[media-credit name=”Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR” align=”alignright” width=”254″][/media-credit]Deep in the heart of Texas Motor Speedway, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the 16th running of the Samsung Mobile 500.
Surprising: In spite of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tool Chevrolet, leading over 150 laps, it was surprising that his team owner will have to wait yet another race to secure the 200th win for Hendrick Motorsports.
Johnson, who finished second, was the highest ranking HMS driver for the night. This was Johnson’s 13th top-10 finish in 18 races at Texas and his fifth top-10 finish for the year.
“I’m definitely disappointed, but we had a great race car and there’s a lot to be proud of here today,” Johnson said. “Certainly wish we were there in Victory Lane but everybody knows we’re here.”
“We’re awfully close to it with this KOBALT Tools Chevrolet.”
Although still at the 199 win mark, all of the Hendrick drivers had surprisingly good nights, even Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, who finished fourth and seventh respectively. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the final HMS pilot, finished tenth.
This was the first time since the 2011 spring race at Talladega that Hendrick Motorsports had all four of its cars in the top-10 at the finish.
Not Surprising: At a track where Roush Fenway Racing traditionally dominates, it was not surprising to see one Roushketeer, Greg Biffle, in the winner’s circle with his cowboy hat and guns. This was Biff’s first win of the 2012 season and ended a 49 race winless streak.
The win was the company’s ninth win at Texas, the most of any other racing entity.
“I just dug deep,” Biffle said about his hard fought win. “I knew I had to do it and I kept trying and trying and trying.”
“I knew the team would forgive me if I wrecked it trying to beat him,” Biffle continued. “So, I just gave it all I had.”
Surprising: It was surprising that the fire was extinguished and there was no smoke at Texas this weekend. Tony Stewart, reigning past champion, finished 24th, two laps down.
“We just couldn’t get the handle on this thing tonight,” Stewart said. “We chased it all night.”
“We’ll go back to the shop, tear it apart, and see what the deal is.”
Surprisingly, his teammate Ryan Newman was right there with him, finishing a bit better at 21st, yet also two laps down.
“Things didn’t go our way today,” the driver of the No. 39 US Army Chevrolet said. “But we’ll be back stronger next week to complete the mission, which is winning the race.”
Not Surprising: Martin Truex, Jr., to no one’s surprise, continued tearing up the track for Michael Waltrip Racing. The driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota started from the pole position and finished top ten, in sixth place to be exact.
Truex, Jr. has finished top-10 in nine of the last twelve races.
“It was a lot of fun out there running up front with the NAPA Toyota,” Truex, Jr. said. “I can’t say enough about everybody on this NAPA team and everybody at MWR.”
“Hopefully we can keep this thing going.”
His MWR teammate Mark Martin also had a great run at Texas, a track where he was rated 12th in the driver rankings. Martin, behind the wheel of the No. 55 Aaron’s 2000 Best of the Best Toyota, finished third.
This was Martin’s 13th top-10 finish in 23 races at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Mark Martin is so enthusiastic,” team owner Michael Waltrip said. “He has pumped all of the drivers up.”
“We are very happy with our team’s performance.”
Surprising: It was most surprising that at a race where there are on average eight to nine restarts, there were only two caution flags thrown, one for debris and one for Trevor Bayne’s encounter with the wall.
The yellow flag flew just twice within the first 100 laps of the race, leaving the rest of the race to be run under green flag conditions. This was the first time in history that a superspeedway race had that many green flag laps without a caution.
Not Surprising: Unfortunately but not surprisingly, there was no Bubba Watson moment for Denny Hamlin at Texas, a track at which he traditionally runs well. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Office/March of Dimes Toyota had a decent day, finishing 12th, but was the last car on the lead lap at race end.
Surprising: At a track where he sat out last year’s fall race because of the Truck race incident with Ron Hornaday and where this year he had an issue in the pits with his air hose getting stuck under the car, Kyle Busch had a surprising good day after all.
The driver brought his No. 18 Toyota Interstate Batteries Toyota to the checkered flag in the 11th spot.
Not Surprising: Since Chassis No. 665 scored a good finish for Landon Cassill at Michigan last year, it was not surprising that new driver Kurt Busch gave it a whirl for a good run at Texas. The driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet finished 13th.
“It was a good night and finish for us,” Busch said. “We had little struggles but were able to overcome those.”
“This was a good night and a nice top-15 finish for us.”
Surprising: The struggles of the Penske Dodge teams surprisingly continued and both drivers ended up just plain frustrated.
AJ Allmendinger, in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, finished 15th but his teammate Brad Keselowski, behind the wheel of the Blue Deuce, had all kinds of problems that sent him off to the garage, finishing in the frustratingly low position of 36th spot.
“The race tonight was frustrating,” Dinger said. “We had a fast Shell/Pennzoil Dodge and we just didn’t make it happen tonight.”
“This has been a very frustrating weekend to say the least,” Keselowski said. “We just need to clean some things up so that the potential of this team can shine.”
“Right now, we aren’t doing that.”
Not Surprising: As predicted, especially given the wicked weather in the area, the wind most certainly did wreak havoc throughout the race. And while it affected most drivers equally, there were still some drivers that felt the high wind added to the frustrations of their day.
“Between the wind, the changing race track and the handling, it was a long night for the Target team,” Juan Pablo Montoya said. “We didn’t have much of a chance to work on the car like we had hoped to.”
JPM finished 16th in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet, one lap down at race end.