution flag waved scoring Stenhouse in the 16th position. Under the caution, Pattie brought the Ford to pit-road for tires and fuel and another chassis adjustment in hopes to help with the loose handling condition.

As green flag pit-stops were cycling though, Stenhouse forfeited his fourth position to bring his Fastenal Ford to pit-road for his final scheduled pit-stop. As he was leaving pit-road, he was penalized for speeding on exit forcing him to serve a pass thru penalty. With few laps remaining, Stenhouse was forced to settle with a 16th-place finish.

Stenhouse and the No. 17 team travel to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 next Sunday, April 7.

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Ryan Newman and the No. 6 team battled back from some early weekend adversity and ran inside the top-10 for much of the day Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, before crossing the line 11th in the Wyndham Rewards Ford Mustang.

“Despite not finishing top-10, we had a pretty solid and promising day in our Wyndham Rewards Ford,” Newman said. “Our car definitely showed some speed and I was happy with it most of the day. We had to come back from the rear which is always a challenge, but the guys did a great job in the pits all day long to bring home a much needed result.”

Newman began the weekend by qualifying 18th in a wild qualifying session Friday afternoon. However, he would start from the rear after the car failed pre-race inspection twice Sunday morning. He didn’t last there long, getting inside the top-20 just 30 laps in for the long 500-mile race.

After a quick yellow was displayed just 14 laps in, Newman restarted 24th and moved up to 19th by lap 30. Once a long green-flag run commenced, Newman made his way to eighth by lap eight as some cars made their stops under green. He would pit from the third position at lap 81 just prior to the stage break, before finishing the stage 22nd.

Newman earned the lucky dog and restarted 19th, back on the lead lap, before breaking back into the top-10 by lap 150. With the balance decent on his No. 6 Ford, Newman pitted under yellow from the eighth spot and lined back up sixth for a 12-lap shootout to the end of the stage, where he finished sixth earning valuable stage points.

The 2008 Daytona 500 Champion would line up fourth for the final stage before pitting again under green at lap 222. After stops cycled he was shown in seventh and ran ninth when the caution came out at lap 254. Crew chief Scott Graves called him to pit road for two right side tires at lap 257 before he restarted 10th at lap 260.

The remainder of the race ran caution-free as Newman would pit one final time for fuel-only at lap 318, before finishing 11th.

Newman and the No. 6 team return to action next weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. Race coverage begins Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM Channel 90.

RFR PR

Race Winner:      Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:  Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 2 Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-85):

Clint Bowyer started 25th and finished 15th.

● Bowyer quickly reported his car “was the best it’s been all weekend, boys.”

● Bowyer led laps 80-82 – his first laps led of 2019.

● Gave up the lead when he pitted for fuel with just four laps left in the stage and finished 15th.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 86-170):

Bowyer started third and finished 11th.

● Bowyer stayed on the track during the stage break and restarted third.

● Fell back to 10th on the restart with a loose car.

● As the stage progressed, Bowyer’s car loosened up and began to climb back to the front.

● During a caution, Bowyer reported a strange battery reading, and the crew tried to determine the cause.

● Bowyer switched between primary and backup battery, and the issue never jeopardized his race.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 171 -334):

Bowyer started 12th and finished 11th.

● Bowyer began clicking off fast laps again and climbed to fifth by lap 200 and second by lap 224.

● Stayed in the top-three through a pit-stop cycle. Pitted again with 74 to go for two tires and restarted seventh.

● Bowyer raced in second when he and leader Denny Hamlin made fuel-only stops in the closing laps.

● However, Bowyer couldn’t catch Hamlin and finished as runner-up, 2.743 seconds behind.

 

Notes:

●  Bowyer earned his second top-five of the season and his fourth top-five in 27 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.

●  Bowyer’s second-place result equaled his previous best finish at Texas – second in April 2011.

●  Bowyer led once for three laps to increase his laps-led total at Texas to 88.

●  Denny Hamlin won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 to score his 33rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his third at Texas. His margin of victory over second-place Bowyer was 2.743 seconds.

●  There were five caution periods for a total of 29 laps.

●  Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 finished on the lead lap.

●  Kyle Busch leaves Texas as the championship leader with an eight-point advantage over second-place Hamlin.

 

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang:

“All in all, our car handled good. It wasn’t lightning fast all day long, but as they started slip sliding around and struggling we’d kind of prevail on those long runs. That was our M.O. Denny, he was relatively fast all weekend long – top of the sheet – so we just weren’t really. All in all, I’m really happy to finish where we were. What a wild race. Just about the time you think you’re gonna have some stage points the caution would come out and then you thought you were back in and it happened again. Then you’re like, ‘Well, damn. What kind of haymakers are gonna be thrown at the end,’ and it just didn’t. Anytime you finish second it’s like, ‘What could I have done?’ When he came out of the pits that far ahead of us I was like, ‘We’re in big trouble,’ but second is not bad for the way our weekend started.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Food City 500 on Sunday, April 7 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

TSC PR

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 2 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-85):

● Aric Almirola started 21st and finished 18th.

● Almirola pitted the No. 10 Smithfield Prime Fresh Ford under caution on lap 14 for fuel only. He was scored 18th off pit road.

● He drove to sixth by lap 78 before pitting for four tires, fuel and air pressure and chassis adjustments.

● Almirola opted not to pit at the conclusion of the stage.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 86-170):

● Started fifth and finished 12th.

● The No. 10 Ford battled in and around the top-10 during the opening laps.

● Almirola drove as high as ninth and stayed inside the top-10 before pitting on lap 142 for four tires, fuel and adjustments.

● The caution was called on lap 148. Running in 12th place, Almirola took the wave-around to advance to the lead lap.

● He raced just outside the top-10 before the end Stage 2.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 171-334):

● Started 14th and finished seventh.

● Almirola rallied back to the top-10 in just a few laps when the checkered flag waved to start Stage 3.

● He raced to sixth by lap 215 but noted that if he couldn’t draft or get a push from behind it would be difficult to catch up to any other cars.

● Crew chief Johnny Klausmeier called Almirola to the pits from second place on lap 236 for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments. He was scored fourth after green-flag pit stops cycled through.

● After a lap-254 caution, the No. 10 Ford team opted not to pit and advanced to first place.

● He raced inside the top-four and pitted from third place on lap 301 for two right-side tires and fuel.

● After green-flag pit stops cycled through, Almirola raced his way up to seventh to earn his sixth top-10 of the season.

 

Notes:

●  Almirola earned his sixth top-10 of the season and his third top-10 in 17 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.

●  This was Almirola’s second straight top-10 at Texas.

●  Almirola has finished among the top-10 in every race this year with the exception of the season-opening Daytona 500.

●  Almirola’s six straight top-10s marks a career high. His previous best top-10 streak was four in April-May 2013.

●  Almirola’s seventh-place result equaled his previous best finish at Texas – seventh in April 2013.

●  Almirola led once for three laps – his first laps led at Texas.

●  Denny Hamlin won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 to score his 33rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his third at Texas. His margin of victory over second-place Clint Bowyer was 2.743 seconds.

●  There were five caution periods for a total of 29 laps.

●  Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 finished on the lead lap.

●  Kyle Busch leaves Texas as the championship leader with an eight-point advantage over second-place Hamlin.

 

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Prime Fresh Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“I didn’t sleep at all last night with a stomach bug, so I’m really, really depleted. I haven’t been able to keep anything down, so I’m just really hungry and I’m really tired. We don’t get to call in sick. That’s the challenging part of our job occasionally. The flu or a cold or a stomach bug pops up, and you’ve got to fight through it. I’m really proud of everybody on our Smithfield Prime Fresh Ford Mustang. We had a good car and we still got out of here with a top-10, so that’s sixth in a row. I’m proud of that.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Food City 500 on Sunday, April 7 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

TSC PR

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