Kyle Busch shoots the guns at Texas Motor Speedway

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
by Lisa Janine Cloud

Kyle Busch held off perennial rival Kevin Harvick to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Sunday afternoon, putting the No. 18 Interstate Battery Toyota in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway for the third time in his career. Each of Busch’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup victories at TMS has come while carrying the Dallas-based company’s livery.

With his first checkered flag of the 2018 season, Busch tied Bill Elliott on the all-time wins list with 44. The Las Vegas native also has eight Xfinity Series and three Camping World Truck Series trophies from the Great American Speedway.

“It’s just certainly a team effort and a great win,” Busch said. “My guys were awesome on pit road. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys did a phenomenal job of getting me a great race car today. This Interstate Batteries Camry was flying and you know we might have been just a tick behind the 4 (Kevin Harvick) on overall speed, but when we were out front and we were where we needed to be there at the end, we were just able to hold them off and then run the right line in order to hold them off. Can’t say enough about all these guys - everybody on this Toyota. It was rocking today.”

Harvick, who started on the outside pole with the No. 4 Busch Light Ford, led early and often, but pit stop errors plagued the team. Crew chief Rodney Childers claimed the NASCAR-supplied air guns were a big part of the problem. On the team radio, he referenced two guns having as much as 3,000 RPM difference, one around 9,000 and one around 12,000 RPM.

Harvick, not known for being reticent with his opinions, said post-race, “We had a pathetic day - two days - on pit road because we can't get pit guns that work in our pit stalls. Today we had to pit under green ‑ got ourselves a lap down because the pit guns work half the time, they don't work half the time. Yesterday we had four loose wheels because the pit guns can't get the tires tight.  Our guys did a great job with a really fast race car. I feel bad for the guys on pit road because they get handed just absolutely inconsistent pieces of equipment. Today it wound up costing us a race.”

Jamie McMurray finished third, his best finish since Talladega in May 2017. He quietly worked his way up from 24th for his first top five of the season.

“Yeah, it was basically just a really good day for us,” McMurray said. “From the start of the race, the car was pretty good, especially on the long runs. Then fortunate to miss a lot of wrecks that happened and survived. Then had good pit stops. All around, just a pretty solid day for our team.”

One of those wrecks changed the complexion of the race, affecting seven cars and prompting an 11-minute red flag. Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin were put out of contention.

Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson each took hard hits when they blew right-front tires in separate incidents, but were treated and released from the Infield Care Center.

New Kids on the Track Erik Jones (4th) and Ryan Blaney (5th) finished well, with Jones leading 64 laps, third-most of the race. Joey Logano came in sixth, his sixth top-10 finish of the season, and pole-sitter Kurt Busch landed in seventh.

With his eighth-place finish, Darrell Wallace Jr. scored his second top 10 with the No. 43. Martinsville winner Clint Bowyer landed in ninth, and William Byron’s 10th-place finish is his first in the Cup series.

Other notable finishes: Matt DiBenedetto in 16th and Ross Chastain in 18th.

Kyle Busch took the lead in the MENCS points standings, while Harvick holds the playoff standings lead.

Kyle Busch shoots the guns at Texas Motor Speedway Kyle Busch shoots the guns at Texas Motor Speedway Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Sunday, April 08, 2018 Rating: 5