Parks Pit Report: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

New pavement, new configuration, but a familiar winner on Sunday.

In the world of racing, especially when it comes to asphalt or concrete tracks, having to do a repave is a necessary evil.  It means that the racing surface has gotten to the point where either it’s unsafe to run any more races on, or the track wants to make a change to take the racing to the next level.

Sometimes this is good, and other times it backfires.

Daytona got repaved in 2011, after a season where the big highlight was a huge hole being developed in the first and second turn.  Michigan and Pocono got new asphalt a few years ago, making each absolutely wicked fast, even for a pair of tracks that were seeing 200 MPH already.

Then there’s Bristol, which got new concrete in 2008, but also added in progressive banking.  The result…side by side racing, on a short track.  Not exactly what Bristol has been known for, and the fans have shown that it’s not the same Bristol that sold out the grandstands for nearly 20 years.

Darlington even repaved it’s historically gritty asphalt, but the character stayed the same.

This year was to be the final running at Atlanta on the current surface, which has been used since 1997.  However, drivers pleaded to keep the surface at least one more season because they love the old surface, and how it wears out tires in order to put the race in the driver’s hands.

Sunday’s race at Texas was the first on the newly repaved track.  But, Texas officials decided to also reconfigure the track.  The speedway is still 1.5 miles in length, but what the crew did was decrease the banking in turns 1 and 2, while keeping it the same in turns 3 and 4 as the prior setup.  This meant the track had completely different handling characteristics on either end, similar to how Darlington is with it’s unique shape.

What the track showed is that for a long while, even on new pavement, it was one-groove.  It wasn’t until late when the second groove began developing, and drivers had to search around for a faster way around the track.

Personally, I like the new setup with the different corner banking; it makes the driver have to decide which end of the track is the best for their car, and how to adjust to find the correct balance.

When it was all done, Jimmie Johnson once again won at Texas, his seventh at the track.  It seems no matter how the track is set up, or whether it’s run in the daylight or under the lights, he’s the one that wants to fire off the six-guns at the end of the day.

Giddy up Mr. Seven-Time Champ.

STAGE 1 WINNER:  Ryan Blaney

STAGE 2 WINNER:  Ryan Blaney

RESULTS:  1-Johnson  2-Larson  3-Logano  4-Harvick  5-Earnhardt Jr.  6-Keselowski  7-McMurray  8-Truex Jr.  9-Elliott  10-Kurt Busch

NOTABLE FINISHES:  15-Kyle Busch  26-Newman

CAUTIONS:  8 for 35 laps.   4-5 (Debris-FS); 11-15 (#15, 23, 33 Incident-T2); 32-36 (Competition Caution); 87-92 (Stage 1 Conclusion); 123-126 (Debris-FS); 165-167 (Debris-T1); 172-177 (Stage 2 Conclusion); 301-304 (Debris-T3).
LEAD CHANGES:  16 among 6 drivers.   Harvick 1-15, Blaney 16-32, Harvick 33-36, Blaney 37-88, Truex Jr 89-92, Blaney 93-125, Truex Jr 126, Blaney 127-172, Harvick 173-219, Keselowski 220-223, Logano 224-228, Truex Jr 229-272, Johnson 273, Logano 274-290, Harvick 291-301, Logano 302-317, Johnson 318-334.

TIME OF RACE:  3 Hrs, 24 Mins, 18 Secs.

AVERAGE SPEED:  147.137 MPH

MARGIN OF VICTORY:  0.34 Seconds

POINT STANDINGS (Points/Behind Leader [Playoff Points]):  1. Larson, 315 [6]*; 2. Elliott, -17 [2]; 3. Truex Jr, -40 [9]*; 4. Keselowski, -41 [10]*; 5. Logano, -72 [1]; 6. Blaney, -91 [2]; 7. Kyle Busch, -104 [1]; 8. McMurray, -106; 9. Bowyer, -111; 10. Harvick, -117 [3]; 11. Johnson, -125 [5]*; 12. Bayne, -151; 13. Newman, -152 [5]*; 14. Jones, -156; 15. Kurt Busch, -164 [5]*; 16. Hamlin, -164.

*2017 Race Winner

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