Kyle Larson snatched-up the lead after a restart on Lap 171. The NASCAR full-timer drove to the top of the pavement just in time to block fellow Sprint Cup racer Brad Keselowski. As a result, the innovative young driver took the victory in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
Even though Kyle Larson brushed his hot-rod into the outside wall in Turn 1 with eight laps left, the Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet still crossed the finish line .385 seconds ahead of Brad Keselowski. Unfortunately, Keselowski’s #22 Team Penske Ford was mired in traffic for the final five laps of the event and couldn’t make a run at Larson.
“I love seeing Elliott Sadler behind me on the restarts,” said Kyle Larson, who won for the first time at Texas, the second time this season and the fifth time in his career. “He’s really good at taking off and pushing. He helped me win Pocono earlier this year, and he helped me win this one.”
“I was just really tight on the short runs in traffic there, but once I got to clean air, I was like, ‘Oh, man, I’m loose,’ and I got nervous and got to the top just in time to get rolling. I actually got loose over the bumps and hit the wall in (Turn) 1. But I had a big enough gap when I hit the wall that he wasn’t able to get to me.”commented Kyle Larson.
Driving hard to capture his first Xfinity Series victory of the year, Brad Keselowski led 145 laps and was delighted with the performance of his vehicle. But that delight took second-fiddle to the disappointment of losing the competition with the quickest car.
“Whatever car got out in front, with the way the aerodynamics are, was going to control the pace,” Keselowski said. “It’s so hard to pass because the aero is so important and the cars are so equal that way. I thought maybe we were just a touch faster, but without the track position, you lose too much grip behind the guy to do anything.”
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones came in first among the eight Xfinity drivers still in contention for the Xfinty Series championship. The up-and-comer finished in the fourth spot behind another Sprint Cup mainstay, Kevin Harvick. The 20-year-old is now third in points, only 10 behind Daniel Suarez who now holds a one-point lead over Elliott Sadler.
Because none of the Xfinity racers won the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, all four spots are still available next weekend in Phoenix Raceway. Fortunately for the finale at Homestead, no Sprint Cup drivers will be in the line-up with the championship on the line.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez finished fifth despite a bunch of problems that threatened him from even finishing the event at Texas Motor Speedway. First, a bad alternator made him cut his power less than halfway through the race. Nevertheless, he still was able to keep his main battery alive for the final 40 laps. JR Motorport’s Elliott Sadler followed in sixth and now sits one point behind the Mexican born driver.
Mathew Kaulig’s Blake Koch finished the O’Reilly auto Parts Challenge in the 14th position. As of now, the youngster sit seventh among the eight title contenders. Furthermore, Koch still rests fourth in points and is 16 behind Daniel Suarez. Elliott Sadler’s teammate Justin Allgaier, finished 10th after spinning out 72 laps into the race and is another point back of Koch.
“The toughest part of our chase is racing the Cup guys,” Jones said. “Had there been no Cup guys in the race, we would have won today and advanced. Yeah, we’re still going to chase a win (in Phoenix). You’ve still got to be points racing and thinking about advancing at the same time.”
Ryan Reed, Darrell Wallace Jr., and Brendan Gaughan are sixth, seventh and eighth, in the Xfinity Series Chase standings. Reed trails Koch by five points entering the Phoenix race, with Wallace behind by 20 and Gaughan 23 back of the current cut line. It’s win or go home for the three aforementioned competitors next week at Phoenix Raceway.
Final Results for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge:
1. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.
2. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200.
3. (9) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 200.
4. (2) Erik Jones, Toyota, 200.
5. (4) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 200.
6. (8) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (7) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (10) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (3) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 200.
10. (6) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
11. (18) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 200.
12. (13) Ryan Reed, Ford, 200.
13. (14) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 200.
14. (12) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 200.
15. (16) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 200.
16. (17) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
17. (20) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 200.
18. (21) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 199.
19. (11) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 199.
20. (19) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 199.
21. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 198.
22. (25) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 197.
23. (23) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, 196.
24. (26) David Starr, Chevrolet, 196.
25. (27) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 196.
26. (30) Clint King, Ford, 196.
27. (24) Ray Black Jr, Chevrolet, 194.
28. (28) BJ McLeod, Ford, 193.
29. (29) Austin Theriault, Chevrolet, 192.
30. (35) Martin Roy, Chevrolet, 190.
31. (34) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 190.
32. (36) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 185.
33. (38) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 185.
34. (40) Matt Waltz, Chevrolet, 184.
35. (37) Brandon Hightower, Dodge, Engine, 130.
36. (22) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Accident, 129.
37. (32) Dexter Stacey, Chevrolet, Handling, 80.
38. (39) Timmy Hill, Toyota, Suspension, 24.
39. (33) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 19.
40. (31) Jeff Green, Toyota, Brakes, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 140.992 mph.
Time of Race: 2 hours, 7 minutes, 40 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.385 seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 22 laps.
Lead Changes: 5 among 4 drivers.
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