Races 7-12 at Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, Dover and Kansas on the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit have been filled with action, drama and challenging moments as MENCS drivers and teams continued to fight for victories and maximum points, while figuring out how best to maximize performance with the new aero package the series runs on all tracks, with occasional variations based on the specific track.
The 2019 Aero Package in the MENCS features are as follows:
- Taller spoiler from 2.375 inches to 8 inches
- Longer front splitter from 0.25 inches to 2 inches
- Wider radiator pan now 37 inches wide
- Air Ducts and a smaller Tapered Spacer are included on 1.5 mile tracks and longer
Texas Motor Speedway
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway was won by Denny Hamlin from Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin led 45 of the 334 laps, winning the second stage en-route to holding off Stewart Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez, respectively. Hamlin’s JGR teammate, Erik Jones, rebounded from a spin coming off Turn 2 on Lap 16, coming away with enough damge to fall a lap behind for a large portion of the first half of the race. However, Jones was able to claim the free pass on the caution to end Stage 2. The race showcased a handful of exciting moments showcasing the “pack-like” racing, particularly just after the five restarts during the race. The progressive banking at TMS, and the corner challenge of inside cars getting loose underneath a driver against their outside, led to edgy driving, because in those situations, both drivers faced a higher potential risk of a crashing. The win by Hamlin was his second since the season-opening Daytona 500.
Bristol Motor Speedway
The Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway was won by Kyle Bush, with his brother, Kurt Bush, finishing as the runner-up. The race quickly saw action with a five-car wreck on the backstretch on Lap 3. That incident collected eventual winner Kyle Bush, along with Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., William Byron and Ryan Preece. The accident appeared to significantly hamper the push for Kyle Bush to earn another win at BMS, but he was able to rally from cosmetic damage to lead 71 of the 500 laps to earn the checkered flag. Following that caution, a 31 lap green-flag run commenced where we started to see strong side-by-side racing, with the top groove clearly showing to be the dominant line around the Tennessee bullring. The second caution of the day flew on Lap 39, on the front straightaway, with a crash collecting Chase Elliott, Ryan Preece and Corey Lajoie, who saw the incident end his day. While there was a lot of side-by-side racing all day, the two dominators of the event were Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. Blaney was credited with a fourth-place finish, after leading the most laps on the day at 158. Logano was just behind his teammate in the final laps led column, finishing the day with 146 laps out front, ending the day with a third-place finish. Elsewhere, the winless season of race challenges continued for Kyle Larson. Larson finished 19th after two single car wrecks in caught him in trouble. Larson’s first spin came in Turn 2 on Lap 416. Later, on Lap 479, Larson blew a tire, colliding with outside wall in Turn 3. Up next for the MENCS was another Joe Gibbs Racing win, this time on a short track, in dominating fashion.
The Toyota Owners 400 under the lights from Richmond Raceway was dominated by Martin Truex Jr. Truex led 186 of the 400 laps, securing the victory for his first-career win at the Virginia short track. Truex was followed by runner-up Joey Logano. Clint Bowyer finished third, while Bowyer’s teammate, Kevin Harvick finished fourth, with Denny Hamlin rounding out the Top-5. The two cautions for wrecks were on Lap 129 when Kyle Larson wrecked entering Turn 1. Larson finished last in the running order after the incident. Then, on Lap 244, Michael McDowell became only the second driver to suffer a DNF in the race when he hit the wall in Turn 1, finishing in the 36th position. The restart led to a final 148 lap green-flag run to the finish. Up next for the Monster Energy Series came the always unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway
The 2019 Geico 500 from Talladega Superspeedway was a pivotal race, both on and off the track. Chase Elliott scored his first-career win at the massive Alabama speedway. Elliott was followed across the line by two other up-and-coming Monster Energy Series drivers. Elliott’s teammate, Alex Bowman finished in the runner-up position, helping to solidify the first win for Hendrick Motorsports in 2019. Finishing third was JTG-Daugherty Racing rookie, Ryan Preece. The track that’s known for wrecks referred to as “The Big One”, this race saw only three multi-car wrecks, with the largest incident collecting six cars. The first accident came on Lap 12 entering Turn 1. That incident collected Darrell Wallace Jr., Michael McDowell, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Matt Tifft. When the race restarted, 120 laps went by before the next caution for debris, excluding the Stage 1 & 2 cautions. On Lap 183, jockeying on the backstretch led to a five-car wreck that collected Aric Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., Justin Haley, Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto. After only three laps of racing following the restart, on the final lap, another backstretch accident collected five competitors, including Kyle Larson. Larson got airborne and ended up barrel-rolling. Larson exited his mangled car soon after to the applaud of fans. Other drivers collected in the crash were Ricky Stenhouse Jr., William Byron, David Ragan and Jeffrey Earnhardt. After the inches apart for 500 miles racing at Talladega, the event also doubled as the final time cars would use restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega. When the MENCS returns to Daytona and Talladega later this year, the restrictor plate will be replaced by the tapered spacer. Next on the schedule for the Cup Series, the short, concrete track, Dover International Speedway.
Dover International Speedway
The Gander RV 400 at Dover International Speedway was won by Martin Truex Jr. on Monday after rain postponed the scheduled start. Following Truex was Alex Bowman, who finished as the runner-up for the second week in a row. Kyle Larson finished third, Kevin Harvick, fourth, with Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott claiming fifth. There were only three single car spins during the race, with no DNF’s on the day from crashes. Truex led 132 laps on the day. That laps led count was second to only Elliott, who led the most laps at 145 out of the 400. Following the cautions, which included a competition caution due to the weather a day earlier, the 2019 aero package delivered tight racing, at some points, three-wide in the laps following restarts, which made the Dover race exciting. However, the excitement, wild moves and potential for chaos, climbed when the series came to the Midwest at Kansas Speedway, in a race that certainly didn’t disappoint.
The Digital Ally 400 from Kansas Speedway put on perhaps the best racing to date with the 2019 rules package. The 1.5 mile speedway, coupled with the new aero rules for the Cup cars, led to constant side-by-side racing, and huge drafts on competitors that led to some hair-raising jockeying for position all evening. Brad Keselowski came away with the win, followed by Alex Bowman, who scored his third-consecutive runner-up finish. Third was Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer, completing the first five finishing positions. Kevin Harvick, who led the most laps, 104 of the 271 laps, due to overtime, finished 13th. Bowman led the second most at 63. Keselowski won after spending only 12 circuits out front. The only caution for an accident during the race was on Lap 61 when Denny Hamlin spun off Turn 2. On Lap 264, Matt Dibenedetto’s Toyota brought out the caution that would lead to overtime, after leaking fluid in Turn 2. The two-lap shootout on the restart led to chaos with Jones blocking Bowyer, who was approaching quickly, on the high side. Bowyer’s momentum was broken, and he fell from third place back to fifth. After the race, Bowyer expressed his displeasure with Jones by making contact with his car on the cool-down lap. A conversation, in which both men argued over the block, then commenced between the two on pit road out of the cars. Jones felt like that was racing, while Bowyer thought he was raced dirty. At the end of the night, the Digital Ally 400 from Kansas Speedway showcased the excitement, both on and off the track, that the new aero package can deliver.
Coming next week, a traditional race recap of NASCAR’s two weeks in Charlotte, looking back at the All-Star Race and this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600.