Denny Hamlin has taken his second win of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing #11 Toyota Camry driver rebounded from two pit-road penalties earlier in the race to take the stage two victory and then the overall race win.
The opening laps of the 334-lap race at Texas Motor Speedway were dominated by the pole-sitter. After looking fast in practice and qualifying, Jimmie Johnson showcased that his #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had as much speed in the race.
Johnson led the majority of the first stage of the race, but the 2019 aerodynamic package prevented him from being able to get away, thus forming a close pack of cars behind him; a trend that would continue for most of the race. The new rules package has been criticised in the past few races for not providing the improvement in racing that was perhaps promised, but Texas seemed to be a step forward; even though cars still seemed to run so much better whilst in clear air.
Team Penske‘s Joey Logano would jump Johnson during the opening stage’s green flag pit-stop sequence and would duly go on to take the stage win. Johnson would hold on to second-place, with team-mate Chase Elliott taking third.
It was early in the race that Denny Hamlin would dig himself a hole. During the first pit-stop phase, Hamlin would miss the entry to pit-road and would lose a tonne of time in the process; having to run a slow lap to get into the pits the next time by. When he did, finally, make it to the pits, he would make matters worse by speeding on the pit-exit; earning himself a drive-through penalty.
The beginning of the second stage would see the lead change hands numerous times between Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. However, the order would change toward the end of the stage when a caution was called following Kyle Larson‘s race-ending crash; when Larson would run wide on the exit of turn two and hit the outside wall.
The leaders would pit during the caution, but Denny Hamlin opted to stay out, thus putting him into the lead of the race for the ensuing restart.
A trend throughout the race saw that there was seemingly no advantage in having newer tyres as opposed to older tyres. This allowed Hamlin to not only remain side-by-side with team-mate Kyle Busch on the restart but to ultimately take the lead and pull away. Denny would go on to take the stage two victory, with Busch falling back to fourth place behind both Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez.
Just as Hamlin looked to have recovered, he found himself back in trouble. Denny would receive another pit-road penalty, this time due to an uncontrolled tyre during his pit-stop. This would see him put back down the order once again, giving the race lead to Ryan Blaney for the start of the final stage.
Blaney’s #12 Penske Ford looked strong for the opening stages of the final stage, but Ryan’s hopes of victory would figuratively and literally go up in smoke when his engine blew and forced him to retire from the race.
Daniel Hemric would bring out what would ultimately be the final caution of the race with eighty laps remaining after a right-rear tyre blow-out sent him spinning at turn two. Over the course of the following laps, Kyle Busch would establish himself as the potential favourite for the win by moving himself into the lead. The #18 Camry driver was hoping to secure his third win of the weekend, having already won the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race on Friday and the XFINITY Series race on Saturday.
However, just as things were looking good for Kyle to sweep the weekend, his #18 car would suddenly veer up the race track at turn 2. Kyle would narrowly keep his car out of the wall, but he would fall down to fourth place in the process. A handful of laps later, his car would understeer wide into the wall on the exit of turn two, causing significant right-side damage and forcing him to make an early final pit-stop. He would emerge one lap down.
Kyle misfortune would hand the race-lead to team-mate Erik Jones, who had come back from a spin in the opening laps of the race. The final stages of the race would see two different green flag pit-stop phases decide the race. Jones, along with Aric Almirola and Chase Elliott, would have to pit before the other race-leaders based on their fuel mileage. All three would come down pit road with just under forty laps to go, leaving Hamlin as the race leader until his final stop.
Hamlin and the rest of the top ten’s final stops came with just under twenty laps to go. The pace of Hamlin’s #11 Camry, coupled with the almost preferred pace of older tyres compared to new, saw Hamlin emerge from his final stop well ahead of the likes of Jones, Almirola and Elliott. Instead, it was Clint Bowyer who was Hamlin’s closest challenger, but a gap of two seconds would separate the pair.
In the end, Hamlin would come home unchallenged to take his second victory of the season; a fantastic result that came despite the three pit-lane related mistakes during the race. He would cross the line with an almost three-second lead over second-place finisher, Clint Bowyer, who would take his best finish of the season so far.
Third place would go the way of Bowyer’s Stewart-Haas Racing team-mate, Daniel Suarez, who ran solidly inside the top ten for much of the race. Erik Jones would take fourth-place, with pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson rounding out the top-five after a late race battle with team-mate William Byron. The #24 driver would finish in sixth place, equalling his best Cup Series finish so far.
Seventh and eighth would go the way of the remaining two Stewart-Haas drivers, Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick. They would be closely pursued by the Busch brothers, with Kurt Busch coming home in ninth place ahead of Kyle in tenth. Kyle’s early final pit-stop ended up not being as much of a hindrance as it could have been, but it nevertheless dropped Kyle out of contention for his third win of the season.
Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr would finish just outside of the top ten in eleventh and twelfth respectively. Chase Elliott’s final stop would see him fall out of the top five and into an eventual finishing position of thirteenth, with Austin Dillon and Michael McDowell finishing as the final two lead-lap drivers in fourteenth and fifteenth.
Further back, stage one winner Joey Logano would struggle in the second half of the race. His #22 Penske Ford fell back after a penalty for an uncontrolled tyre. He would then hit further complications when the bracing underneath the bonnet of his Ford gave way, causing the bonnet to become loose. In the end, Logano would finish one lap down in seventeenth place.
Logano would nevertheless finish the race ahead of his two Penske team-mates. Brad Keselowski was the final driver running when the chequered flag flew at the end of the race, but he would finish fifty-five laps down after his #2 Ford was taken back to the garage due to a loss of drive; potentially due to a driveshaft failure.
Brad would be classified thirty-sixth at the finish, with the final Penske of Blaney classified thirty-seventh after retiring from the race due to his #12 Ford’s engine failure. He would join Timmy Hill and Kyle Larson as the race’s three retirees.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action next weekend for the 2019 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 – Race results:
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