Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the big gun in the opening and closing laps at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night as he scored another Roush Fenway Racing victory in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race.
RFR has won four straight Nationwide races at the 1.5-mile track.
Stenhouse Jr. led 45 of the race’s first 70 laps but dropped out of the lead pack on lap 48 after a long pit stop. His team lost key seconds when problems developed while the right-front tire was being changed.
Stenhouse rallied, however, and put himself in position to chase leader Austin Dillon in the closing portion of the race.
Dillon stayed on the track during the next-to-last caution period to take the lead when the rest of the front group pitted. That strategy kept Dillon in first place for five green-flag laps after full-speed competition resumed, but Stenhouse passed him easily with 23 laps to go to take the lead.
The caution appeared again with 13 laps to go when Kurt Busch’s engine exploded with Stenhouse in the lead.
The green flew for the final six laps of the race. Stenhouse was hit with a strong challenge from Denny Hamlin on the final restart, but he eventually pulled away to score a relatively easy win.
The victory was the second of the season for the defending series champion. He led 68 laps.
“Denny is a great race car driver, and I know when I am up there racing with those guys that I have my work cut out for me,” Stenhouse said. “They raced me clean, and Paul Menard raced me clean all night long, and it was a lot of fun up there racing with those guys. You can learn a lot from them.
“Whew! We finally got a cowboy hat at Texas. I love coming here. We finally finished off a race.”
Following Stenhouse Jr. were Menard (who led 100 of the 200 laps), Kasey Kahne, Hamlin and Dillon. In the second five were David Ragan, Justin Allgaier, Danica Patrick (with her best finish of the season), Michael Annett and Steve Arpin.
Elliott Sadler finished 12th and kept the point lead. Stenhouse Jr. is in second, four points behind. Dillon is third.
The race was delayed twice when an apparent circuit breaker failure caused lights in the turn-three area to go out. Officials stopped the race under a red flag to fix the problem.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.