Race 6 of 33: Texas 300 at Texas Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval / 200 laps
Weather: Clear, 63 degrees
Race Winner: Chase Elliott
Harvick's Finish: 4th
Earnhardt Jr.'s Finish: 5th
Smith's Finish: 7th
Chase Elliott became the second-youngest winner in NASCAR Nationwide Series history Friday night when he drove his No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet to victory in only his sixth race. In turn he became the championship points leader after six of 33 races and holds a slim a two-point advantage over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith.
At the age of 18 years, four months, and seven days, Elliott’s meteoric rise to victory falls second only to Joey Logano, who won at Kentucky Speedway in 2008 at the age of 18 years and 21 days. Elliott’s victory in only his sixth race matches the number of starts it took to win in the NASCAR Camping World Series last season.
Unlike Logano in 2008, Elliott’s victory Friday night came against NASCAR Sprint Cup’s finest, including Kyle Busch, the all-time NNS wins leader with 64, and JR Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick, both with two NNS championships each.
Harvick dominated by leading 101 of 200 laps, but a power move by Elliott with 15 laps to go put the NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet out front. It was set up on a lap-178 restart with Elliott tucked behind Harvick’s No. 5. Better on short runs, Elliott stalked Harvick’s bumper for several circuits around the 1.5-mile speedway before bolting to the outside on lap 185 and completing a swift pass for the lead. With “clean air” on the nose of his car – or the lack of turbulence from cars ahead hindering his overall speed – Elliott was able to stretch his advantage to 2.6 seconds by the time the checkered flag waved.
Elliott led a career-best 38 laps. With the exception of Busch, it was Elliott’s own teammates that posed the biggest threat, as JRM cars led 154 of 200 laps Friday night. Busch finished second, Kyle Larson third, Harvick fourth and Earnhardt Jr. fifth. Smith placed seventh to put all four JRM entries among the top-seven finishers.
Elliott’s win gives JR Motorsports two victories in six races this season, as Smith took the checkers in the season-opening race at Daytona. Elliott finished 15th that day and since has been on a tear with five consecutive top-10 finishes.
Chase Elliott, driver No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team
“This is just unbelievable! This means the world to me to be here, and I have to thank NAPA AUTO PARTS, everyone at JR Motorsports, and all the fans. None of this would be possible without their support. I also have to thank my teammates. This was my first time racing at Texas. I went to Kevin Harvick for a lot of advice this week and to pass him for the lead – I just can’t believe it.
“That last restart was one I knew I had to capitalize on. I actually spun my tires, but so did Kevin, which kind of kept the front row even and worked in our favor. Once the restart sorted itself out, I tucked in behind the No. 5 car and at that point it was a matter of me hitting my marks in order to have a shot at the lead. To win a race you have to have things go your way and fortunately they did for us tonight.
“It meant a lot to me that I was able to share the moment with my mom and dad. That means the world to me.”
Kevin Harvick extended his top-five streak with JR Motorsports with a fourth-place finish in Friday night’s Texas 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. The finish came on the heels of Harvick earning his 25th career pole award and leading a race-high 101 laps.
From the drop of the green flag, Harvick and his No. 5 Hunt Brothers Pizza team cemented themselves as the team to beat, jumping out to a six-second lead before the race’s first caution at lap 42. With only minor adjustments needed, Harvick went on to lead the opening 85 laps before losing a wheel weight on the right-front tire causing his Chevrolet’s handling to deteriorate rapidly. He was able to remain in the top five despite the issue.
After dropping to fifth, Harvick slowly began his climb back towards the top spot while battling JR Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott and Regan Smith throughout the latter stages of the race.
Before entering the pits for the final time during a lap-170 caution, Harvick worked his way back to fourth while running the fastest lap times of anyone on the track. A lightning-fast pit stop by the Hunt Brothers Pizza crew boosted Harvick three positions to the lead for the final restart with only 23 laps remaining.
Harvick grabbed the lead on the restart while trying to fend off Elliott’s hard-charging No. 9 car. In the end, Elliott was too much to handle as he took the lead and cruised to his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory in only his sixth start. Harvick was left to battle Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, who were able to take second and third, respectively.
Elliott, an 18-year-old rookie, led a dominant JRM contingent which placed four cars in the top seven, including Earnhardt Jr. in fifth and Smith in seventh. The team combined to lead 154 of 200 laps.
Kevin Harvick, driver No. 5 Hunt Brothers Pizza team
“We just lost the handle. For whatever reason, our Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevy went really tight the last two runs and could not do anything to get up off the corner. I fought as hard as I could there at the end with Chase. I’ve just got to say thank you to everybody at JR Motorsports. I think the efforts really show up more and more every week. Chase is a young man who is just a ball of enthusiasm that doesn’t know any better. He’s had good teaching and does a really good job in the race car. He’s been a lot of fun to work with on a week-to-week basis. I’ve just got to congratulate him and everybody. This is a group effort for everybody that does what they do on this JR Motorsports team.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took home a fifth-place finish in Friday night’s Texas 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. The finish marked Earnhardt Jr.’s second top-five finish in only three NASCAR Nationwide Series starts this season and his fourth consecutive top-five in NNS competition on 1.5-mile tracks dating back to last season.
Earnhardt Jr., along with his JR Motorsports teammates, held a stranglehold on four of the top-seven positions early in the race with the No. 88 Ragu Chevrolet showing as high as second. After fluctuating between second and fifth while fighting an ill-handling car, Earnhardt Jr. began his climb to the top spot after the halfway point.
Earnhardt Jr. bypassed Chase Elliott for the race lead at lap 154 and cruised to a nearly three-second lead before the race’s final caution at lap 170 brought teams to pit road for the final time.
Earnhardt Jr. entered the pits as the leader but left in third for the final 23-lap stint to the checkered flag. On the ensuing restart, Kyle Busch found room under Earnhardt Jr.’s Chevrolet in turns one and two, forcing the No. 88 into the middle of a three-wide situation. The move resulted in Earnhardt Jr. dropping to fifth where he would finish the race.
Elliott raced to his first career NNS win in only his sixth career start followed by Busch, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver No. 88 Ragu team
“We just got too tight there on that last run. I’m pretty disappointed we weren’t able to get up there and race with Chase and Kevin for the win. I’m really proud of Chase getting his first win and everybody from JR Motorsports. We unloaded four great race cars and really performed well tonight.”
Regan Smith took his best qualifying effort of the season and leveraged it into a seventh-place finish in Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Smith showed a strong hand in the No. 7 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet from the outset of the race, pressuring leader Kevin Harvick in the opening laps. Soon after, Smith patiently settled into a long green-flag run and occupied a spot among the top-five until lap 40.
The TaxSlayer team never fell lower than seventh, as crew chief Ryan Pemberton made calls to help alleviate a loose condition at the halfway point. The race’s final caution flag flew on lap 170, with Smith lining up in sixth for the ensuing restart. After intense three-wide racing, Smith was shuffled back to eighth. He then mounted a steady charge, but with laps dwindling he could only regain a single position to finish seventh. The finish marked his sixth consecutive top-10 finish to open the season.
Smith’s rookie teammate Chase Elliott went on to secure the victory. He was followed to the line by Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and JRM teammates Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The effort capped an impressive outing by JRM’s four-car team. All four of its team cars finished inside the top-10 and combined to lead 154 of the race’s 200 laps.
Regan Smith, driver No. 7 TaxSlayer.com team
“It’s awesome for Chase. Such a huge night for him and all our partners at JR Motorsports - TaxSlayer on our car and NAPA on his car. I’m proud of him. He’s shown how great a racecar driver he is already in his short career. I’d say that’s the guy we’re going to have to battle for the championship all year long.
“It was a good night for us. The last restart wasn’t what we needed, got caught three wide there and lost a bunch of spots. By the time we starting to fight back and click them back off, it was too late and there wasn’t enough racing left. I’m proud of my guys on this TaxSlayer team. We struggled a little but rebounded here. We’ll go on and go to Darlington.”