Who will win the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway? Storms overnight washed the track clean at Michigan International Speedway. Under partly cloudy skies the race will begin on a hot slick track. Denny Hamlin(11) starts from the pole position, teammate Kyle Busch(18) sits beside him on the front row. Kevin Harvick(4) starts 3rd.
Daniel Suarez(19) smacked the wall during qualifying Friday. His crew repaired the right side of the car, but he will have to start at the rear of the field. Suarez has a fast car. Can he overcome the horrible starting position to keep his playoff chances alive?
Joey Logano(22) came to pit road on the pace lap to change the left front shock. Crew Chief Todd Gordon gave the wrong information to the suspension man. The mistake was not noted until shortly before race time. Forcing Logano also to start at the back of the pack.
Hamlin drove away from Kyle Busch at the start. Erik Jones(20) complained of an ill-handling race car and things went wrong quickly. Jones spun exiting Turn 4 on Lap 8 bringing out the caution. He lost a lap nursing his car back to pit road with 2 flat tires.
Just after going back to green William Byron(24), ran into Martin Truex Jr.(78) off Turn 2. Both cars spun and brought out another caution. Byron’s car suffered enough damage to cause him to lose 2 laps making repairs. Truex Jr. had only minor body dents and was able to stay on the lead lap.
The incident was good news for Jones who got his lap back courtesy of the free pass. Due to the rain last night NASCAR had told teams they would wave a competition caution at Lap 25. Almost the whole field pitted. Chase Elliott’s(9) crew lost control of a tire that escaped their pit. Elliott was penalized and sent to the rear of the field for the restart.
Back to green and another contender, Kyle Larson(42), returned to the pits with a loose tire. The same issue brought Elliott in for an unscheduled pit stop. Both drivers went a lap down.
After the early race excitement, things settled down for the remainder of Stage 1. Harvick moved to the front and drove away from the rest of the pack. Stages at Michigan are 60/60/80, necessitating a stop for fuel during the course of each Stage.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
The Stage ending pit stops swapped some positions at the front of the field. Jimmie Johnson(48) exited the pits in 1st. Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney(12), Hamlin, and Harvick made up the top 5.
AJ Allmendinger swapped directions on the track as he spun entering his pits. Completely in his pit box, just facing the wrong way, the crew was able to service his car. Allmendinger turned the car around after pit road cleared.
Ryan Newman(31) cut a tire and spun. Bringing out the caution for the 5th time on lap 74. Most of the field, having reached their pit window for fuel, opted to come in for service. On lap 83, Erik Jones spun again. This time going around in turn two. The ensuing caution allowed the rest of the field to pit for enough fuel to finish the Stage.
The Big Three
After the restart and positions at the front settled down, the contenders were the “Big Three.” Truex Jr. led, Harvick, ran second, and Kyle Busch held down the 3rd spot. Harvick eventually moved to the front and held on to win Stage 2. Capturing another vital playoff point, his second of the day.
In a rare miscalculation, the Truex Jr. team ran out of fuel with 2 laps to go. The pits had been closed for the end of the Stage and Truex faced a penalty for an illegal pit stop. He also lost a lap to the leaders slowing down while getting back to pit road.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
The Final Stage
On Lap 131 Ty Dillon(13) hits some debris on the track. It was speculated that a battery may have been the object. Whatever it was, the damage took Dillon out of the race ripping through oil lines and steering linkage.
The Dillon caution allowed Truex Jr. to get back on the lead lap courtesy of the free pass. But, he was no longer in a position to contend for the win.
After a long clean-up delay, the race restarted on Lap144. Outside of the fuel window, meaning a fuel stop would be required to finish the 200 laps. Harvick showed his dominance driving away from the field during the final segment of the race.
Pit Stops for Fuel
With all teams needing to come to pit road for a splash of gas the only drama remaining was if a mistake would cost a contender a shot at the win. Harvick’s stop was flawless. By Lap 190 everyone had cycled through the pits and Harvick held a big lead over 2nd place Austin Dillon(3).
Dillon, the Daytona 500 winner, looked like he would post a runner-up top-5 finish. Then he reported a tire going flat coming to the white flag. Dillon was able to hold on for 4th place. Harvick won by 3+ seconds over Brad Keselowski(2), with Kyle Busch 3rd and Blaney in the 5th spot.
Victory Lane Celebration
Kevin Harvick shared a great family moment with the crowd bringing his son Keelan out to the start/finish line to join in the victory celebration. Keelan ran across the track to grab the checkered flag for his Dad. He then rode in the passenger side of the car waving the flag out the window. They drove past the grandstand and into victory lane with Keelan as the co-pilot.
The good times continued with Keelan in Victory Lane and in the media room for the winner’s interview. Keelan even took a few questions from the press.
Harvick’s Stage sweep and 7th Victory give him 40 playoff points in the bank. Kyle Busch has 35 and Truex Jr. has 27. Busch leads Harvick by 62 points in the season-long points race. With 3 races left before the start of the playoffs, Kyle is almost assured of capturing the regular season Championship.
Alex Bowman(88) the man on the playoff bubble in 16th position leads Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) by the same 62 point margin. Bowman will likely enter the playoffs on points. Unless a non-winner outside of the top 16 wins at Bristol, Darlington, or Indy. Given the difficulty of racing at those tracks, it’s a possibility.
Stayed tuned, The Lasco Press will be live this weekend at Bristol to keep you updated on all the on-track action.
Results of the Consumer’s Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway
|14||78||Martin Truex Jr.||24.345||200|
|18||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||31.679||200|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||842||4|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||480||0|