3 THINGS WE LEARNED AT TEXAS
1. Second, again
Kyle Larson was faster than winner Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps at Texas, but could not catch the seven-time Cup champ. So far this season, Larson has collected four second-place finishes. “I'd like to have five wins right now, but four seconds and a win isn't terrible,” he said.
2. Hey, Joe!
Joe Gibbs Racing is winless in its past nine starts going back to November 2016. The team that dominated the majority of last season has yet to be seen in 2017. Texas was particularly dreadful. The highest finishing JGR driver was Kyle Busch, who was scored 15th. Yikes!
3. No-win, win
Ryan Blaney, who finished 12th on Sunday, scored a no-win win at Texas. How is that possible? Blaney powered his Ford to the front in Stage 1 and Stage 2, collecting 20 points. He’s now sixth in points. “It definitely means a lot to everybody,” Blaney said.
3 THINGS TO WATCH
1. Turning loose
Jimmie Johnson said he plans to make the most of his week off from the NASCAR grind. “We're heading down into Mexico, taking a little Easter trip with some friends, and definitely get in some margaritas and some chips and guacamole and a sunburn. I doubt I'll be tan when I come back. I'm either red or white, so I'll show up with a nice sunburn at Bristol.” And you thought JJ was boring. Pssh.
2. Junior scores!
It took seven races, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally scored the long-awaited top-five finish he has been craving since the start of the 2017 season. The 42-year-old driver was fifth at Texas. “I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it’s nice,” Earnhardt said. “I know our fans are really pulling for us. Could have finished a little better; we will take top five.”
3. Nothing to see
This is the only weekend of the year where there is not a NASCAR national series race scheduled somewhere in the country. Yes, the Easter bunny carries a lot of weight in stock-car racing. The NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series will reconvene at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 21 for practice and qualifying. We won’t see the Camping World Truck Series again until the second week in May.
A couple questions we had to ask ourselves
Can Jimmie go back to his nap now until September?
GODSPEAK: After hearing about his trip to Mexico, he may have a hangover until September.
KEN’S CALL: Contractually speaking, no, but for all intents and purposes, why not?
Who should be glad to have next weekend off?
GODSPEAK: All of Joe Gibbs Racing, which will have another week to look for the winning formula.
KEN’S CALL: Denny Hamlin. Maybe the Easter Bunny will bring him some horsepower.
Who hates the off-week?
GODSPEAK: Ryan Blaney. He literally did everything but win the race at Texas. Momentum lost.
KEN’S CALL: Maybe Junior, since he finally found top gear at Texas. But then again, he loves free weekends.
QUESTIONS & ATTITUDE
Compelling questions... and maybe a few actual answers
Is Ryan Blaney sticking in top-10 all year?
After a 25th-place at Martinsville, it looked like the Wood Brothers team would leave the high altitude it's enjoyed early this season, but then came Texas: 148 laps led, two stage wins and, maybe best of all, actual disappointment with a 12th-place showing."It's not where you want to finish," he said. There have been days when the Wood Brothers would uncork champagne after finishing 12th, so that's a great sign, particularly to those out there who get warm fuzzies at the sight of the classic No. 21 Ford up near the front.
Any other back-patting?
You might be surprised, but an attaboy should be directed toward Kyle Busch. No, really. It's all relative, as they say. Look at the teamwide struggles at Joe Gibbs Racing — the other three drivers are 15th, 22nd and 23rd in points. Kyle has two of the team's top-fives, about 95 percent of its laps led, and is seventh in points. A rose among thorns. Not a brightly blooming rose, but a rose. Of sorts.
FEUD OF THE WEEK
RYAN BLANEY VS. COREY LAJOIE: Blaney used his No. 21 Ford to give LaJoie’s No. 83 Toyota a broadside shot in the closing laps at Texas, moments after LaJoie’s car had blocked Blaney’s racing lane.
GODWIN KELLY’S TAKE: Neither driver spoke of the incident in his post-race comments, but Blaney was clearly frustrated at the rookie, who is saddled on a slow horse this season.
1. Kyle Larson 315
2. Chase Elliott 298
3. Martin Truex Jr. 275
4. Brad Keselowski 274
5. Joey Logano 243
6. Ryan Blaney 224
7. Kyle Busch 211
8. Jamie McMurray 209
9. Clint Bowyer 204
10. Kevin Harvick 198
11. Jimmie Johnson 190
12. Trevor Bayne 164
13. Ryan Newman 163
14. Erik Jones 159
15. Kurt Busch 151
15. Denny Hamlin 151
17. Kasey Kahne 147
18. Aric Almirola 146
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 139
20. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 133
WHAT'S ON TAP?
CUP SERIES: Food City 500
SITE: Bristol Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
TV SCHEDULE: April 23, race (Fox, 2 p.m.)
XFINITY: Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300
SITE: Bristol Motor Speedway
TV SCHEDULE: April 22, race (Fox Sports 1, 12:30 p.m.)
GODWIN'S PICKS FOR BRISTOL
WINNER: Denny Hamlin
REST OF TOP 5: Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Larson
FIRST ONE OUT: Corey LaJoie
DARK HORSE: Danica Patrick
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: Clint Bowyer gets the trophy for having the most fun during this coming off-week.