Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI — June 9, 2019
Last June at Michigan International Speedway Kurt Busch(1) won the pole with a speed of 203.361 mph. This year Joey Logano(22) took the top spot for the FireKeepers Casino 400 at 187.139 mph. The 2019 performance package succeeded in lowering speeds, will it make for more side-by-side racing throughout the 200 laps around the 2-mile speedway.
If the final practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers is any indication, two and three wide racing is probable. Daniel Suarez(41) posted the fastest 10 lap segment during the late Friday afternoon practice with an average speed of 187.273. On the speed chart, he was followed by Aric Almirola(10), Erik Jones(20), Kevin Harvick(4), and Martin Truex Jr.(19).
Qualifying was a banner day for Ford Performance as 8 Mustangs qualified in the top 10 positions. Clint Bowyer(14), last year’s winner, will start in the 5th position. Shortened by rain when Bowyer went to victory lane under the covered pass-through of the pit road suites. This year’s race faces the potential for rain in the afternoon.
The scheduled 200 laps are divided into Stages of 60/60/80 with the race becoming official after the completion of the 2nd Stage.
With a constant drizzle over MIS on race day, the weather delayed the start. At 2 pm the jet dryers were on the track trying to get the surface race ready. Just before 4 pm drivers were called to their cars. Detroit Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia gave the command to start engines and former Detroit Red Wing’s great Darren McCarty drove off in the pace car to lead the warm-up laps.
Four laps later it was back to pit road as another light rain shower had developed. As the sprinkle turned to an all-out rainstorm the race was postponed until Monday at 5 pm.
Monday morning showers finally gave way to just gray skies. At race time the clouds were still present, but the track was dry. With the overcast and cool temperatures, the grip should be improved and so should the racing. NASCAR scheduled a competition caution for around Lap 20.
A Day Late, The Green Flag Waves
Logano jumped out to a lead into Turn 1. However, a big run by Denny Hamlin(11) down the backstretch gave him the top spot at the end of Lap 1. Logano regained the lead back a couple of laps later, no one seemed able to pull away as drivers swapped positions all around the track.
At the competition caution, the top five were Logano, Harvick, Almirola, Paul Menard(21), and Michigan’s Erik Jones. Jones started 14th and made the biggest improvement in positions during the first 20 laps.
Cars moving through the pack is almost like racing at Daytona or Talladega. If a driver pulls out to make a pass he better complete it. Two cars running side-by-side lose a lot of momentum, get out of the draft for very long and go to the rear of the pack quickly.
Harvick came to pit road on Lap 53 with a loose wheel, he lost a lap while his crew fixed the issue. Logano held on for the Stage 1 win with Alex Bowman(88) 2nd and Jones 3rd.
Stage 1 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||5|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
Same order 1-2-3 out of the pits for the restart to begin racing in Stage 2. Kyle Weatherman(51) hit the wall out of turn 2 early in the stage. The caution flag allowed Harvick to get the free pass back onto the lead lap.
Mid-way through the Stage, Kyle Larson moved up to the rear bumper of Logano. His run ended there as no one seems to be able to pass the #22 car when at full speed.
Logano pitted for fuel and tires with six laps to go in the Stage. Pitting from the lead, Logano was able to stay on the lead lap. By virtue of the timing of pit stops, Austin Dillon(3) won Stage 2.
Stage 2 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||8|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
After pit stops cycled through, Logano was back in front. Chase Elliott(9) restarts in 2nd, Jones 3rd, and Harvick 4th.
Three wide through Turns 1 and 2 and Harvick came out with the lead, followed by Truex and Almirola. Logano dropped to 6th place before he could get back in line. Clint Bower spun and hit the wall out of Turn 2 putting the race back under caution. Damage to Bowyer’s car, last year’s winner, takes him out of the race.
On the restart, Logano pushes Larson past Harvick and then dives under Larson to take the lead once again. Austin Dillon spins and taps the wall between Turns 1 and 2 bringing out the 6th caution flag of the day.
After the Dillon incident, the race restarted with 59 laps to go with Logano and Harvick on the front row. With the help of a side draft off Logano’s car, Harvick was able to stay with him through turns 1 and 2. He made the pass down the backstretch.
Erik Jones cut down a tire on the restart and had to pit, losing a lap to the field.
Logano and Harvick swapped the lead back and forth with the Penske Ford of Logano finally prevailing. The battle for the lead allowed Kurt Busch, Truex and Larson back into the battle for the top spot.
Great racing all the way around the track thrilled the fans. A decent crowd returned to see the race play out despite its delay to Monday afternoon.
In the Fox broadcast booth Darrell Waltrip, who will call his last race for Fox in two weeks at Sonoma, shared one of his great stories about the sport. Quoting Tony Stewart, DW said, “This is a chess match and I’m only smart enough to play checkers.”
Final Pit Stops
Green flag pit stops began with 27 laps to go. Most leaders took two new Goodyear tires and a can of Sunoco racing fuel. Except for Harvick, who chose to take four tires and likely eliminating him from a chance at the victory if the race finishes under the green flag. Logano returned to the track with almost a second and a half lead over Truex. But, the 19 car tracked him down.
When pit stops cycled through it was Logano, Truex, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman as the top five with 15 laps to go. In clean air, Logano began to stretch the lead.
As the laps wound down, Kurt Busch pushed Truex to the rear bumper of Logano with five laps to go. When Erik Jones spun, bringing out the caution flag and setting up the potential for a slugfest in overtime.
What a line up to go into overtime. Two drivers with history, Martinsville last year, Logano and Truex on the front row. Two brothers, the Buschs’, on row two. Dominance wins out. Logano’s Mustang performed flawlessly all day and a big jump on the drop of the green sent him away from the battle behind him. Kurt Busch ultimately finished 2nd.
The Ford Performance contingent of driver’s and teams had dinner at the Ford mansion Thursday night of race week. Edsel Ford talked about the love of racing in his family, the significance of winning at Michigan International Speedway, and the importance of keeping the Manufacturer’s Trophy, awarded for a win at MIS, in Dearborn.
It’s fitting that last year’s NASCAR Cup Champion, the first for Ford in almost two decades, JoeyLogano accomplished the win for Ford Performance here at their home track.
Next week the series takes a break. With the road course at Sonoma up next on Sunday, June 23rd for the Save Mart 350.
Results of the FireKeepers Casino 400 from Michigan International Speedway
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||0.314||203|
|19||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||2.864||203|
Points / Playoff Standings
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||452||3|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|20||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||308||0|
*Ford Mustang Drivers