Texas Race Report
Matt Kenseth led Joe Gibbs Racing with a fourth-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile a late-race pit road speeding penalty took Kyle Busch from a certain top five to a 13th-place finish and Denny Hamlin drove his way to seventh-place finish.
With two races remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, Kenseth is now seven points behind Jimmie Johnson, who won today’s race. Kyle Busch gained one spot in the standings and is now fourth 52 points behind Johnson.
Kenseth started the No. 20 Home Depot Let’s Do This Toyota from the sixth position and was able to make his way into the top five through the opening green flag run. He would drop back outside the top five following an early pit stop, but managed to work his way back up front to run fifth at the 100 lap mark. He would climb all the way into the second position and ultimately led his first lap of the day on lap 126 during a round of green flag pit stops. Kenseth would settle into the second position behind the 48 car where he remained at the halfway point. NASCAR would rule that the 20 car was too fast upon exiting pit road on lap 173 and Kenseth would have to bring his car back down pit road to serve a pass through penalty. That would drop him from the second position all the way back to 16th as the last car on the lead lap. He would line up 13th for a restart on lap 194 and was back in 10th by lap 200 and was seventh on lap 212. A solid stop by his Home Depot team would line him up fourth for a restart with 72 laps remaining. He would hold that spot through the next green flag run and through a round of green flag stops with 36 laps remaining. Kenseth was able to hold onto to fourth at the checkered flag.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in 14th and raced just outside the top 15 through the early going. Adjustments during early race pit stops would begin to help his Camry turn better in the corners and Hamlin would climb back inside the top 15 by the 100 lap mark. He was running 11th on lap 140 and remained just outside the top 10 at the halfway mark. A good stop by his FedEx crew would put him back inside the top 10 for a restart on lap 194. Hamlin would benefit from another great stop by his team with 72 laps remaining that allowed him to line up seventh on the ensuing restart. The team would pit with just under 40 laps remaining and once the field had cycled through the round of green flag stops he was running in 11th once again. Hamlin drove his way back into the top ten over the final laps and went on to finish seventh.
Busch started the No. 18 Snickers Toyota in fifth and was able to race his way up into second during the opening couple of green flag runs. Unfortunately his right front tire would begin to come apart on lap 58 which sent the 18 car into the outside wall. Busch would bring the car down pit road for repairs and the Snickers crew was able to fix the damage to keep him on the lead lap. Despite losing a lot of track position the fast work allowed Busch to begin working his way back toward the front. He would be back inside the top 15 by lap 100 and was running 12th on lap 115. He would re-enter the top 10 by lap 140, but Busch called back into crew chief Dave Rogers again on lap 160 to report he felt he might have another issue with his tires. They made the decision to take no chance and Busch came back down pit road on lap 162 for fresh tires and fuel. Once the field had cycled through Busch was back in the second position. He would remain second for a restart on lap 194 but shortly after passing lap 200 he would radio in that his temperatures were running high caused by debris on the grill. Busch would drop a couple positions and managed to get behind another car knocking the debris from the front of his car. A great stop by his Snickers team would allow him to restart second with 72 laps remaining. He would bring the car down pit road with 36 laps remaining for what the team hoped would be the final time, but NASCAR ruled he was speeding resulting in a pass through penalty. That left Busch back in 15th as the last car on the lead lap once the field had cycled through stops. He would gain two spots over the course of the final laps to finish 13th.
Jimmie Johnson won the race, followed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano, Kenseth, and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five. There were five cautions for a total of 26 laps and 28 lead changes among 10 different drivers.