Rowdy Sweeps: Kyle Busch dominates NRA 500 for the Texas SweepBy Ashley McCubbin
When we came to Texas Motor Speedway, we were promised a Wild Asphalt Circus by Eddie Gossage and the race on Sunday night delivered. From craziness in pre-race technical inspection with Penske Racing to a fire on pit road to sick drivers and motors to sideways cars and a dead battery, the race had something for every fan.
In the end, it was a familiar face at the front of the field as Kyle Busch would pick up the victory in the NRA 500 to pick up the Texas sweep as he won the Nationwide Series event on Friday night. It marks his second sweep of the year. It marks the 26th victory of his Sprint Cup Series career, his first victory at Texas though.
“That felt good for Interstate Batteries and Norm Miller, nothing better than putting them right here,” Busch said. “Great job by Dave (Rogers). If it wasn’t for our pit crew, we wouldn’t be here. They couldn’t had done any better.”
This victory continues Busch’s solid season to date as it marks his second victory and fifth top 10 of the season in seven races.
“We’ve had a great start to the season and it feels good to keep this going,” Busch continued. “We had a talk over the winter, had a talk a couple weeks ago and things have just jelled nice. These things are amazing to drive – they’re fun.”
A caution would come out for debris with 21 laps to go for debris in the fourth corner. The leaders would come down pit road and get pit road and Busch would be the first off. From there, Busch was able to hold off the field on the restart.
If the caution hadn’t come out, it looked as though Martin Truex Jr. was going to run away with it. Instead, he finishes second for his sixth second place finish since his win at Dover and his eighth top 10 finish in 16 starts at Texas.
“Shoulda, coulda, woulda,” Truex Jr. said after the race. “Happened a couple of times to us last year too so I’m just disappointed. I knew the race was over right when we lost out of the pits. I was afraid of losing second there because he inside was so important. proud of my team.
“We’ve had a tough season, had a great car all weekend long – a car worth winning – but finishing second is getting old.”
Truex Jr. would fail post-race inspection as a result of being too low.
Despite going through motor issues and at one point having his belts come loose, Carl Edwards would finish third for his eighth top 10 in 17 starts at Texas.
“I got a great crew chief,” Edwards said, speaking of crew chief Jimmy Fennig. “He called an amazing race and he took every advantage pitting early. Then the engine started running poorly – it was tailpipes. Thought I had a tire going down with how sideways it was. Then the seatbelts – so I got them hooked back up but I lost a ton of time, but unfortunately got back up there. Third feels like a win tonight.”
Greg Biffle would finish fourth despite having a pit road speeding penalty with about 100 laps to go.
“I had my hands full tonight,” he said “Got a pit road penalty with a 100 to go and had to start at the tail end. Just drove it up through there. I just wished we would’ve started up there and got to race with the 18 and 56.”
Despite issues in pre-race inspection that saw Joey Logano almost miss the start of the race, he would finish fifth. In pre-race technical inspection, Logano and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski were asked to change the rear-end housing in both of their Fords as NASCAR didn’t like how they were hooked up. Logano’s team pushed his car out on to pit road just after the command had been given. Logano would be allowed to start, though had to start from the rear.
“These guys dug real hard all day to get this car on the track and it was a little too close for my comfort,” Logano said. “We worked our way up and Todd Gordon did a good job keeping everybody under control. We just weren’t fast on the short run. We started fourth there and the top three guys were just gone. We have to figure out where that speed was. ”
Points leader Jimmie Johnson finished sixth after running just outside of the top five most of the race. He holds the points lead, nine points ahead of Brad Keselowski. Aric Almirola finished seventh, followed by Brian Vickers, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman.
Following the race, Brad Keselowski had some comments to say towards NASCAR and their inspection policy.
“I have one good thing to thing to say and that was my team and the effort they put in today in fighting back with the absolute (expletive) that’s been the last seven days in this garage area,” Keselowski said. “The things I’ve seen over the last seven days have me questioning everything I believe in. I’m not happy about it. I don’t have anything positive to say and I probably should just leave it at that.
“There’s so much stuff going on you guys have no idea, you have no (expletive) idea what’s going on. That’s not your fault. I can tell you there’s no team in this garage with the integrity of the No. 2 team. And the way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve seen a team targeted in my life.”
After leading the points lead just two weeks ago, it seems that Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s season has ran into some problems. He started off the season well, having five straight top 10 finishes. Last week at Martinsville, the wheels fell off as they struggled with the handling. This week, Earnhardt Jr. was running third when on lap 190, he immediately turned down pit road, saying that the battery was dead. It was mentioned later that he could have just hit a switch to go over to the back-up battery.
The issue would compound itself as he would be penalized for being too fast entering pit road. When they came back down pit road, LeTarte chose to put four tires on and take fuel. However, that is against the rule states, “Pass thru: Have the driver bring the car onto pit road and maintain pit road speed the entire length without stopping in his pitbox.”
As a result, he would have to come down pit road a third time, putting him four laps down. He would finish 29th.
Earnhardt Jr.’s teammate Jeff Gordon would also run into problems, having to hit road with 28 laps to go due to a broken hub while running third at the time. He would take it behind the wall, finishing 38th.
Bobby Labonte would exit his car under the first caution as a result of suffering a stomach bug. The team had planned to have Mike Bliss take over driving duties, however Bliss continued to drive his car. As a result, Michael McDowell would be the replacement driver, returning the car to the track after a couple of laps spent in the garage.
Rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had no success in Texas as he would have a left rear tire flat, causing him to hit Austin Dillon, before both drivers made contact with the wall. Stenhouse Jr. finished 40th with Dillon in 33rd.
“I think we cut a left rear tire,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I got a little loose in one and two but we’d been a little loose so didn’t think any thing of it. I think we cut a left rear tire. That’s disappointing. Would’ve liked to see what the car would’ve done under the lights. Guess we’ll get back and ride around out there.”
The other major incident of the day was with 55 laps to go when Marcos Ambrose would get hit by David Gilliland, sending Ambrose around. Behind them, Mark Martin would check up while Jeff Burton didn’t, resulting in Burton going around and hitting the wall.
There’d be a scary moment under the lap 81 pit stops when a fire would start in Matt Kenseth’s pit, causing the gas man’s shoe to catch fire. There’d be no injuries in the incident.