Kyle Busch grabbed the lead on the final yellow-flag pit stop and surged to the victory at Texas.
Busch and Martin Truex Jr. established themselves as the dominant cars in the 334-lap race, but it was Busch's pit crew that helped give him the edge for his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Texas.
"We had a great racecar, but if it wasn't for our pit crew, which is the most awesome group ever," Busch said. "Since 2008, we've been together and these guys are just awesome, pulling out a heck of a stop to give us the lead and put us in front to be able to bring it home."
Busch, who missed the Chase last season, climbed to third in the standings, trailing five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and defending champion Brad Keselowski. It was Busch’s second Cup win of the season and gave him a weekend sweep at Texas after he won Friday night’s Nationwide Series race.
It was a bittersweet season-best, runner-up finish for Truex Jr., who was looking to end a 209-race winless drought since his first career win in 2007 at Dover — a span of 210 races. He has now finished second six times since his only career Cup victory. The Roush Fenway Racing duo of Carl Edwards and defending race winner Greg Biffle finished third and fourth, respectively, while Joey Logano rounded out the top five.
Truex was understandably dejected after the race.
"Shoulda, woulda, coulda. That happened to us a few times last year too," he said. "It's just disappointing. The race was over when we got beat out of the pits. … It sucks. We had a car capable of winning. Man, I'm tired of finishing second. This is getting old."
With a sixth-place finish tonight at Texas Motor Speedway, five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Johnson continues to lead the point standings following the seventh race of the 2013 season.
The big drama started before the race when NASCAR confiscated the rear end housing on the two Penske Racing Ford Fusions. The teams of Keselowski and Logano face possible penalties this week for illegal parts.
Both drivers struggled early in the race before rallying and coming on strong at the end. Logano finished fifth and Keselowski wound up ninth.
Logano, who had to drop to the rear of the field because his team was late getting his car onto the starting grid, was thrilled with his fifth-place finish.
"It was too close for comfort for me," Logano said. "(Crew chief) Todd Gordon did a great job just keeping everybody under control and not getting overwhelmed by everything, focused in and just our car a lot better than it was.
"If you would have told me we would finish fifth today, I would give you a hug. I'm pumped up about this finish."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a bad break for the second straight week. He was running third when he suddenly dove to pit road on Lap 187 with a battery problem. He was then penalized for entering the pits too fast and had to serve a pass-thru penalty. He was then penalized again for changing tires on the penalty stop and had to serve another pass-through, putting him five laps down in 35th.
To make matters worse, Earnhardt could have switched to a backup battery instead of pitting but told crew Steve Letarte he didn’t think of it because the gauges were “going haywire.”
Earnhardt, who led the standings just two weeks ago, wound up finishing 29th and fell to sixth in points, 35 points behind Johnson.
A week after an impressive run at Martinsville Speedway, Danica Patrick struggled again at Texas, falling three laps down and finishing 28th.
Her boss, three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, also continued to struggle, finishing 21st to remain outside the top 20 in points.
Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Kansas Speedway on Sunday, April 21 (1 p.m. EST, FOX, MRN Radio and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90)—Race 8 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 15-17). The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 qualify to contend for the 2013 Sprint Cup Series Championship. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
Tickets for NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 15-17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale to the general public on May 1.