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Ryan Blaney wins first stage in Texas for first stage victory of season

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Ryan Blaney led 66 laps and won the first stage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

It is the first stage win of the season for the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford driven by Blaney, who started second for the second time this season.

The top 10 after 85 laps: Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, pole-sitter Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.

Blaney took the lead on a Lap 16 restart with a power move on the outside around Harvick, who led 19 laps. Blaney retook the lead on a Lap 36 restart after a competition caution.

During pit stops following the end of Stage 1, Truex beat Blaney off pit road to take the lead.

Entering the race, Blaney had led only 33 laps in 60 Cup starts.

Kyle Larson is in the top 10 after rallying from the back twice. Larson started 32nd and had moved into the top 10 when he was penalized for driving through too many pit stalls on his stop during the competition caution.

Austin Dillon went to the garage during the pace laps for broken track bar. He finally joined the race on Lap 12 and is 39th.

The first stage was slowed by three cautions:

Lap 2 – Debris on the frontstretch

Lap 10 – Crash in Turn 2 involving Reed Sorenson, Gray Gaulding and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Lap 30 – Competition caution

Lap 85 – End of stage

 

Alan Gustafson’s gamble propels Jeff Gordon to seventh-place finish at Texas

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Like a Texas gambler, crew chief Alan Gustafson had a choice: Hold his cards or go all in.

He did the latter, electing to put two tires on Jeff Gordon’s Chevrolet on the final pit stop.

Gustafson’s gamble paid off handsomely, as Gordon avoided a finish outside the top 10 and posted a seventh-place showing in Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Yeah that was a great gamble,” Gordon said. “Alan made a great call there at the end to take two tires, and that is what got us to seventh.”

Gustafson’s call helped Gordon salvage a decent finish in what was a fight for much of 500 miles.

“We just struggled,” Gordon said. “I’m not really sure where we are missing it. I just had my hands full. We were not able to get the balance just right.

“But we didn’t give up. I’m proud of that. We made it good at one point and then we got off and then we had to kind of start over and got it pretty good there at the end.”

Among the issues Gordon endured was a brake bias adjuster that didn’t work properly and a recurring problem with handling.

“Early on we weren’t great,” Gordon said. “We made some adjustments and got some decent track position. I thought we were going to be pretty good.”

Hendrick Motorsports placed all four of its drivers in the top eight. Jimmie Johnson won for the fifth time in his career on the 1.5-mile oval, his fourth victory in the last six Sprint Cup races at Texas.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, Gordon was seventh and Kasey Kahne finished eighth.

“Texas is tough when everything is working right for you,” Gordon said. “(We were) just trying to get the balance right in it.

“Obviously our teammates have it worked out because all of them were fast. Obviously, we have got some work to do and I have got to figure this package out.

“We struggled and we fought through it and we didn’t give up.”

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Texas two-step: Erik Jones earns second straight Xfinity Series pole

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Erik Jones did the Texas two-step Friday afternoon, earning his second straight Xfinity Series pole during qualifying for tonight’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jones, who also won the pole at Fontana three weeks ago, roared to the top of the chart at Texas with a speed of 185.166 mph.

The 18-year-old Jones, a Michigan native, becomes the youngest Xfinity pole winner at TMS.

Brad Keselowski was second-fastest (184.862 mph), followed by Austin Dillon (184.470), Daniel Suarez (184.464) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (184.175).

Here’s how Friday’s qualifying played out:

1 Erik Jones … 185.166 mph
2 Brad Keselowski … 184.862
3 Austin Dillon … 184.470
4 Daniel Suarez … 184.464
5 Daniel Earnhardt Jr. … 184.175
6 Regan Smith … 184.005
7 Brian Scott … 183.786
8 Darrell Wallace Jr. … 183.555
9 Chase Elliott … 183.430
10 Chris Buescher … 183.368
11 Denny Hamlin … 183.138
12 Brendan Gaughan … 182.556
13 Elliott Sadler … 181.867
14 Ryan Reed … 181.537
15 John Wes Townley … 181.525
16 Ty Dillon … 181.470
17 Sam Hornish Jr. … 181.397
18 Dakoda Armstrong … 180.656
19 Ryan Sieg … 180.524
20 JJ Yeley … 180.258
21 Ross Chastain … 180.108
22 Brennan Poole … 179.004
23 Mike Bliss … 178.743
24 Blake Koch … 180.723
25 Jeremy Clements … 180.126
26 Harrison Rhodes … 179.087
27 Eric McClure … 178.950
28 Cale Conley … 178.944
29 Brandon Gdovic … 178.926
30 Landon Cassill … 178.808
31 David Starr … 177.491
32 Timmy Hill … 176.962
33 Stanton Barrett … 176.586
34 Mario Gosselin … Owner Points
35 Jeff Green … Owner Points
36 Derrike Cope … Owner Points
37 Joey Gase … Owner Points
38 Peyton Sellers … Owner Points
39 Derek White … Owner Points
40 Mike Harmon … Owner Points

DNQ – None

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Austin Dillon fastest again in second Xfinity practice at Texas

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When it came to Thursday’s pair of Xfinity Series practice sessions at Texas Motor Speedway, Austin Dillon made it 2-for-2.

After being fastest in the mid-afternoon session, Dillon doubled up by being the fastest in the early evening session.

Next up for Dillon is Friday’s qualifying session at 4:45 pm ET and then the race later that evening, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, set to take the green flag at 8:30 pm ET.

Dillon covered the 1.5-mile high-speed track with a field best speed of 181.372 mph, followed by Regan Smith (179.994) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (179.934).

Here’s the speed chart in Thursday’s final Xfinity Series practice at Texas:

1 Austin Dillon … 181.372 mph … 37 laps
2 Regan Smith … 179.994 … 46 laps
3 Darrell Wallace Jr. … 179.934 … 47 laps
4 Brad Keselowski … 179.683 … 55 laps
5 Elliott Sadler … 179.420 … 38 laps
6 Erik Jones … 179.402 … 42 laps
7 Brendan Gaughan … 179.325 … 31 laps
8 Chase Elliott … 179.069 … 46 laps
9 Daniel Suarez … 178.986 … 51 laps
10 JJ Yeley … 178.459 … 30 laps
11 Ryan Sieg … 178.318 … 47 laps
12 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 178.153 … 34 laps
13 Denny Hamlin … 178.136 … 37 laps
14 Chris Buescher … 177.626 … 35 laps
15 Sam Hornish Jr. … 177.375 … 37 laps
16 Blake Koch … 176.893 … 31 laps
17 Ty Dillon … 176.771 … 31 laps
18 Brian Scott … 176.448 … 27 laps
19 Jeremy Clements … 176.148 … 18 laps
20 Brennan Poole … 176.137 … 64 laps
21 Mike Bliss … 176.097 … 31 laps
22 Ryan Reed … 175.959 … 32 laps
23 Brandon Gdovic … 175.770 … 26 laps
24 Mario Gosselin … 175.393 … 21 laps
25 Eric McClure … 175.086 … 28 laps
26 Dakoda Armstrong … 175.041 … 48 laps
27 John Wes Townley … 175.029 … 16 laps
28 David Starr … 174.899 … 20 laps
29 Cale Conley … 173.891 … 12 laps
30 Landon Cassill … 173.650 … 35 laps
31 Ross Chastain … 173.566 … 35 laps
32 Harrison Rhodes … 170.800 … 27 laps
33 Timmy Hill … 170.600 … 21 laps
34 Stanton Barrett … 168.146 … 20 laps
35 Jeff Green … 167.811 … 5 laps
36 Derrike Cope … 167.567 … 16 laps
37 Peyton Sellers … 167.483 … 22 laps
38 Joey Gase … 166.492 … 11 laps
39 Derek White … 165.695 … 21 laps
40 Mike Harmon … 162.871 … 11 laps

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Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway buck trend of cutting seating capacity

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Even while the recent trend among racetracks is to downsize – oftentimes with a significant reduction in seating capacity – Texas Motor Speedway is holding steady.

After all, it has a state reputation to live up to: everything is bigger and better in Texas (or at least it’s supposed to be).

With Daytona International Speedway in the midst of its Daytona Rising revitalization that will reduce seating capacity from 147,000 to 101,000, TMS is now the third-largest capacity racetrack on the NASCAR circuit with a permanent seating capacity of 128,655 (135,000 when infield tickets are added).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains No. 1 at an approximate 250,000 seats, while Bristol Motor Speedway, a Speedway Motorsports Inc. sister track to TMS, is No. 2 (153,000).

What has allowed TMS to move up on the capacity list isn’t hard to understand: numerous other tracks have greatly reduced their seating availability.

Talladega Superspeedway is down from 108,000 to 78,000 since 2012, Michigan International Speedway went from 131,000 to 71,000 since 2007, and Charlotte Motor Speedway has reduced its capacity from 134,000 to 89,000 since last year.

TMS originally had a capacity of 158,000 seats before scaling back to 137,000 after the 2008 season, according to SMI’s 2009 annual report.

That capacity has been further reduced by approximately 9,000 seats on the backstretch. While the seats remain physically, tickets for those seats are not sold to fans because they do not allow viewing of TMS’s signature “Big Hoss” video screen, also on the backstretch.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, TMS president Eddie Gossage talked about some of the challenges the track faces in selling out the place, particularly Saturday’s Duck Commander 500.

“When you think about motor sports, you think of Daytona, Charlotte and Indy,” Gossage said. “Well, we’re right there with them. I’m proud of the fact the four biggest [NASCAR] crowds are always us, the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend.

“In some years we’ve been No. 1. Some years we’ve been No. 4. All I know is, those other three tracks have been around forever. We’re only in our 19th season. That’s a special place to be [in the top four], and we’ve been there for 19 straight years now.”

Gossage, who has seen some race-day crowds at TMS approach 200,000 since it opened in 1997, begrudgingly won’t further reduce its current capacity.

“We’re overbuilt for 2015,” Gossage told DMN columnist Rick Gosselin. “But we weren’t overbuilt for 1997 when we opened. We’ve sold this place out a bunch of times. It would probably be a wise thing for us to reduce the seating. But that’s something I just don’t want to do.”

Gossage added, “Those 135,000 seats are our challenge. There are 6.7 million people in Dallas-Fort Worth, so 135,000 is not a big dent in the population. That’s what I focus on. I’m competitive. I’m not going to give up. The product is too good, and what we do here is too good.

“We may be the anomaly — and we’re going to bust our butts to continue being that anomaly.”

But, Gossage admits he wouldn’t mind if other forces took it upon themselves to take away more seats.

“A nicely placed tornado might be appreciated, though,” he quipped.

While there wasn’t a race going on, of course.

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