Hunter Richardson ended a 52 race winless streak after taking the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway, his first victory since a win in the 2014a season at Watkins Glen. Richardson took over the race lead following the final round of pit stops, beating teammate and runner up Philip von Borries off pit road. Josh Snyder, Joe Reynolds, and Jay Pfluke rounded out the Top 5.
Texas marked the second consecutive race where pit strategy would win the race, however, this time, it came down to who could pit sooner, or faster, than the other drivers. Without the aid of caution periods, any mistake on pit road would be costly.
Pole winner Alexi Alejandra led the opening six laps, and never saw the lead again once Philip von Borries took over the top spot, a position he’d yet again hold for much of the race – 217 laps to be exact – and would only give up to pit for fuel and tires.
A single caution waved during the first round of stops, setting up some interesting strategy for those that had pitted just prior, and were now trapped a lap down. Some were lucky enough to regain track position. Joshua Wilkinson and Ben Maloch, ND Racing teammates, were a prime example, as they lost a lap after the initial pit stop and caution. But by using pit strategy, coming in laps before the rest of the field, they were able to maintain their tail-end-of-the-lead-lap status, and rallied back to 10th and 13th respectively. Others, like Alejandra and John Williams weren’t as lucky, remaining a lap down the rest of the race.
The final two pit stop cycles of the race were key in the finish. In both, Philip von Borries’ pit crew ran into issues. In one stop, the right front tire was caught in the wheel well and took extra time to change. The final stop saw the rear tire changer struggle with getting the lug nuts tight on both rear wheels. Both stops cost the #4 Cabanilla-Haas driver time on pit road, and the lead. While there was time to rebound after the first issue – Von Borries retook the lead from Richardson at lap 301 – there wasn’t enough laps for him to get back to the lead after the second, but he got close.
Lapped traffic wasn’t easy to deal with all night, and allowed Von Borries to close a more than 2 second gap at one point down to within a couple car lengths with just 7 to go. But traffic was more of an issue for Von Borries afterwords, and just enough to maintain a half second gap behind Richardson.
Richardson had a sizable lead on the rest of the field. Snyder, who finished third, was nearly five seconds behind, while Joe Reynolds and Jay Pfluke ended up over nine and twelve seconds behind by the time the checkered flag fell. The last few cars to finish did so under caution, as a crash involving Nick Dilbeck and Kirby Ammons collected Blake Turner, Joseph Tanner, Tyler Itell and Cindi Warner.
The win moves Richardson up three spots to 2nd in points, behind teammate Von Borries, and makes him the sixth driver to qualify for the final 10 race Chase for the Championship. A few other drivers saw large point swings as well. Matthew Adams who had mechanical issues and some hood damage, finished 41st, 7 laps down, and lost six spots. 42nd place finisher Leigha Reid lost the most spots this week with 10. Reynolds and Pfluke gained seven spots a piece, the most gained this week, moving to 19th and 21st respectively.
The series begins the Short Track Swing, with Bristol, followed by Martinsville and Richmond before the series returns to Talladega.