BLANEY DOMINATES SECOND STAGE AT TEXAS

Ryan Blaney swept the first two stages in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday.

“We’ve had a really good car all race and it’s important to get stage wins,” Blaney said.

Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. all finished in the money.

Martin Truex Jr. led the field to green for the second stage, but Blaney passed the No. 78 going into Turn 1 and held the point for 146 total circuits in the first two stages. In the first five laps, Blaney and Harvick checked out followed by Truex, McMurray and Keselowski.

Erik Jones, who opted to take no tires on his pit stop, dropped from fourth to 13th and by Lap 100 was outside of the top 15.

“It’s all over the map,” said Jones.

On Lap 112, Truex passed Harvick and set his sights on Blaney. The Ganassi Racing drivers — Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five. Bowyer, Johnson, Elliott, Logano and Keselowski completed the top 10.

With 50 laps remaining in the stage, Blaney held a 2.8-second lead over Truex but radioed to the crew that his car was becoming looser. Harvick, McMurray, Larson, Bowyer, Johnson, Elliott, Keselowski and Logano rounded out the top 10.

One lap later, NASCAR called the fifth caution for debris.

“Took off kind of tight, eventually came in,” Blaney told the crew prior to coming to pit road on Lap 123. Blaney, who had led 100 laps at that point in the race, had only led a total of 33 laps in his career prior to Sunday.

Blaney led the field to green on Lap 126 followed by Truex, McMurray, Johnson, Bowyer, Earnhardt, Buescher, Kahne, Harvick and Larson. On Lap 132, Johnson passed McMurray for second.

With 200 laps remaining in the race, Blaney held a two-second lead over Johnson. With 190 laps to go, Blaney’s advantage was down to 1.7-seconds. McMurray ran third followed by Earnhardt, Larson, Elliott, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Bowyer and Keselowski.

The sixth caution was called on Lap 163 with 170 laps remaining in the race — seven laps to go in the stage. Seven cars stayed out on the track including Blaney, Johnson, McMurray, Elliott, Larson, Kurt Busch, and Kasey Kahne.

During the seventh caution — between stages — Blaney pitted from the lead. Larson, Johnson, Elliott, Busch, McMurray and Kahne also came in for service.

“Did they give out stage trophies down there,” Blaney asked. “Negative,” replied the team. Blaney said, “I’m jealous. I was going to let you keep one.”

Harvick, who pitted during the Lap 164 caution and restarted seventh, had the lead when the race returned to green for the final segment. Keselowski, Truex, Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, Logano,  Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne and Chris Buescher restarted in the top 10.

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