What Happened: 5 Takeaways From The NASCAR Cup Series Race At Texas Motor Speedway
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Texas wasn’t an all-out brawl as most anticipated.
Heading into Texas, the buzz was whether or not “The People’s Champion,” Chase Elliott would retaliate against Denny Hamlin for putting him into the wall at Martinsville. NASCAR Nation knew it wouldn’t happen, but the storyline was set and fans were eager to show their support as witnessed by all the boos Denny Hamlin received during driver’s introductions at Texas. Chase doesn’t give the impression of being a fighter, and with a chance to advance to the playoffs on the line, it wasn’t likely we would see any ruckus at Texas – from any driver. What we did get was a track record, a driver calling it quits, and a methodical late-race move that allowed one driver to secure his fate as a sure lock-in to advance to the next round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs. Below are a few notable events that took place at the AAA Texas 500 race at the Texas Motor Speedway.
Kevin Harvick Won
All is well in Happy Harvick’s world for now. There were three playoff spots available for a chance to be part of the Championship 4, racing for the NASCAR Cup in Homestead-Miami and Harvick said, “thank you very much." He took what seemed to be his for the taking, ensuring an automatic advancement through to the championship race by winning. Harvick, who had never won at Texas, secured his fate with a late-race move; passing The King of 1.5-mile tracks, Martin Truex Jr. So far this season, Harvick has two wins, 12 top 5s, and 21 top 10s.
Matt Kenseth Announced He is Done (For Now)
In an exclusive interview with NBC’s Nate Ryan for the NASCAR on NBC podcast, Matt Kenseth announced that he will step away from the NASCAR Cup Series in 2018. Kenseth explained, “I’ve put a lot of thought into it and pretty much decided after Martinsville, which I kind of already knew anyway, but we decided to take some time off.” He also said, “I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if that’s forever. I don’t know if that’s a month or I don’t know if that’s five months.”
The harsh reality for Kenseth is simple; there is no quality ride for him to wheel next season. Sadly, the veteran driver is being forced out of NASCAR and not on his own terms. With the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet car going to William Byron, Alex Bowman replacing Dale Jr. in the No. 88 car, Richard Petty introducing Bubba Wallace Jr. as the new driver of the iconic No. 43, and the announcement that Aric Almirola will replace Danica Patrick in the No. 10 Ford at Stewart-Haas racing, there aren’t in viable options for Kenseth. Sure, he could possibly get a ride in second-tier equipment, but why should a champion have to consider such an option?
Martin Truex Jr. Is Mad
Truex Jr. has already clinched his spot in the final Championship 4 round and was the runner-up in Texas, but that didn’t stop him from being mad. Kevin Harvick passed him to take the checkered flag in Texas, but it was another driver who caused Truex Jr.’s to feel some type of way. “We get too loose in those long runs, so only so much I can do inside. And then had the No. 6 (Trevor Bayne) and some other dummy racing side-by-side in front of us, and I was way loose in traffic when I’d catch somebody, and I was way loose going into one, and Harvick jumped my outside. One of those deals where I think we’d held him off at a clean race track,” said Truex Jr. He also added, "The No. 6 car's in the damn way every week, so it's pretty normal."
Truex Jr. has seven wins this season--the most of any driver. He has amassed 17 top 5s, 24 top 10s, and countless stage wins. Leading all drivers in the point standings heading into the second-to-last race of the season, Truex Jr. has dominated this year, especially the mile-and-a-half tracks.
5 Drivers For 1 Playoff Spot
Heading into the race at Phoenix this weekend, there are five remaining eligible drivers, but only one can advance to become part of the Championship 4. Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick sealed their fate with a win in the Round of 8; allowing them to advance to the next round of the playoffs and a chance to race for the Cup championship. Martin Truex Jr. secured a spot at Homestead-Miami by virtue of points. The remaining drivers include Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, and Denny Hamlin. Keselowski is currently sitting in the final spot, thanks to a 19-point cushion over Denny Hamlin.
The current point standings are as follows:
- Martin Truex Jr. 4168 points
- Kyle Busch 4118 points
- Kevin Harvick 4112 points
- Brad Keselowski 4111 points
- Deny Hamlin 4092 points
- Ryan Blaney 4089 points
- Chase Elliott 4062 points
- Jimmie Johnson 4060 points
Will Mr. 7x Jimmie Johnson bounce back to move and race for an historic 8th championship title? Can Chase Elliott get his first ever Cup win, or will Blaney surprise the field? The many scenarios should make for some great racing in Phoenix.
Blaney Wants To Do A Double
As Ryan Blaney prepares for a chance to secure an opportunity to race for his first NASCAR Cup Championship, he has other prospects on his mind. The wheelman for the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford is preparing to race for Team Penske next season, but it is the thought of racing in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, known as the Memorial Day Double that made headlines. Blaney told reporters at Texas Motor Speedway, “I would love to do it. I have a lot of respect for the people that have done it. That is a tough day of racing – 1,100 miles and the plane rides back and forth. When Kurt [Busch] and Tony [Stewart] did it, I thought that was really neat. It is something I have always wanted to do and hopefully I can do it one day. Maybe down the road.” He went on to add, “The Penske group is pretty good at the Indy 500 so hopefully I will get that chance. My interest level is really high and I would love to do it to say I was a part of it and able to race that event.”
The last driver to attempt the Memorial Day Double was Kurt Busch. Prior to that, Tony Stewart completed both races in 2001, finishing sixth at the in the Indy 500, and third at the Coca-Cola 600. Stewart remains the only driver to finish all 1,100 miles of both races in the same day. Witnessing Blaney contend in the Memorial Double would be exciting. If it was possible to conquer the greatest day in racing and compete in Formula 1's Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 all in the same day – now that would be something.