Seventh Texas Win for Johnson
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 9, 2017 | 5:15 P.M. EST
Johnson celebrates in Victory Lane for the seventh time at Texas. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson scored his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season and his seventh at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Johnson held off a fast-charging Kyle Larson to pick-up the checkered flag on the newly repaved track. The seven-time champion also notched the first win of 2017 for Hendrick Motorsports. It is the 16th straight year Johnson has won a series race.
"What a tough track and tough conditions,” Johnson said. “Man I need some fluids. That was tiring. But it was really in our wheel house, and I was able to execute all day. Just an awesome day for this Lowe’s team.”
Larson, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five.
“I had a better car than most,” Larson said. “I think that made it really fun for me. I wish I could have gotten past Joey sooner; I think I would have had a shot at Jimmie. Another second place for us and extended our points lead, so pretty happy about that.”
Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch completed the first 10 finishers.
Ryan Blaney won the first two stages. The Wood Brothers Racing driver led a career-high 148 laps. But staying out to win the second stage shuffled him back when other drivers that pitted for fresh tires raced by Blaney, who ended up 12th.
Larson leads Elliott by 17 points in the standings after seven races of the season.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes the Easter weekend off before returning to action at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 23rd.
How Johnson Won: It wasn’t easy by any means for Johnson who had to start from the rear of the field after spinning in Saturday’s practice and flat spotting his tires. That meant a new set and the green flag at the back of the pack. But he methodically worked his way to the front and was able to get around Logano for the top spot with 15 laps to go. It wasn’t a done deal until the very end as Johnson had to outrace a fast closing Larson for the win.
Who Had a Good Day: Larson has finished in the top-two in five of the last six races of 2017…Logano finished top-three in the last three Texas races and scored his sixth top-10 finish in seven races this season…Harvick scored his first top-five finish of 2017…Earnhardt Jr. notched his first top-five finish since last June at Pocono.
Who Had a Bad Day: Kasey Kahne has suffered disappointment the last few weeks and that continued on Sunday when he had a problem late that ended up handing the Hendrick driver a 38th-place finish…Paul Menard suffered an electrical issue that knocked him out of the race and to a 36th-place finish…It wasn’t much better for Menard’s Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon, who missed the start of the race in the garage for a rear track arm issue. He finished 33rd.
What Else Happened: The new Texas surface and reconfiguration caused drivers and crew chiefs many sleepless nights heading into the weekend and proved to be a challenge early on for some in practice and qualifying. But the race turned out to be quite competitive with a second groove allowing the opportunity for passing and although leaders checked out at times, the battle for position throughout the pack generated intense battles. Overall the Texas changes created a compelling 500-miles of racing.
Quotable: “Guess I remembered how to drive,” Jimmie Johnson in Victory Lane.
Notable: Johnson scored the 246th MENCS win for Hendrick…He’s also won six of the last 10 Texas races.