The fireworks started early for the NASCAR Cup O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. The Texas Motor Speedway 1-1/2 mile track had been repaved and reconfigured since the teams were last there in November, so most of the setup notes had to be trashed. Several incidents marred the first practice Friday as Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott either spun or crashed during practice. Elliott had to go to a backup car.
Qualifying for Sunday’s race was held later on Friday and numerous cars failed to make it to qualifying because of having trouble getting through tech inspection.
Among those teams not getting a chance to qualify were Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Erik Jones. Crew chiefs tend to push the tech specs to the limit, especially Jimmy Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, but surprisingly, Johnson was the only Hendrick Motorsports team to pass inspection. Failing to qualify results in having to start the race at the back of the field, and also the loss of selecting a pit stall of their choosing.
Kevin Harvick won his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season with Ryan Blaney joining him on the front row.
Blaney, in his Wood Brothers Ford, was dominant during the first half of the race, leading 148 laps and winning both stages. When he slid through his pit box on the final pit stop on lap 300, he lost track position and ended up finishing 12th.
Jimmy Johnson overcame his tire problems during qualifying and proved to all the other teams that he is still a force to be reckoned with by moving forward once the race started and won his seventh Texas Motor Speedway race.
Johnson passed Joey Logano on lap 318 and pulled away during the remaining 16 laps to gain his first victory of the season.
“I guess I remembered how to drive, and I guess this team remembered how to do it!” said Johnson, who only had one top-10 finish in the first six races of the season. “I’m just real proud of this team.”
The only problem Johnson had during the race was a lack of hydration in his car, thanks to a malfunction in the fluid delivery system. Johnson paid a visit to the infield care center after climbing from his car, before coming to the media center for his post-race press conference.
Johnson was not the only driver who had a bad starting position and finished well. Kyle Larson finished second, Earnhardt Jr. had his best result this season with his fifth place finish, and Chase Elliott finished ninth.