From deep in the heart of the Lone Star State, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the 11th annual AAA Texas 500.
Surprising: There apparently is a new super power in NASCAR called ‘Mega Turn’. At least that was the power bestowed on race winner Jimmie Johnson by runner-up Brad Keselowski.
“The 48 car had mega turn that last run and I couldn’t keep the turn and it kept pushing real bad,” the driver of the No. 2 Wurth Ford Fusion said. “I did everything I could to hold him off, but he was way faster that last run.”
“Their team did a hell of a job and found speed and my team did a hell of a job too. We led 300-some laps and these debris yellows always favor someone and it wasn’t our day for them to favor us.”
“It was a hell of a race.”
This was Keselowski’s sixth top-10 finish at Texas and his 23rd top-10 finish of the season.
Not Surprising: Given the fact that rain washed out both Cup practices, the saying ‘When it rains, it pours’ was definitely applicable at Texas, especially for Chase driver Joey Logano. Not only did his tire blow early in the race but one of his crew members had hot oil pour out of the car onto his face, causing him to take a quick trip to the infield care center.
While the crew member was treated and released, Logano finished 40th and is now solidly in the basement of the Chase race, 69 points behind leader Jeff Gordon.
“Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches,” the driver of the No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford said. “This team is strong. We didn’t take any wind out of our sails today and we showed how fast this thing was even after we crashed. I am very proud of our team.”
“It is unfortunate that we finished how we did.”
Surprising: After a weekend that was not so classy, this week’s race was filled with at least a few moments of class, from Jimmie Johnson racing Brad Keselowski fair and square without incident for the race win to Martin Truex Jr. acknowledging some hard racing with Keselowski with a handshake after the race.
“I just like to race guys clean anyway, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet said of Keselowski. “I kept working on him and working on him. He got real loose off (Turn) 2 and I had a big run off the top and I went for a big slide job down in (Turns) 3 and 4 and got the win.”
And of the other classy act of the race, here is what eighth place finisher Martin Truex Jr. had to say of his close racing with Brad Keselowski.
“We just rubbed a little bit there in the tri-oval,” the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet said. “No big deal at all. We were both racing hard. Good hard racing-rubbing a little. Rubbing is racing.”
“It was fun.”
Not Surprising: Although he is one of the younger drivers on the track, Erik Jones was spent and ready for some respite after running the third race of the weekend in substitution for Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 DeWalt Toyota.
“I’m ready to take a day off, I don’t think I’ve ever run more than two races – the Truck and XFINITY race – in more than one weekend,” Jones said. “At this point, I’m feeling fine, but I can definitely feel it coming on. I’ll be worn out tonight.”
“It was a fun weekend and I’ll do it again for sure next weekend. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s definitely busy and definitely hard on you. I’ll take a nice day off tomorrow.”
Surprising: One would think that having two tires go down, as well as another shifter problem, would definitely have resulted in a near the bottom of the pack finish. Not so for one Kevin Harvick, who rallied back from all that to finish third in his No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet.
“I’ve never had to drive with one arm that long,” Harvick said. “I had to pay a lot more attention. The hardest part was my arm started to go to sleep and I had to let off on it to get the blood flowing again.”
This was Harvick’s 14th top-10 finish in 26 races at Texas Motor Speedway.
Not Surprising: Even veteran drivers, including one in his last season, can continue to be a student of the sport. Of course, that continuing education is greatly enhanced when that driver is also already guaranteed a spot in the final four of the Championship Chase.
“I thought we learned a lot this weekend,” Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet said. “I think we certainly know that our cars are fast because our teammate won. At the same time, I think that we were here to execute and push hard, try to win, but also to just learn what we could. I thought we learned some stuff.”
“Something good to build on and work on.”
Surprising: While teammate Jeff Gordon was going to hug his teammate after the win, the two top finishing Toyotas were also actually cheering on competitor Jimmie Johnson for the race win.
“For our situation, we wanted to see a guy that was not in the Chase win or a guy that we were racing right around us like the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and win the race,” Kyle Busch said after finishing fourth. “This M&M’s Crispy Camry was really, really fast today – just not fast enough. We fought hard, we did what we needed to do, we finished in the top-five and we got ourselves in a pretty good spot hopefully.
“My guys never cheered so hard for Jimmie (Johnson), we needed that for the points going to Homestead,” Carl Edwards said after finishing fifth. “Our Sport Clips Camry – it was fast. It was really fast in the middle of the race. We were up to second and I thought we had something then it fell off at the end.”
“This was a fun race to drive.”
Not Surprising: Two drivers had some close encounters with the wall, with both manning up that it was due to driver error.
“We had a good car and we were driving forward early and I got into the wall off four trying to pass somebody and cut a right front tire down,” Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 SNAP-ON Tools Ford said. “Hit the wall pretty hard in one and two and ruined our day. It is all my fault. I hit the wall all by myself and ruined a very fast race car.”
“I was having too much fun out there and got loose, three-wide after a restart and tagged the wall real good and bent the car up pretty bad and knocked the rear deck lid off of it,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after the race. “We got the chance to fix it and we just had a real fast car. I think we had the best car here. Just can’t hit the wall, but man we were just having fun, running hard. Got to do that every once in a while.”
Surprising: Brian Scott continues to strut his stuff in the Cup Series. He had another top-15 finish, his second in his limited run in the series, finishing 14th in his No. 33 Shore Lodge Chevrolet. This was the first time in his Cup career that he has scored back to back top-15’s.
Not Surprising: Demonstrating his dry wit and his own brand of humor yet again, Matt Kenseth won his own race, at least for one of the most re-tweeted Twitter postings after the race.
“Good work @JimmieJohnson! Textbook pass for the win at the end of the race when someone is trying to take your lane. #quintessential”