Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
2012 NASCAR Texas Race Recap
Muscle Mustangs on Friday, Fast Fords on Saturday
The "Cat In The Hat" couldn't have hoped for a better finish to the NASCAR weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. Roush Fenway-built Fusions and Mustangs were at or near the top of the speed charts whenever the Texas Motor Speedway went hot. Jack Roush topped off the weekend with a win in Sprint Cup, the Samsung Mobile 500 with Greg Biffle driving and in Nationwide with a win by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300.
Qualifying third in his 3M Filtrete Ford Fusion, it only took four laps for Biffle to take the lead under the lights Saturday night at the Texas Motor Speedway. Aggressive pit strategy by his competitors moved Biffle out of the lead during subsequent green flag pit stops to as low as fifth. Carl Edwards, in his Fastenal Ford Fusion, worked his way up to the top 10 after a disappointing 20th place start, but a questionable lug nut secure on the right rear forced the #99 crew and chief Bob Osborne to bring Carl back down pit lane for a second time to re-secure the wheel. Carl would drive his Fastenal Fusion back through the field a second time from 30th place to an eventual eighth place finish.
Great calls by Biffle's crew chief Matt Puccia, perfect execution by the 3M Pit Bulls and skillful driving moved Greg Biffle into second place, where he stayed for some time to size up his competition and save his tires for the end. Biffle finally dropped the hammer with 30 laps to go and passed five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson for the lead. He never looked back and cruised to his second career win in Texas. This win was the first Sprint Cup win for his new crew chief, Matt Puccia, who moved up to the top crew spot from Roush Fenway's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series organization.
"I am just thankful to get the opportunity to drive these cars as fast as they are," said Biffle. "Vegas we were off a little bit, and that ate at us a little bit because that's a good track for us. So we came here and really focused on our car to get it driving the best we could." Matt Puccia added "Looking ahead to the season, what we've built and what we have in front of us, we've got some good racetracks coming. We've got Kansas, Richmond, Talladega and Darlington and we look ahead and there's not one race I can't say we can't go and run good and be in contention to win every week, so we're looking forward to getting going the next part of this little stint."
The opening race on the Texas NASCAR weekend schedule was the Nationwide Series 200 lap race sponsored by Springfield, Missouri based O'Reilly Auto Parts on Friday night. Confidence was high in the Pure Michigan Mustang camp of 2011 Nationwide Series Champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his crew chief Mike Kelley. It should have been, as it only took Ricky one lap in each of the practice sessions to post a time that couldn't be beat by any other racer. The sun's heat and a very high wind during his qualifying run kept Ricky off the pole, but just four laps into the NNS race, the Pure Michigan Ford Mustang was out front where Stenhouse, Jr. remained for the next 45 laps.
It certainly wasn't a cruise for Stenhouse Jr., as he lost his radio during the first few laps and with that, his communication with his spotter and with Mike Kelley. Changing to his back-up radio cured the first problem, but then Ricky's tach started to jump back and forth between 4000 and 9000 rpm. He managed to judge his speed based on other competitors around and made it to his pit stall without speeding. By wiggling the wires behind the tach, he fixed that problem, but trouble wasn't over yet. A slow right front tire change during a later pit stop, traffic and overall balance of the car dropped Ricky back to sixth place before he started his march back up front.
"Mike kept making the right changes and trying to keep me calm as much as he could. Then that last restart, Mike decided to go with no changes which I wasn't fond of, but he knows what he is doing and that is why he gets paid to do that," said Ricky. "That last restart, it was crazy man. It was fun racing those guys. I had to drive it in turn three wide open with Denny on the left rear of us and got us a little bit loose but we managed to hang on and pull it off." Mike Kelly added "A big win for Ford and Jack and Pure Michigan and for Ricky. We pride ourselves on being a Nationwide only team and competing with a lot of Cup guys out there means a lot to us to get the win here."
Ricky was able to re-take the lead again on lap 177 and held it until a race restart on lap 194, when the #18 car got the jump going into Turn 1. It was short lived, as Ricky made it back around in turn 3 and regaining his lead for the final time and cruised to his second win of the 2012 Nationwide season. Ricky remains in second place in Nationwide points. Michael Annett drove a great race in his Pilot/Flying J Truck Stops Mustang, learning from one of the best, as he and Sprint Cup Ford regular David Ragan, making a rare appearance in the Mercury Marine sponsored Go Canada Racing Mustang, ran nose to tail for most of the race. Ragan ended up three spots ahead of Annett in sixth.
With these two wins, Roush teams have won 18 times at the 1.5-mile Texas oval with nine of those in NASCAR's premier series. Matt Kenseth brought his Best Buy Ford Fusion across the line in fifth place, moving him to second place in Sprint Cup Series points standings behind his RFR teammate Biffle. he next Sprint Cup is at Kansas Speedway.