After remembering the passing of racer Jim Sauter with a moment of silence, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the 10th annual AAA Texas 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway.
Surprising: Brad Keselowski gave a whole new meaning to minding the gap after his on and off track real estate dispute with Jeff Gordon.
“Today something happened,” Keselowski said after finishing third. “There was a gap. It closed up. By the time it closed up, I was committed, and I stayed in it. That almost won me the race.”
“It hurt somebody else’s day. That’s a shame,” the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford said. “But the reality is there was a gap.”
“You know, I’m not Dale Earnhardt or Senna. I read how they raced, how great they were for this sport. They would sit here and tell you they would go for that same gap. I’m not them, but I’m inspired by that, and I’m going to race that way.”
Not Surprising: Team Hendrick continued flawlessly executing their strategy in the Eliminator Round of the Chase, sending their Chase busting team members into Victory Lane as a sort of protection for their Chaser brethren Jeff Gordon, who did not quite make it there after his Keselowski encounter.
Hendrick driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. became the Chase buster in Martinsville last weekend and this weekend it was another HMS Chase buster Jimmie Johnson who took his turn, honoring all Lowe’s employees who wear the red vest in his red No. 48.
“We are back on track,” Johnson said after winning his fourth of the year and his fourth at Texas Motor Speedway. “Unfortunately we didn’t find this stuff a month or two ago, but that is the way racing goes.”
With both HMS Chase busters in Victory Lane for the first two races in the Eliminator Round, the lone HMS Chaser Gordon has maintained his position in the top-4, a team feat especially impressive given Gordon’s 29th place run at Texas.
Surprising: While tire troubles may be a common driver mantra, it is not often that there are complaints about the sheer lack of number of tires available, so much so that NASCAR actually permitted teams to get an extra set of tires during this particular race.
“It’s kind of a sad situation when you run out of tires like that,” Newman, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet said after finishing 15th. “I wish NASCAR had given us more tires. They gave us one set, but when they keep throwing cautions like that that were totally unnecessary, and there’s not debris on the race track and no reason to throw it. We need to keep racing. And it’s sad to see but that’s the way they’ve been playing it.”
Not Surprising: If you think that Alexander had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, just ask the Toyota drivers how they were feeling after Texas.
“We were a bag of everything today. Man we were so bad,” Kyle Busch said after his fourth place run. “I don’t know what happened to us from yesterday. We fought all day long.”
“We had a bad car,” Denny Hamlin, who finished tenth, said, echoing the theme. “We made the best of it. Other guys made mistakes. We weren’t really that good. Luckily other guys had problems. That’s what happened.”
“We went the wrong direction on adjustments during the middle part of the race,” Brian Vickers said after his 16th place run. “Billy Scott (crew chief) was able to get the car pretty good for the end of the race but with all those cautions we just got too tight.”
“We were okay when we were up front and had track position, but we had a problem in the pits and lost our track position,” Matt Kenseth said after finishing 25th. “The way my car drove — I was kind of afraid of how it would be in traffic. We got most of our track position back, stayed out on tires and just couldn’t get by Kurt (Busch) there — and got to the back again having to get tires. Then we got caught up in a restart deal that was three-four wide which did some damage, and we could just never overcome it.”
Surprising: Joey Logano was on a surprisingly odd salvage mission of his own, trying to make good after, of all things, a glue issue on pit road.
“We were able to salvage something decent out of tonight,” the driver of the No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford said. “We were a top five car and possibly a winning car if scenarios played out right.”
“I don’t know what happened with the glue on the pit stop and I haven’t gotten the full story yet but we had a hell of a time trying to put rear tires on the car,” Logano continued. “We lost all our track position with 30 to go and I came off the corner and the 9 hit me and popped my right rear and then we spun out. We put tires back on it and then just held on until the end and got something decent out of something that could have been way worse.”
In spite of his sticky situation, Logano did emerge the point’s leader by virtue of his five wins for the season, which broke the points tie with Denny Hamlin, who has but one win to date.
Not Surprising: After the two past races where Austin Dillon scored Rookie of the Race honors, Kyle Larson emerged victorious in that regard, finishing seventh to Dillon’s 21st place run.
“I thought we practiced really well,” the driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet said. “When the race fired off, we weren’t very good. I thought we’d get better, but we didn’t. We got worse and worse and worse. We had a lot of late-race restarts to get up there to get a better finish.”
“Disappointing day, but okay to finish seventh where we did. Hopefully we can get some better runs in the last races.”
Surprising: In a somewhat surprisingly ironic twist, Kevin Harvick, who nudged along the Keselowski vs. Gordon post-race match up, did not want anything to do with retaliation, even after some harsh words for Matt Kenseth as a result of last weekend’s short track racing.
“I just raced,” Harvick said after Texas was completed. “I thought my car was fast enough to win the race and be in contention. Doing something crazy at that point in the race, then I never saw him (Matt Kenseth) towards the end of the race, so it wasn’t really our game plan to get into that situation any further than we needed to.”
“It’s like I said before the race, I know he didn’t do it on purpose, but in the end we still lost 33 points to the leader. We got to race as hard as we can to try to get that back.”
Not Surprising: Even with a swapped out crew chief, Kurt Busch was able to pull off a top-10 finish in his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet.
“It was great to have a shot at the win,” Busch said after taking the checkered flag in the eighth position. “Tony Gibson (new Crew Chief), the engineers did a great job reading my balance, and I was trying to pick up on their changes. So, it was nice to go out there and execute.”
“We used the last yellow to our advantage,” Busch continued. “The last two yellows for fresh tires, and worked our way from, I don’t know, 25th to eighth. All-in-all, a great first day. I love the team; I love the guys. We are going to be good. We just have to work out the details.”
Surprising: Jamie McMurray could not wait for the sun to go down on him, as when the darkness descended he ascended to the fifth finishing spot.
“We had an up and down day,” the driver of the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet said. “Fortunately for us we were better when the sun went down. It was really slick at the beginning. We really struggled with the car, but when the sun went down the car started coming to us.”
Not Surprising: There is no quit in the No. 99 Aflac Ford team, who finished the race ninth after battling from the rear.
“We got super lucky there at the end and my guys never quit,” Carl Edwards said. “I am so proud of my guys. I have no idea where we are at in points but we certainly finished better than we should have tonight.”
“It was a great night when for awhile it didn’t look like it was going to be,” Edwards continued. “We get to move on to Phoenix now and we will know what we have to do there. We will take it.”
“My guys didn’t quit and I know they won’t quit and we are going to go next week and go for this thing.”