Image Reference: Billy Hathorn via Wikipedia
A lot of racing turned out quiet, at least in the first half of the afternoon.
But a constant wave of mayhem and plenty of reset dials gave every chance for the Cup Series limited-budget drivers to deliver big where some of them performed very well.
And having survived from start to finish, a great result does mean the potential to come shortly.
Now it’s time to look at the Top 3 limited-budget Cup driver’s out of today’s O’Reilly’s Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
He fired off, not what he wanted, having dropped a few spots in and out of the Top 20 mark with not much progress for the rest of Stage 1.
Though, the Jimmie Johnson incident earlier in Stage 2 begun to have changed for the greater good of Bubba.
He gained a spot ahead of the next restart and ran quietly towards the halfway point with a great base in the Top 20.
And when someone ahead of Bubba unexpectedly gets hurt early, he gets the opportunity to sort things out.
He credits the cautions with no curse aimed against via a fantastic first Stage 3 restart, having survived a big crash into 14th and stayed quiet for the whole time with two spots gained in the end.
Plus, this equipment isn’t bad for Bubba to pull it off considering the support supplied from Richard Childress Racing, who also had a durable 1-2 finish with Austin Dillon as the winner & Tyler Reddick settling for the runner-up spot.
McDowell formed a great set up at the start regarding gaining track position and maintained his run within the Top 25 for the rest of Stage 1.
Initially, the Jimmie Johnson caution immediately during the first restart of Stage 2 may have held back a bit.
But he did make up some lost time and ran quietly with nothing much changed in the lead up towards the halfway mark on 27th.
On the run home, things have turned a corner for McDowell.
When the first multi pile-up came out, he jumped a few spots to 23rd as the red flag put racing on hold for a while to clean up the mess.
He may still be running a lap down for a while at least in the 1st half of Stage 3 before another series of cautions earned him the lucky dog.
In the end, he enjoyed a fantastic run with the superior race car as well as maintaining track position via the clean air that saw him merit P15 after the race.
He fired off well from 36th to 31st within the first 5-10 laps before making up another two spots by the competition caution break.
For the rest of this caution-free opener, nothing much has changed from his end in the No.32 Ford Mustang.
The early caution from Jimmie Johnson saw him gain a spot having improved during the 2nd half of the second stage uninterrupted with two places up towards the halfway mark.
Fortunately, he avoided all the cautions, especially multi-pile up during the first restart of Stage 3.
That’s where he got his breakthrough in the Top 20.
He never slipped away from the lead lap, where his patience paid off alongside a good race car that helped him have an extended go further up the field.
Although, he may have fallen back a bit when most of the yellows during the last half of the afternoon saw McDowell overtaking him based on the lucky dog that earned him back the lead lap spot.
But it’s not wrong to see LaJoie pull off a Top 20 finish in 16th.
Enjoyed Corey LaJoie’s fantastic base that saw him escape the Top 30 mark in the beginning & stayed there for the 1st half of the afternoon.
It’s the ample time that made his race car look good mostly on green flag runs & had an extended chance within the Top 15.
At one point, LaJoie may have slipped away to McDowell due to him winning the free pass via a series of yellows, mainly in Stage 3.
But again, he married these two combinations up, stayed ahead of the lead lap, and did his best to seal another Top 20 finish, which is a job well done.
Kansas will be another intermediate track to target another decent result as long as he doesn’t get hurt on the way.
For Michael McDowell, he may have started slow and steady with nothing much changed, at least in the 1st half of the afternoon.
When a series of cautions came out & him surviving each one, it gives him a lifeline to sort things out, which proved correct.
Initially, he had to wait to get out of the lapped car zone as long as everyone else around him drops out early.
Then once it became successful, McDowell unpacked position by position to get ahead of the field as much as he can with decent equipment before he bounced back with another significant result in 15th.
He’s one of the experienced drivers at the top level and always puts up a fight inside the race car to show consistency and talent against other limited-budget and some elite-level organizations.
And on Bubba Wallace, he may not have run what he wanted earlier on.
But an early caution in Stage 2 began to see some progress having built a fantastic lead-in at P19 ahead of the final stage.
Then more drama on the drivers ahead of him gave another opportunity to finish off Bubba’s way while on the lead lap.
It’s the clean air combined with the decent equipment that assisted his qualities and talent inside the race car.
Now that he has a Top 15 run in his bag after Texas. He looks to join Austin Dillon and perform even more special.
He finished in the Top 5 before and can go one better to at last win a NASCAR Cup Series race for a fantastic organization like Richard Petty Motorsports.