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Race Recap: The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

Jimmie Johnson Celebrates His O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 Win, April 2017 NascarMedia.com

NASCAR

Race Recap: The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ 7th race took place at the newly repaved Texas Motor Speedway. The track also reconfigured turns 1 and 2 by removing 4 degrees of banking while widening the racing surface by 20 feet. Typically a repaves result in uneventful races, but The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 had a good amount of action throughout.

A plethora of drivers had to start from the rear of the field. Nine failed to make qualifying attempts, while 3 more were a result of teams switching to back up cars or making unapproved adjustments.

Those drivers were able to take advantage of the wider exit of turn 2 to make passes, resulting in plenty of action all day. Kevin Harvick led from the pole early on before being overtaken by Ryan Blaney. Blaney was dominant throughout most of the day, leading 148 of 334 laps.

At the end of stage 2 a caution flew for debris, forcing teams to prioritize either the stage victory, or the overall race win strategy. Blaney’s #21 team chose the former, and won stage 2 handily. However, they would be forced to start the final stage in the 20th position, and he was never able to recover, finally finishing 13th.

Jimmie Johnson Comes to the Front

Despite treacherous conditions, only one caution flew for contact during the 500 mile race. Three of the six yellows were competition cautions; one for teams to check tire wear at lap 35, and the other two for stages. Despite the green flag conditions, faster cars were able to move through the field. Jimmie Johnson was one of them.

After starting at the rear for an unapproved tire change, Johnson steadily worked his way forward. Ultimately, Johnson’s car proved to be the fastest when it mattered, running down leader Kevin Harvick before the final caution on lap 301.

Joey Logano’s unique pit strategy saw him take the lead on the final restart, but Johnson’s fresher tires ultimately prevailed with 17 to go. Johnson was happy to finally put the nay-sayers to rest with the victory.

“I guess I remembered how to drive, and I guess this team remembered how to do it. I’m just real proud of this team. What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were just able to execute all day.”

The victory was both Johnson’s and Hendrick Motorsports’ first of the year. Kyle Larson finished second yet again, followed by Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Dale Earnhardt Jr, who earned his first top 5 of the year.

Notes

The Joe Gibbs Racing struggles continued, with Kyle Busch in 15th being their standard bearer on the day.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 saw 8 cautions for a total of 35 laps.

Overall, there were 16 lead changes among 7 drivers.

Kyle Larson maintained his points lead with yet another 2nd place finish. He is now 17 points ahead of fellow youngster Chase Elliott.

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