By Lee Spencer NASCAR Wire Service March 31, 2019 at 6:40 pm
FORT WORTH, Texas — A fast car can cure a lot of mistakes. Just ask Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.
The reigning Daytona 500 winner overcame a slew of penalties — some self-inflicted — to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Although the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry got down, he was never out of contention. Hamlin led three times for 45 laps en route to his third win at Texas, his second win of the season and the fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory for Joe Gibbs Racing in the first seven races of 2019.
“I missed pit road under green, that cost us three or four seconds, as well,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know. We tried every way we could to give it away, and we found a way to do it with this FedEx Camry.”
With a splash-and-go fuel stop on Lap 319, Hamlin cycled back to the lead four laps later and extended his advantage over Clint Bowyer by 2.743-seconds at the finish.
“Our car was really, really fast,” Hamlin said. “We obviously saw that. Once we got out front, we were able to pull away from the pack a little bit. Got a little bit loose when we were racing our teammates in the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones). So wasn’t able to be as aggressive as I was earlier in the race. We had a super-fast car. That’s why we won.”
Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and polesitter Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five. Suarez was proud of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang team’s solid performance.
“We’ve been working very hard to make our race cars better and definitely, we’re heading in the right direction,” Suarez said. “This is the second week in a row where all the Stewart-Haas Racing cars are in the top-10 and that’s something very, very good. Overall, very proud of the 41 crew because we’ve been working hard to slowly get better and better. We’re showing that.”
Joey Logano won the first stage, but had experienced issues with his hood flapping, pitted before pit road was open for service, and ultimately dropped to 22nd, one lap down.
William Byron, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
The fifth and final caution occurred on Lap 255 when Daniel Hemric spun in Turn 2. Over the next 55 laps, the lead changed between Kyle Busch, Johnson, Suarez, Almirola and Jones as different pit strategies played out. Although the race appeared to be leaning in Kyle Busch’s direction, his car became loose in Turn 1 allowing Jones to pass him for the lead on Lap 276. After dropping to fourth, Busch hit the wall in Turn 2 on Lap 282 and was forced to pit.
“We were in a good position there to get the win today with our Interstate Batteries Toyota, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Busch, who led a race-high 66 laps. “We will go on to next week and get back on it at Bristol.”
Kyle Busch continues to lead the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings. He has an eight point advantage over Denny Hamlin as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend.
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