NASCAR: 2018 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Review

FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 08: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 08: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

NASCAR completed their bi-annual dance in Texas this weekend. Kyle Busch took the checkered flag after 334 laps of high-speed action.

Keeping with tradition, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway featured some late race antics, pit-road mishaps, and hard crashes. After 500 miles of work, Kyle Busch picked up his first victory of the season. Busch led a race-high 116 laps and sat as a favorite through most of the race.

Kevin Harvick followed closely behind in second place. Harvick was a favorite in the early goings but ran into problems on pit road. The most random of these problems happened when a replaced lug nut flew into the pit crew’s jack, causing the team to lose time.

Much like Texas’s first few races, there was a multi-car crash on the race’s first laps. On lap three, Alex Bowman’s #88 car got loose in Turn Three and spun out. Bowman collected Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, and Daniel Suarez in the collision. The accident hurt all four drivers chances. Dillon was the highest finisher of the four in 26th.

The race stayed uneventful for the remainder of stage one. Kevin Harvick  won stage one after lap 80 concluded, his fourth stage win of the year. The stage’s closing laps featured a tough moment for one of the race’s top contenders.

Martin Truex Jr. entered as a prime contender, capturing eight straight top 10s on 1.5 mile tracks. On lap 82, with four laps to go in stage one, Truex blew a right-front tire and his car slammed into the Turn Four wall. Truex was running in the second place at the time of the wreck and finished dead last in 37th place.

Kyle Busch’s demand for the lead first came in Stage Two. Busch took the lead over Harvick after an amazing stop on lap 86’s pit stop. The 2015 NASCAR champion held onto the top spot for 30 laps before Harvick regained the lead.

Another top driver saw his hopes diminish on lap 128 when Kyle Larson formally introduced himself to the Turn Two wall. Larson’s caution brought the race’s most unlucky event.

The caution signaled every lead lap car to take a routine trip to pit row for some fresh tires and fuel. During Kevin Harvick’s pit stop, a lug nut being removed from a right-front tire flew into the jack holding up the car! This freak accident cost the #4 team at least one-two seconds on the track, which ended up being about eight positions on the track.

The ensuing restart left the Busch brothers of Kurt and Kyle on the front row. Kurt held the advantage for the restart and held the lead for nearly forty laps before Kyle took over. Kyle secured first place at the end of Stage Two on lap 172.

Some interesting pit strategy left Erik Jones the leader of the race when the green flag came out once again on lap 178. On that restart, Kyle Busch got loose and nearly took himself out. The domino effect carried through the field and a seven-car accident broke out less than a lap later.

Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin collided with each other exiting Turn Four and subsequently collected Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne, David Ragan, and Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time NASCAR champion Johnson’s season gets longer and longer as he only managed one Top 10 this season.

Kyle Busch regained the lead by 241 seemingly unopposed. A couple cautions happened simultaneously that bunched up the field and opened the door for some gambling. Ryan Newman, Darrell Wallace Jr., and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. stayed out from pit road as long as they could and virtually trapped most of the field one lap down.

The three drivers looked for another caution to come out to secure them a decent finish. That caution came when Ryan Newman blew a right-front tire with 30 laps to go. Stenhouse and Wallace’s gamble had payed off.

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Nine drivers made their way back onto the lead lap through various methods before the ensuing restart.

It was clear from the start of the race that the win was to be decided between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. That is exactly the battle we witnessed on the race’s final restart.

Busch and Harvick put on a thrilling show for the last 25 laps, but in the end it was Busch who prevailed.

Kyle picked up his third win at Texas and 44th overall with the victory. A number of drivers saw season and career bests at Texas.

Jamie McMurray finished 3rd, his first Top 5 of the season. Erik Jones also grabbed his first Top 5 by finishing 4th-place. Darrell Wallace Jr. finished an impressive 8th, his best finish since finishing 2nd at Daytona. William Byron secured his first career Top 10 with a 10th-place finish. Trevor Bayne, Ty Dillon, Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher, Matt DiBennideto, and Kasey Kahne, all scored their best finishes of the season with finishes of 12th through 17th, respectively. Ross Chastain, meanwhile, picked up his best career finish by finishing 18th at Texas.

Kyle Busch’s win elevates his points lead to 38 points over Joey Logano.

Next: Top 10 Texas Races

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” next week when it visits Bristol Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson, the reigning champion of the event, looks to turn around his disappointing season with a solid run.

NASCAR returns to Texas in November for the AAA Texas 500. The second event promises to be just as good as the first.