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2017 Texas: NASCAR Monster Energy - Saturday Notebook
Posted by: ASkyler on Apr 08, 2017 - 05:18 PM
Feature Articles
2017 Texas: NASCAR Monster Energy - Saturday Notebook


By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

With lots of speed in the back of the field, Sunday’s race should be a free-for-all

FORT WORTH, Tex. – Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX) promises to be one of the most interesting Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races of the season—and not just because the repaved, reconfigured speedway will pose an enormous challenge to the top drivers.

When the green flag waves on Sunday a large percentage of the speed in the field will be coming from the rear. The Chevrolets of series leader Kyle Larson and of Hendrick Motorsports drivers Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne will start toward the back on owner points because their cars failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection in time to make a run during time trails.

 

Further expanding the contingent at the rear of the field are Kyle Busch, who hit the wall during opening practice and did not make a qualifying attempt; Erik Jones, who destroyed his primary car during practice and went to a backup; and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who spun during the first round of knockout qualifying, flat-spotted his tires and will start from the back on fresh rubber.

Those drivers will be trying to work their way forward as quickly as possible, and they’ll have the muscle to do so. Larson was second fastest to Brad Keselowski in Saturday’s first practice session. Earnhardt and Elliott were and fifth on the speed chart, all but guaranteeing a free-for-all when the race starts.

“I ain’t too worried about it,” said Earnhardt, who will start 37th on Sunday. “The race is pretty long. I don’t know what was wrong with our car going through tech, but if you don’t make it, you don’t get out there and I like that. I like the rules being the same for everybody.”

Though he clearly has a fast car, Larson acknowledged the difficulty in starting from the rear on the new Texas asphalt.

“I don’t know exactly what happened--we just didn’t make it through tech,” Larson said. “Yeah, this is not the place you want to not make it through tech. It will be really hard to pass, I think, on Sunday. Wherever we end up starting is going to hurt us.”

TREVOR BAYNE CLOBBERS THE WALL IN PRACTICE

Moments after posting the fastest lap in the first six minutes of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice on Saturday, Trevor Bayne lost control of his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and obliterated the car against the Turn 2 wall.

“Basically, I wrecked the best race car I ever had,” Bayne said after exiting the infield care center. “It’s really disappointing for me. I just got into the gray getting into Turn 1. I got the right rear just a little bit in the gray, and it was gone. As soon as that happens, you know you’re in trouble, but you can’t go back.

“We’ll just have to be really disciplined in the race not to make mistakes like that. Hopefully, the backup car is as good as the primary. They do a really good job at Roush Fenway Racing of making sure our cars are consistent. Man, I’m so proud of what we’re doing right now. It’s just frustrating that I had the best car I’ve ever had here and had an issue.”

Because he was forced to go to a backup car for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, Bayne will give up the 12th-place starting position he earned in Friday’s time trials and will take the green flag from the rear of the field.

Bayne got 11 laps in the backup car before the end of Happy Hour.

STENHOUSE WAS WILLING PARTICIPANT IN APRIL FOOL’S HOAX

When Danica Patrick pressed the button on Twitter last Saturday to announce her engagement to boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., social media blew up with the news—until word got out it was an April Fool’s joke. Stenhouse was in on the prank, but he had forgotten about it.

“I was out in the woods working after Martinsville practice, and she says, ‘Hey, it’s April Fool’s—I want to send something out,’” Stenhouse told reporters on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. “She said, ‘I’ve got this idea. Are you in?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I guess so. Let’s do it.’

“Then I was on the phone talking to somebody for 30 or 40 minutes, and my phone kept going off, and I wasn’t sure why it kept going off, and I forgot she had sent that out. Then I realized real quick what it was all about.”

Stenhouse said the joke hadn’t increased the urgency to make a bona fide proposal.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a ton of pressure, but I get it from fans a lot,” he said.


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