By Lee Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
FORT WORTH, Texas — A fast car can cure a lot of mistakes. Just ask Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.
The reigning Daytona 500 winner overcame a slew of penalties—some self-inflicted—to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Although the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry got down, he was never out of contention. Hamlin led three times for 45 laps en route to his third win at Texas, his second win of the season and the fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory for Joe Gibbs Racing in the first seven races of 2019.
“I missed pit road under green, that cost us three or four seconds, as well,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know. We tried every way we could to give it away, and we found a way to do it with this FedEx Camry.”
With a splash-and-go fuel stop on Lap 319, Hamlin cycled back to the lead four laps later and extended his advantage over Clint Bowyer by 2.743-seconds at the finish.
“Our car was really, really fast,” Hamlin said. “We obviously saw that. Once we got out front, we were able to pull away from the pack a little bit. Got a little bit loose when we were racing our teammates in the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones). So wasn’t able to be as aggressive as I was earlier in the race. We had a super-fast car. That’s why we won.”
Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and polesitter Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five. Suarez was proud of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang team’s solid performance.
“We’ve been working very hard to make our race cars better and definitely, we’re heading in the right direction,” Suarez said. “This is the second week in a row where all the Stewart-Haas Racing cars are in the top-10 and that’s something very, very good. Overall, very proud of the 41 crew because we’ve been working hard to slowly get better and better. We’re showing that.”
Joey Logano won the first stage, but had experienced issues with his hood flapping, pitted before pit road was open for service, and ultimately dropped to 22nd, one lap down.
William Byron, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
The fifth and final caution occurred on Lap 255 when Daniel Hemric spun in Turn 2. Over the next 55 laps, the lead changed between Kyle Busch, Johnson, Suarez, Almirola and Jones as different pit strategies played out. Although the race appeared to be leaning in Kyle Busch’s direction, his car became loose in Turn 1 allowing Jones to pass him for the lead on Lap 276. After dropping to fourth, Busch hit the wall in Turn 2 on Lap 282 and was forced to pit.
“We were in a good position there to get the win today with our Interstate Batteries Toyota, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Busch, who led a race-high 66 laps. “We will go on to next week and get back on it at Bristol.”
Kyle Busch continues to lead the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings. He has an eight point advantage over Denny Hamlin as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – 23rd Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Texas
Sunday, March 31, 2019
- (6) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 334.
- (25) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 334.
- (4) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 334.
- (11) Erik Jones, Toyota, 334.
- (1) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 334.
- (2) William Byron, Chevrolet, 334.
- (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, 334.
- (23) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 334.
- (30) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 334.
- (16) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 334.
- (18) Ryan Newman, Ford, 334.
- (20) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 334.
- (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 334.
- (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 334.
- (15) Michael McDowell, Ford, 334.
- (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 333.
- (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 333.
- (24) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 333.
- (14) Paul Menard, Ford, 333.
- (19) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 333.
- (9) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 332.
- (27) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 332.
- (10) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 332.
- (29) Matt Tifft #, Ford, 332.
- (28) David Ragan, Ford, 331.
- (26) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 331.
- (33) Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 330.
- (31) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 330.
- (35) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 329.
- (32) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 326.
- (34) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 325.
- (38) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 325.
- (7) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 324.
- (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 322.
- (36) Bayley Currey(i), Ford, 320.
- (12) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 279.
- (13) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Overheating, 225.
- (39) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Clutch, 168.
- (22) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 147.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 153.224 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 16 Mins, 11 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.743 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 29 laps.
Lead Changes: 26 among 13 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Johnson 1-59;J. Logano 60;A. Dillon 61-62;K. Busch 63-65;W. Byron 66-79;C. Bowyer 80-82;J. Logano 83-88;M. Truex Jr. 89-98;K. Busch 99-108;C. Elliott 109-143;J. Logano 144;K. Busch 145-155;D. Hamlin 156-172;R. Blaney 173-217;D. Suarez 218-220;K. Busch 221-238;J. Johnson 239;D. Suarez 240-245;K. Busch 246-257;A. Almirola 258-260;E. Jones 261-263;K. Busch 264-275;E. Jones 276-302;D. Hamlin 303-318;W. Byron 319;A. Dillon 320-322;D. Hamlin 323-334.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 6 times for 66 laps; Jimmie Johnson 2 times for 60 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 45 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 45 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 35 laps; Erik Jones 2 times for 30 laps; William Byron 2 times for 15 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 10 laps; Daniel Suarez 2 times for 9 laps; Joey Logano 3 times for 8 laps; Austin Dillon 2 times for 5 laps; Clint Bowyer 1 time for 3 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 3 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,48,9,3,12,21,41,18,42,37
Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,12,41,18,21,6,17,24,34,48