Carl Edwards will lead the field to the green flag from the pole position tonight. Starting beside Edwards will be Brad Keselowski. Other drivers to keep an eye on in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 are Joey Logano starting seventh, Kyle Busch starting eighth, Kasey Kahne starting ninth, David Starr starting in 19th, Kenny Wallace in 22nd, and finally Elliot Sadler starting in the second row in third. The broadcast on ESPN2 just gave an interesting stat that the pole sitter has only one the Nationwide race one time in the past.
The cars are on the warm up laps and we are about ready to get the race underway. As the cars warm up and set pit road speed, a great crowd has gathered for at Texas for the race tonight. Having been a season ticket holder at Texas in the past, you can see a lot of empty seats on the front stretch, but trust me it is a big crowd for the Nationwide race. I would estimate the crowd tonight at 80,000 to 90,000 strong. One thing I do not miss about going to Texas, the traffic trying to go back down 114 to get home!
Lights are off on the pace car, and the green flag comes out and the field roars to life. Edwards jumps out front on the high side starting position and he will lead the first lap. From fifth on back the cars are two by two going back through turn one. The cars now begin to get single file and the search for the fastest groove will begin. Edwards has already run a lap roughly a half second faster than his qualifying speed.
Track temperature is a lot lower now than when the cars qualified. Edwards has run speeds about half a second faster than his qualifying lap. With the extra speed as well, Trevor Bayne is reporting that he is bumping the splitter on the track in the turns.
Ten laps into the race and Edwards has opened up a little bit more than a one second lead.
Lap 20 and Edwards continues to lead the race, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has cut Edwards lead to under one second. Just as I type that, Stenhouse Jr. loses some time and now the lead is back to 1.2 seconds. Things change in a hurry at Texas.
Lap 23 and out of turn four Stenhouse Jr. wheels his car to the front and past Edwards. I said it changes in a hurry. Edwards is now on the bottom side back in four looking to get the lead back. Stenhouse Jr. keeps Edwards behind him, but they both look equal at this time. Lap 28 and Kyle Busch has moved his car up to third place with a pass of Keselowski. Put Edwards back in the lead at the completion of lap 28.
Lap 32 and tire wear is starting to show. Average speed per lap is now just under 170 mph. Speeds at the start of the run were 174 to 175 mph.
Lap 39 and Keselowski is in the pits. This is a little bit early for a green flag stop, but he had issues with the car being wicked loose. Keselowski is not racing for points, so it makes sense to stop now and fix the car to keep it out of the fence. Being off sequence is not a bad thing when points do not matter, especially early in the race.
Lap 42 and move Busch into the second position.
Lap 45 and an update on the field, there are 17 cars on the lead lap. Leaders are picking it up and putting it down tonight. No cautions to this point. Average speed of the race is right at 172 mph.
Roughly lap 47 to 48 and green flag pit stops have started. Thank ESPN2 for being at commercial break when the stops began. Lap 51 and Edwards will bring his car onto pit road for tires and fuel. No problems for Edwards on his stop and he is back on the track. Slow stop for Stenhouse Jr. just behind Edwards. Mike Wallace penalized for too fast entering the pits and will have to serve a pass through penalty.
After pit stops, the top five is Edwards, Keselowski, Busch, Stenhouse Jr., and Kahne (Lap 57).
Lap 60 and Edwards is 2 mph faster than new second place driver Kyle Busch. Edwards is out to over a three second lead over Busch at this point.
Lap 68 and the caution flies for the first time as Robert Richardson Jr. spun off of turn two, avoided the wall, but left tire debris on the track. This caution will allow the opportunity for adjustments to be made on the cars. Leaders hit pit road for service. Edwards wins the race off pit road by about a foot over Busch, line’em up and get ready for the green to come back out.
Lap 73 and the race goes back to green and Edwards and Busch battle side by side through one. Edwards gets past Busch out of turn four to maintain the lead. Keselowski gets past Paul Menard coming out of turn two to move up to third. Three wide back in the pack through three and four. During the pit stops, Kahne was penalized for speeding and restarted back in the pack.
Lap 88 and the leaders are involved in a wreck. Tim Schendel loses a right front tire and might have tapped the back end of Edwards. Busch drives right into the back of Schendel and went directly into the turn two wall. The front end of Busch’s car and the right side are damaged. Busch took the car to the garage. Schendel did not do anything wrong, his tire gave way at the wrong time and Busch was the victim.
Lap 94 and the green is back out with Keselowski beating Edwards into turn one. Now we will get a chance to see how well Edwards runs in traffic. Move Logano into second and Edwards in third.
Halfway point of the race stats:
Leaders: 3 for 3 lead changes
Cautions: 2 for 10 laps
Average Speed: 142.195 mph
Lead Lap Cars: 17
Lap 102 and Edwards gets past Logano for second and Kahne is knocking on the door to pass Logano as well. Kahne has recovered nicely from the speeding penalty.
Lap 110 and Edwards has gotten back to the lead. Watching the scoring on NASCAR.com, Edwards has been laying down the fastest laps for some time now, not a surprise he caught Keselowski and got back to the point.
Lap 117 and Keselowski is hanging around with Edwards. Keselowski is only three or four car lengths behind Edwards as they work some lapped traffic.
Lap 123 and caution is out on the speedway for only the third time in the race. Scott Wimmer appears to have blown up the power plant in his car, and he will park for the night. Two sets of tires left in the pits for the leaders, gotta stop at this point and take tires and fuel. One more stop after this one and you can make it all the way. Edwards wins the race of pit road with Logano being the runner up off the road during the caution period.
Eighteen cars on the lead lap with Edwards leading the way bring the field back to life on lap 129. Edwards on the low side for the restart gets clear and leads off of turn two. Keselowski is in the second position now with Logano in third.
Lap 150 and the top five with 50 laps to go is Edwards, Keselowski, Menard, Logano, and Stenhouse Jr.
Lap 160 and Edwards continues to lead by roughly two seconds over Menard. Why do I now have the “Save Big Money at Menards” jingle in my head?
Lap 169 and the green flag stops start with Keselowski being the first in. Four tires and fuel going into the car on a stop that came seven laps early from the actual time they needed to stop.
Lap 174 and some more cars are now pitting for the last time tonight. Lap 176 and second place driver Menard is in for his final stop. Edwards remains on the track at this point. Lap 179 and leader Edwards is finally on pit road. It is going to be interesting to see how this all cycles out after stops.
Lap 184 and Edwards is in second because Michael Annett has not pitted yet. Edwards is opening up on Keselowski who is in third. Annett still has to pit before the end of the race.
Ten laps to go and Keselowski is within two car lengths of Edwards. Annett has now pitted and Edwards and Keselowski are battling for the lead.
Three laps to go now and Edwards has a three car length lead. It seems like Keselowski has saved the car for one last push.
No late caution, Keselowski made it somewhat interesting, but it is all Edwards tonight. Edwards leads a total of 169 laps tonight and takes the checkered flag. The top five finishers are Edwards, Keselowski, Menard, Logano, and Sadler.
A good race overall. There was a lot of green flag racing tonight, looking forward to seeing that the big boys do on the track tomorrow night.
Final race stats:
Leaders: 5 for 7 lead changes
Cautions: 3 for 15 laps
Average Speed: 147.902 mph
Lead Lap Cars: 14