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NASCAR Recap: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

The Monster Energy Cup Series made their way to Texas Motor Speedway to conclude a busy two days at the track. For the first time since March, a NASCAR points-paying race happened with fans in the stands. Under command from Terry Bradshaw, the field of 40 Cup Series drivers fired their engines and rolled off to begin the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

Stage 1:

At 12:20 pm PST, pole-sitter Aric Almirola led the field to green with Ryan Blaney to his inside. Almirola held the lead to complete Lap 1 with Blaney safely in second. Lap 20 slowed the first portion of Stage One. During the first caution of the day, the lead lap cars split in regards to strategy; Almirola stayed out while Blaney came to the pits for service.

Almirola and Kevin Harvick brought the field back to green on Lap 26. Though initially holding the lead, Almirola quickly fell into the clutches of Harvick as he surrendered the lead. As the leader had to get out of the gas, Almirola surged past Harvick to retake the lead on Lap 56. For the cars that did not pit under the competition caution, green-flag pitstops began with Harvick and Almirola pitting on Lap 64. Trying to exit the pits, Almirola suffered a pit road penalty for a blend-line violation. Truex Jr. then slowed going down the backstretch as his car ran dry on fuel.

The set of drivers that pitted under the competition caution began their green-flag pit stops around Lap 90. With the second round of green-flag stops complete, the leader cycled back to Ryan Blaney. With five laps left in the stage, Brendan Poole littered debris on the apron with a flat tire. Blaney led the field to the green-and-white checkered flag and won the first stage. Once pitstops were completed, Blaney and Kyle Busch led the field back to green.

Stage 2:

After a prolonged side-by-side battle, Kyle Busch came away with the lead over Blaney. On Lap 117, Jimmie Johnson brought out the caution as he exited Turn Four and smacked the wall hard, suffering significant right-side damage. Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney brought the field back to green on Lap 122 with Busch holding the lead. Christopher Bell got high in Turn Four and slapped the outside wall, suffering some damage. With no caution displayed, Denny Hamlin powered by Busch for the lead. A few laps later, Blaney was able to take the lead back by passing Hamlin.

As the race hit the halfway point of Stage Two, the drivers who pitted around Lap 90 began making their green-flag pitstops. Once the current round of green-flag pitstops completed, Kevin Harvick regained the lead. Harvick then relinquished the lead back to Almirola as he made his green-flag pitstop. Almirola hit pit road not long after for service with Truex Jr. in command of the race. By Lap 190, Truex Jr. made his pitstop, giving the lead to Ryan Blaney. Uncontested, Ryan Blaney took his second green-and-white checkered flag of the day by winning Stage Two. All lead lap drivers made their way onto pit road and got everyone on the same pit strategy.

Stage 3:

Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski brought the field back to green on Lap 218 to begin Stage 3. Blaney drifted up high with Logano having to get off the throttle. In the ensuing logjam, Kyle Busch got turned into Martin Truex Jr. Truex Jr. slammed the outside wall with multiple other drivers getting collected, including William Byron, Cole Custer, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The field came to a halt under a red-flag condition to clean up the wreck.

After an extended period under the red-flag condition, the race resumed under a yellow-flag period. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin brought the cars back to green on Lap 225. Keselowski held the lead with Hamlin in hot pursuit. By Lap 232, Hamlin was able to mount a charge on Keselowski. Hamlin was able to take the lead from Keselowski after battling side-by-side for multiple laps with Blaney taking over second.

Not content with second place, Blaney took the lead from Hamlin by Lap 239. The sixth caution of the day came out on Lap 243 as John Hunter Nemechek spun coming out of Turn Two. The top four cars stayed out, while all other lead-lap cars came down pit road for tires and fuel. Blaney led the field back to the green, keeping Hamlin in the second position. Not long after the restart, the seventh caution came out as Ty Dillon made contact with William Byron, sending both drivers into the outside wall.

Ryan Blaney brought restarted the race on Lap 256 with Hamlin to his outside. Blaney led the field with Hamlin following, Almirola having clawed his way back to third and Matt DiBenedetto in fourth. After a stretch of green-flag runs, some of the leaders came to pit road under green beginning with Chase Elliott as less than 47 laps remained in the race. Among drivers playing a different strategy, Logano, Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Erik Jones held off pitting in the hopes of a caution. That hope paid off as Quin Houff looked to be pitting and got clipped by Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto, sending Houff hard into the outside wall.

Once the remaining drivers pitted, Tyler Reddick assumed the lead with Austin Dillion on the inside. Dillion surged ahead as the leader with Reddick taking up the second position. As the two Richard Childress cars began to accumulate a large gap, the ninth caution came out as Hamlin spun into Alex Bowman with 16 laps in the race. With a front-row filled with cars from the RCR stable, the race resumed with 11 laps to go. Dillon took the lead with Reddick following and Kyle Busch in third. Denny Hamlin did not want the race to end as he spun down the front stretch grass, bringing out the tenth caution.

Setting up for a two-lap shootout, Dillon took the inside line with Reddick on the outside. Austin Dillon shot out to the lead with the battle for second behind him. As Reddick, Logano, and Busch battled, Dillon was able to hold serve and delivered the first 1-2 finish for Richard Childress Racing since 2011. With the victory, Austin Dillon punched his ticket to the 2020 NASCAR playoffs.

Texas Motor Speedway and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 delivered a solid race that mixed long, green-flag runs with multiple restarts to balance the race. From having a “big one,” to watching multiple drivers battle for the lead, to Austin Dillon’s first win of the season, this week’s race had a lot to offer. What did you think of today’s race?

This Thursday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series visits Kansas Speedway.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a die-hard fan of the Detroit Red Wings and the New Orleans Saints. He has watched NASCAR since he was a kid and knows a little about a lot of sports.

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