We had live action racing at Texas Motor Speedway this past Friday and Saturday night with the SpeedyCash.com 400 , and the DXC Technology 600!
Truck Series Recap
It was, as Greg Biffle said over his radio at the checkered flag, an “awesome freaking drive.” Improbable was more like it. Biffle ended a self-imposed three-year retirement from NASCAR by winning Friday night’s 23rd annual SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. Biffle, who last raced in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2004 and last won in 2001, scored his second series victory on TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quad-oval in a one-off appearance in place of team owner/driver Kyle Busch.
Biffle, the 2000 series champion, outlasted two-time series champ Matt Crafton by 0.963-of-a-second at the wheel of his No. 51 Toyota Tundra fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports. Tyler Ankrum finished third after celebrating his graduation from high school during pre-race ceremonies, followed by Grant Enfinger and Harrison Burton.
“It means a lot to me, Kyle giving me the opportunity,” said Biffle, 49, whose last Truck Series win was at ISM Raceway in Phoenix in 2001. “This series, a lot of competitive trucks here and these (KBM) guys make the difference. Just excited to be here, just so thankful to drive great trucks. This thing was really fast.”
The win was sweetened by a $50,000 bonus for winning the opening round of NASCAR’s Triple Truck Challenge that continues next at Iowa Speedway. “It’s great,” Biffle joked. “I’ve been off work a long time.”
The race produced a record 13 caution periods, three more than the previous record.
Crafton said he needed a few more laps in his No. 88 Chi-Chi’s/Menards Ford to catch Biffle. “We made hay with him and got there and just really got tight,” said Crafton, of his ThorSports Racing entry. “It really sucks to finish second.”
Ben Rhodes won Stage 2 over Stewart Friesen with Burton placing third. Rhodes, driver of the No. 99 Carolina Nut Ford, earned his first stage win of the season in a segment that saw Ankrum’s No. 17 RAILBLAZA Toyota slide sideways through the pits on a restart on Lap 75.
“I’m thankful for the pit strategy of my team, they got me track position,” Rhodes said after 15.9-second pit stop at the end of the segment. It was a wasted effort, as Rhodes lost power and veered to the outside as the green flag fell on Lap 95. Rhodes returned to the pits on Lap 96 – during the race’s record 11th caution – with what was reported as a transmission stuck in fourth gear.
Johnny Sauter, the defending event winner, won Stage 1 in a dash to the flag with Austin Hill following a short red-flag stoppage (1:16) to clean up debris after Angela Ruch’s accident in Turn 2. Enfinger finished the 40-lap stage in third. It was the third stage win of the season for Sauter, who locked up a spot in the Playoffs by winning on Dover International Speedway’s Monster Mile.
Sauter’s night went awry on Lap 56, however, when his No. 13 Tenda Heal Ford broke loose in the Turn 4 banking and slapped the wall with the right side. Sauter, the 2016 series champion whose five wins here is the most among active drivers, returned to finish 13th, one lap down.
Pole-sitter Todd Gilliland’s promising night took a hit when he spun out of the lead on a restart on Lap 69 and whacked the backstretch wall. Gilliland, who qualified on-pole at 184.761 mph earlier Friday, was pushed to the pits after his No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota sustained heavy right side damage that disabled the battery.
“I got loose on the bottom and it’s not a lot of fun when it happens,” the third generation driver said. “I think we executed good until that. We qualified on-pole, but it still sucks we’re out of this race. I thought we were going to have something for ’em tonight. I need to be more patient, get smarter. We’ve got an important stretch coming up and need to keep the morale up.”
IndyCar Series Recap
Two late-race cautions set up a 13-lap dash to the checkered flag where Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden fended off multiple challenges from Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi to take the victory in the IndyCar Series DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The driver of the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Chevrolet crossed the finish line 0.8164-of-a-second ahead of Rossi’s No. 27 Capstone Honda. The win was Newgarden’s 13th IndyCar Series victory and third this year, his fourth oval win but first on a superspeedway. The Henderson, Tenn., native extended his lead in the series point standings to 25 ahead of Rossi after nine
of 17 races.
“These guys, man; they keep putting me out front. I’m just trying to get it done in the end,” said Newgarden. “I knew we had a rocket ship; it was just about getting to the front. We were better in the front than we were in the back. It’s just a good day to capitalize on some points. These guys put me in position, so it’s all up to them.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal was third, rookie Santino Ferrucci finished a career-best fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who led the most laps (90), finished fifth. The balance of the top-10 finishers were Simon Pagenaud, Marcus Ericsson, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power and Marco Andretti.
The race ran caution-free through the first 135 laps when Zach Veach tagged the wall coming off Turn 2 and fought to maintain control of his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda before finally coming to a stop sideways in Turn 3.
James Hinchcliffe brought out the second caution on Lap 220 when, while running in the fifth position, he, too, hit the wall exiting Turn 2. His No. 10 ARROW SPM Honda then hit the inside retaining wall before coming to a halt, leaving Hinchcliffe with a 19th-place finish.
The third and final caution of the 248-lap race occurred on Lap 228 between defending DXC Technology 600 champion and five-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 9 PNC Bank Honda and Colton Herta in the Harding Steinbrenner Racing No. 88 GESS Honda. Dixon led heading down the backstraight but Herta went low entering Turn 3, getting just below the white line. The two made contact and ended up together in the outside retaining wall. Both were uninjured and Dixon later accepted blame for the contact.
Newgarden was one of the last competitors to pit at the 200-lap mark, and the strategy paid off. The Team Penske pit crew perfectly executed a stop on Lap 203, which allowed Newgarden to keep his lead and hold it for the final 45 laps. He did so, however, only after holding off Rossi down the front straight and into Turn 1 lap after lap.
“He (Rossi) was fast,” said Newgarden. “Honestly, he ran a great race. Both him and (Scott) Dixon ran me fair at the end. It was hard to get away on the restart. That was my biggest concern was just getting the jump getting back going again. And, he was good, man. He was just hard to hold off. He was so good in dirty air. I saw him earlier in the race how good he was behind people, so I knew it was going to be tough. It was really going to be tough.”
Newgarden is the 21st different winner in 31 IndyCar Series races held at Texas Motor Speedway since the track opened in 1997.
Hunter-Reay led the most laps but a four-stop pit strategy forced the driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda to pit for fresh tires during the final caution in an effort make a valiant charge from 10th during the 13-lap run to the finish.
Pole winner Takuma Sato led the first 61 laps but overshot his pit box while coming in for service under green-flag conditions. His No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda struck a crew member and came to rest against the wall, making it impossible for his crew to work on the car. Sato was assessed a stop-and-go penalty that, along with all the extra time on pit road, put him four laps down to the leaders and was not a factor again. He finished 15th. Crew member Chris Welch was evaluated at infield care center and released.