Each week, Greg Atkins and I examine our hot takes from the previous weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race and any burning topics leading up to the next week’s event.
Four takeaways from the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:
Biggest takeaway from Texas:
Atkins – Even after all the changes to Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson still reigns supreme. The victory was his seventh at the 1.5-mile track and his 81st career win. With four more victories, he will become the fourth-winningest driver in the history of NASCAR’s premier series.
Painter – NASCAR writers and fans have been buzzing over the last 24-48 hours about Ryan Blaney and I am no exception to that. Blaney seemed well on his way to claiming his first victory in the MENCS, but found some late race bad luck. Nevertheless, the second year driver seems poised to take the next step in his career by winning a race and that just might be on the horizon.
Thoughts on the new configuration and re-pave at TMS?
Atkins – Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of repaves. The new configuration is intriguing and could potentially lead to better racing once the surface ages in the Texas heat.
Painter – I actually don’t mind repaves. I think it presents the drivers with an added challenge, which at times seems necessary in the sport. It will be interesting to see how the track ages during the coming years.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s highest finisher was Kyle Busch in 15th, is the JGR speedway program in trouble?
Atkins – At this point in the season, absolutely. Their affiliate team Furniture Row Racing has consistently shown more speed and JGR is obviously behind where they were last year. They’ll need to use the next several months to improve their program before the playoffs start.
Painter – It certainly seems that they might be on the brink of trouble for sure. I think the next few events at Bristol and Richmond will serve as a better indicator as JGR as an organization traditionally runs well at those tracks.
Biggest surprise at Texas?
Atkins – As I stated before, the lack of speed from the Joe Gibbs Racing group on 1.5-milers this year is staggering. The group failed to lead a lap and performed miserably all day. Considering Texas hosts a playoff race, they will need to get to the bottom of their issues if they want to compete for the title at Homestead.
Painter – The track repave and reconfiguration has been well-documented, but I was very surprised still at all of the practice and qualifying incidents in both the XFINITY Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. There were a handful of drivers that this directly affected to the point of needing a back-up car for the race.
Fuel (bold prediction or statement) – Will Ryan Blaney win a race at a mile-and-a-half track this year?
Atkins – Possibly. He showed excellent speed on Sunday and could potentially contend for victories later this season. Charlotte has been historically kind to first-time winners, so that could be a possibility.
Painter – I think he is definitely on the verge of finding his way to victory lane. The technical alliance that his Woods Brothers Racing team has with Team Penske, will only improve with a little more experience, in my opinion. Given the success that Team Penske has enjoyed at mile-and-a-half tracks in recent years, it’s definitely possible for Blaney to score a victory at any of the remaining events in that category.