Jimmie Johnson captured his 81st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Johnson, who led only 17 circuits of the race, will also leave the 1.5-mile oval with his seventh victory in the series there.
The win did not come easy for the California native. On Friday during qualifying, Johnson flat spotted three of the four tires on the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet after going for a spin. As a result, the team had no choice but to put on new tires for the race – sending them to the rear of the field for today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
“Oh, probably on the second or third run I knew we were in good shape,” said Johnson after his win. “From there, off we went. It was so tough those first 23 laps in traffic. The air was very turbulent, the track wasn’t very clean, and just the way it finished now, I think we could start with what I could show. It will just take a little time for this track to age. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. But, it was an awesome day for this Lowe’s team.”
By the end of stage one on lap 85, Johnson sat just outside the top 10 in 11th. The result wasn’t quite enough to earn extra driver points. However, when stage two came to a close on lap 170, Johnson sat second on the leaderboard to earn nine extra points in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings as he sits 11th going into the Easter off weekend.
“I guess I remembered how to drive; and I guess this team remembered how to do it!,” Johnson joked after the race. “I’m just real proud of this team. What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were just able to execute all day. Oh, it was hot in there. I got cooked in the car today. I didn’t have any fluids so I’m not feeling the best, but we got into Victory Lane. I’m so proud of the fight in this race team. I can’t wait to celebrate during this off-weekend with my family and friends and really enjoy this.”
Kyle Larson will leave Texas with the runner-up spot. This marks the fourth time this season where Larson has finished second in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Despite the strong momentum, the California native entered the win column two weekends ago at Auto Club Speedway.
Our Credit One Bank Chevy was good from the start, was able to pass a lot of cars there in the beginning,” Larson exclaimed after the race. “Got a pit road penalty. I clipped too many boxes there and then came from the back and passed a lot of cars again. Just felt like we passed cars a lot. All-in-all a good day. You never know… I felt like maybe if I didn’t have that pit road penalty early in the race I could have gotten to the lead that run with how good we were and maybe controlled the race from there. Just a little mistake on my part and we’ve got to clean that up a little bit and maybe we will win some more of these.”
If Larson got around Logano for second much earlier, Larson feels he could’ve taken the win away from Johnson in the waning laps.
“Yeah, I think so. I needed to get by Joey with probably five laps to go or so,” Larson continued. “I learned some stuff there in (Turns) 3 and 4 that helped my car. I felt like I learned some things through (Turns) 1 and 2 to stay low on exit and get position on him. Bummer that we didn’t get by Joey sooner, but we had to drive hard that last run to get to second. Proud of that.”
The young racer continues to lead the driver standings by 17 points over Chase Elliott. Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano all round out the top five.
Logano rounded out the top-three finishers on Sunday at Texas. Logano, driving the No. 22 Shell / Penzoil Ford, started fourth on the leaderboard and led 38 of the 334 circuits. The native of Connecticut was leading with 18 to go before being passed by eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson.
Ryan Blaney showed strength all throughout the day as he led the most circuits of 148. However, despite sweeping the first two stages of the race, Blaney got buried further in the back as some drivers used pit strategy. He’ll take home a 12th-place finish after starting the afternoon in second.
“That last pit stop was pretty discouraging. We got back in that third debris caution,” said Blaney after the race. “I don’t know what it was there at the end of segment two and that made everybody have split strategies and we got in the back and couldn’t pass anybody. It was terrible to try to pass people. We made our way up to seventh or eight and then pitted and I got into our box too long and we were wedged in between two cars. I was over the line by a few inches. That sucked. I put us in that hole. We probably should have stayed out looking back on it but that is easy to do. I think it says a lot about this Motorcraft Quick Lane team about how good a car we had today. If you had asked me yesterday I wouldn’t have said we would win two stages and have one of the fastest cars. They made really good changes this morning and that definitely says a lot. I am excited to get to Bristol in a couple weeks and see what we can do.”
Pole sitter Kevin Harvick spent some time as the race leader. The California native finished stage one sitting fourth and stage two sitting seventh on the leaderboard. At the end of the day, Harvick will leave with a fourth-place finish in his No. 4 Ford.
One issue was found during post-race inspection on Sunday at Texas. The No. 17 Ford Fusion was found with a missing lugnut after the race. Stay tuned to SpeedwayDigest.com throughout the upcoming week on possible fines and penalties that may result.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will take next weekend off and return to Bristol Motor Speedway on April 23. The Food City 500 will air live on FOX at 2:00 p.m. ET. The Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM Channel 90 will carry the live radio feed.