Jimmie Johnson wins O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas for first Cup win of year

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Jimmie Johnson passed Joey Logano with 16 laps left and led the rest of the way to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Johnson’s seventh win at Texas Motor Speedway and the 81st Cup win of his career came after he started from the rear of the field. It echoed Johnson’s most recent win, the 2016 finale in Miami, when he started from the rear and took the lead late to win the race and championship.

Sunday’s win is also Johnson’s first top five of the year. Prior to Sunday, Johnson had not finished better than ninth through the first six races of the year, a career worst to open a season.

“I guess I remembered how to drive,” Johnson told Fox Sports in victory lane. “Just real proud of this team. What a tough track and conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were able to execute all day.”

Filling out the top five were Kyle Larson, Logano, pole-sitter Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Logano finished second after being the only driver to stay out during a debris caution that flew with 35 laps remaining.

Johnson is the first Cup winner at Texas since the 1.5-mile track was repaved and the banking in Turns 1 and 2 reduced from 24 to 20 degrees.

He started from the rear after spinning in qualifying and having to go to new tires.

“Probably in the second or third run I knew we were going to be in good shape,” Johnson said. “From there off we went. It was so tough those first 23 laps in traffic. The air was very turbulent, the track wasn’t very clean. Just the way it finished now, I think we could start racing and put on a show.”

Stage 1 & 2 winner: Ryan Blaney

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Logano (third) and Earnhardt (fifth) each had their best result of the year. Earnhardt’s top five is his first since the June 2016 race at Pocono Raceway … Blaney led 148 laps, a career high, but pit strategy and a bad final pit stop relegated him to a 12th-place finish … Jamie McMurray finished seventh for his fourth top 10 of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Austin Dillon did not enter the race until Lap 12 after going to the garage during pace laps for a broken track bar. He finished 33rd …. Paul Menard left the race soon after the start of the final stage for a battery problem. He returned to the race 18 laps down and finished 36th … Denny Hamlin finished 25th for his fourth finish of worse than 15th this year … Kasey Kahne went to the garage with a rear axle problem with 42 laps left and finished 38th.

NOTABLE: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s car had one unsecured lug nut in post-race inspection. According to the rulebook, that results a $10,000 fine for the crew chief … Kyle Larson has finished second in four of the first seven races. He’s finished second in five of the last eight races, dating back to the 2016 finale at Miami.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I still think I have the keys to the front door,” – Jimmie Johnson after winning his seventh race at Texas Motor Speedway, the track record.

WHAT’S NEXT: Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway at 2 p.m. ET on April 23 on Fox.

NASCAR America: Don’t count out Kyle Busch at Kansas (video)

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Kyle Busch is ranked ninth, seven points below the cut-off line to advance to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs, heading into Sunday’s Round of 12 finale at Kansas Speedway.

While many of his fans may fear that with back-to-back poor finishes at Charlotte and Talladega, Busch will be eliminated at Kansas, the NASCAR America crew on Monday felt exactly the opposite.

They’re bullish on the younger Busch’s chances of advancing to the third round of the playoffs – very bullish.

Here’s why:

Dale Jarrett: “Other years, you have two bad races like he’s had, he wouldn’t have a chance of going to Kansas other than winning. I think he’s very capable of winning at Kansas. He has two opportunities here: he runs well in both stages, let’s say he earns 17 to 20 points and he gets himself in a good position and then he runs in the top-five, which he’s done on a regular basis recently. I think he has great opportunity and gets through (to the Round of 8) with no problem.”

Nate Ryan: “At one point, Kansas Speedway was a house of horrors for Kyle Busch. It took him 10 years to get his first win there. Now, he’s had five straight top-fives there. He had 16 stage points in the race there at May. And because Toyotas are running really well on mile-and-a-half speedways, he’s qualifying well, I think you can count on him amassing a significant number of stage points and probably more than the guy he’s below on the cutline right now, Jimmie Johnson.”

Kyle Petty: “I know we’re looking at the points; don’t look at the points. In the first 26 races, he was in contention almost every week. Honestly, I don’t think the stage points are going to matter … Kyle Busch can go there and win this race and all this speculation, all this doubt, can be thrown out the window. He’s still a favorite, as far as I’m concerned.”

NASCAR America: What Talladega win meant to Yates family (video)

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It was a heartwarming day Sunday for engine builder Doug Yates.

While he was happy that Brad Keselowski and his Ford – powered by a Roush-Yates engine under the hood – won the Alabama 500, it was also a strong reminder of his father, Robert, who passed away nearly two weeks ago.

“My dad and I loved racing here together so much, from the time we started with Davey Allison back in 1987 when he won here,” Doug Yates said. “It’s an emotional time.

“It’s a great place, I’m glad I’m here, feels like coming home, and I know he would be so proud of us and all the hard work that everybody at Roush-Yates Engines put in, and Ford Performance and the drive that Brad Keselowski and Team Penske put on was really special.

“We’re really proud to be here and I know my dad’s smiling today.”

Also, check out what Dale Jarrett, Nate Ryan and Kyle Petty had to say about the significance of the Yates family legacy to NASCAR over the years.

 

 

NASCAR AMERICA: How working radio, Joey Logano helped Keselowski win at Talladega

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Sure, Brad Keselowski had to dodge much of the mayhem Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway to win the Alabama 500.

But there was more to it than just Keselowski crossing the finish line.

His win also proved the importance of spotters and radio communications at Talladega. When Keselowski lost an antenna on top of his car, the team was forced to pit and give up track position temporarily to allow his team to fix the radio for the long haul.

That moved proved pivotal as it’s likely Keselowski wouldn’t have won if not for his spotter steering him away from problems and to keep him abreast of all the cars around him on the final laps.

The NASCAR America crew discussed that on Monday’s show. Check out the video above.

And then, check out the video below, where Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano, helped get Keselowski to victory lane.

Sure, Logano wanted to win himself, but when it appeared that wouldn’t happen, Logano helped keep Keselowski at the front of the field all the way to the checkered flag.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about how Logano and Keselowski worked together in the video below.

 

NASCAR America: Talladega brings Dale Jr. retirement into focus (video)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans that have been in denial about his retirement at season’s end may have been slapped with a huge sense of reality in Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

There’s no other track that has been as synonymous with Junior and his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr., than NASCAR’s largest track, the 2.66-mile facility about 50 miles east of Birmingham, Alabama.

Now that Talladega is in Junior’s rearview mirror, reality is quickly setting in that he has just five races remaining in his NASCAR Cap career: this Sunday at Kansas, followed by Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, our team of analysts explored the reality that Junior’s storied career is indeed coming to a conclusion.

“This weekend really felt like this was it,” said NBCSports.com’s Nate Ryan. “It had the right amount of sentimentality, there were the feel-good moments, and even though he didn’t win, there’s no other track where you can hear the roar of 100,000 people over the engines going down the frontstretch at Talladega.

“I really feel like you had that this weekend. Giving him that No. 2 car his father owned and him being on the pole, this really felt like this was the moment when there was a great appreciation for everything Dale Jr. has done in his career. It felt like this was the race this season where we’re really finally honoring Dale Jr.’s  last year.”

Added Jarrett, “With everything I saw the entire weekend, you could tell just from his voice the appreciation he felt of everything that was being done for him and I think it’s finally setting in to him that this is coming to an end.

“But I think he also realized that realistically, yesterday was going to be their best opportunity to get back to victory lane that one last time. Sure, he has a chance at the rest of these races, they’ve been running better and we know anything can happen, but I think that would have been more special to him if he had been able to do that.”