Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 was the first night race of the season for the Sprint Cup Series. The stars were out for this Texas-sized battle, but it was a familiar face at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the night. (Or morning, depending on your time zone.)
Pearn Goes Two for Four
Martin Truex Jr. led 141 laps on Saturday night, but couldn’t seal the deal. Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn elected to stay out on a restart with 35 laps to go after the night’s final caution and not put on a fresh set of Goodyear Eagles. Kyle Busch, who restarted to Truex’s outside, had fresh tires. Truex finished sixth and remains winless in 2016.
It’s not the only time Truex has let a win slip away at Texas Motor Speedway. He led 142 laps in the spring 2013 race, where he also finished second to Kyle Busch.
To add insult to injury, it is the fourth time since the beginning of the 2015 season where Truex has led over 95 laps and failed to reach victory lane.
Will He Lose?
If there has ever been a display of dominance in NASCAR’s history, that time is now for Kyle Busch. He has won four straight races in NASCAR’s top three series. (2 Cup, 1 XFINITY, 1 Truck)
He didn’t lead the most laps as he so often does, but he placed himself in position to capitalize on an opportunity if it were to arise. He and crew chief Adam Stevens brought the No. 18 to pit road for fresh tires and got by Truex on the final restart. He now joins Jimmie Johnson atop the standings with two wins.
Here’s another stat to chew on: he has won eight races in his last 32 attempts in the Cup Series.
Kenseth and Edward Bit by Wheel Deals
A lot of the big names and early hopefuls for the win on Saturday had trouble with loose lug nuts. Pit stops have been blazing fast this season, but many teams have paid the price.
Both Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards were among the slew of drivers to have issues. Kenseth led 20 laps early, and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Carl Edwards led for 124 laps, but they were each taken out of the mix when they made unscheduled pit stops for loose wheels.
For Kenseth, it seems like everything is going wrong. He’s gone from almost winning the Daytona 500 to having only one top 10 through seven races.
Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott also battled loose wheels, but both recovered to finish within the top 20.
RCR: From the Penthouse to the…..
A 180-degree swing from last week at Martinsville, where all cars were scored in the top-10.s Martinsville run last week, where the organization placed all cars in the top-10
Lap 294 was not a good one for Richard Childress Racing, when all three RCR Chevrolets were caught up in a 13-car pileup on the backstretch.
Austin Dillon was battling Jimmie Johnson for a spot in the top 10 when Dillon got into the wall and started a chain reaction wreck.
Dillon was having a nice run, hovering around the eighth position for much of the night, and poised to continue his solid 2016 campaign. He finished a disappointing 19th, while teammates Ryan Newman and Paul Menard wound up 17th and 26th, respectively.
Back Where They Belong
For the first time this season, Hendrick Motorsports placed all four of its drivers inside the top 10. That deed hasn’t materialized since the Fall Texas race last season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished a quiet second and climbed four positions in the standings to sixth. Defending race winner Jimmie Johnson finished fourth after battling back from an early pit road mishap.
Perhaps the most impressive drive of the night came from Chase Elliott. After qualifying fourth, the 24 team changed the transmission and started from the rear. He was the best driver of the rookie class on Saturday, finishing fifth and leading one lap.
Kasey Kahne had a solid night, finishing eighth after starting 17th.