Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI — August 11, 2019
A lot of the talk this weekend at Michigan International Speedway has centered around the application of the PJ1 Traction Compound to the top groove of the racetrack. Opinions on the subject of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers have varied. Kevin Harvick(4) commented, “You can’t get to the PJ1, it is too high. It won’t use lane five. There have been a lot of cars trying to get up there. It is better than it was but still, it was just a little too high.”
Responding to driver suggestions, like Harvicks, NASCAR chose to add more of the compound prior to today’s Consumers Energy 400. An application of the PJ1 overnight expanded the black stripe on the top of the track to include half of the next lower lane.
Will it be used consistently during the race? That remains to be seen, count on drivers looking for extra grip on restarts to climb the banks seeking any advantage they can get.
The Consumer’s Energy 400 comprises 200 laps around the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway. Stages are 60/60/80 laps, Harvick won last year’s race and is a favorite to repeat. Joey Logano won here in June and returns with a fast car this weekend. Logano’s(22) Penske teammate Brad Keselowski(2) sits on the pole with Harvick beside him on the front row.
Michigan’s own Erik Jones(20) was the fastest car in the final Cup practice Saturday afternoon. He starts in 16th after a disappointing qualifying run and will have to battle for track position to get to the front. Jones teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, Martin Truex Jr.(19) failed prerace inspection twice and will forfeit his 15th starting position after being penalized to start at the rear of the field. Today will mark Truex’s 500th start in the Cup series.
Childress Racing teammates, Austin Dillon(3) and Daniel Hemric(8) will also start in the back after having their qualifying times disallowed after failing inspection.
Daniel Suarez(41) damaged his car in a scrape with the wall late in Saturday’s final practice. His crew was able to repair the car instead of going to a backup, maintaining his 11th starting position. Suarez is still trying to qualify for the playoffs on points. He was 23 back from the bubble at the start of the race.
Keselowski and Harvick quickly opened a 10 car-length lead on the rest of the field. Everyone showed a lot of courtesy on the start after the rumble at Watkins Glen last week. Things quickly moved to single lane racing as most drivers tip-toed around the traction compound for the start.
Ten laps in Truex had moved up to 14th position from his starting spot in the rear. Keselowski, Harvick, Logano, Alex Bowman(88) and Ryan Blaney(12) were the top five after things settled out.
Fifteen laps into the race Jimmie Johnson(48) got loose out of Turn 2 and smacked the wall, cutting down the right rear tire. The inner liner on the Goodyear tire held up and he was able to make it to the pits without tearing off the fender. The outer shell of the tire came loose and became entangled with the axle causing a lengthy pit stop.
Johnson returned to the race three laps down, dealing a serious blow to his efforts to make the playoffs. Harvick pitted early on Lap 32 for tires and fuel, Chase Elliott(9) followed 2 laps later. Pit strategy may be all over the board today as most leaders pitted around Laps 42 to 45.
Truex moved from the rear to 5th place before pit stops started and maintained the lead as drivers cycled through their gas and tire stops. Denny Hamlin(11) made a late run but Truex held on for the Stage 1 win.
Stage 1 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||10|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
After stage ending pit stops, Keselowski was back out front for the restart. This time with Hamlin pushing him away from the field. This time three-wide racing drove cars up the track and the PJ1 traction compound began getting some use.
Truex continued his charge to the front, passing Hamlin and moving into 2nd. He hounded Keselowski, they swapped the lead until Truex prevailed and took the top spot on Lap 91. With five laps to go in Stage 2, Keselowski cut down a tire and spun between Turns 3 & 4. He kept it off the wall and did not collect any of the other competitors. Coming immediately to the pits, Keselowski stayed on the lead lap.
With 3 laps to go several drivers opted to pit looking for track position at the end of the Stage. Other drivers chose to stay out and try and collect Stage points. The green flag waved with 1 lap to go in the stage. Truex, Kyle Busch(18), Jones, Kurt Busch(1), and Clint Bowyer(14) led the field to the restart.
Kyle Busch drove past Truex to take the lead, Kurt Busch passed Jones for 3rd and Logano moved into 4th. On the entrance to the tri-oval, Aric Almirola(10) got into Daniel Hemric(8) and Austin Dillon(3) trying to squeeze between the two for a position. Almirola and Hemric rode the wall until they were able to regain control. Dillon spun through the tri-oval grass but avoided contact with the wall.
Kyle Busch got the Stage win.
Stage 2 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr||9|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
With the pit stop jumble at the end of the stage, the restart lineup was Kurt Busch, Logano, Ryan Blaney(12), William Bowman(24), and Paul Menard(21). Logano moved past Kurt Busch through Turns 1 & 2 and led for the first time today.
Spencer Boyd(53), running in the last position, spun out of Turn 4 bringing out the caution on Lap 132. All the leaders stayed on the track with cars further back in the field the only ones opting to pit. Logano leads, followed by Kurt Busch, Blaney, Byron, and Kyle Larson(42).
The scramble for positions on the restart resulted in trouble for Bowyer. He badly damaged his car hitting the wall in Turn 3. Bowyer started the race 12 points up on Johnson and Ryan Newman(6). Unfortunately, Bowyer’s crew could not repair the car to maintain the minimum track speed and he retired to the garage.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was added to the list of cars experiencing trouble as he spun in Turn 4 on Lap 148. The caution brought everyone to pit road on Lap 150. The average fuel run for the Cup cars at Michigan is 47 laps. So saving fuel may be the winning strategy over the final 50 laps of the race. Newman pitted a 2nd time with 1 to go for the restart to get as much fuel as possible.
Four Ford Mustangs led the field back to green as Blaney restarted in 1st, followed by Logano, Keselowski, and Menard. Three Team Penske cars and the Wood Brothers car of Menard that has a close working relationship with Penske.
This time the field avoided another wreck on the restart and racing resumed with Logano passing Blaney for the lead. Harvick and Hamlin passed Menard to move into the top five as drivers began the process of saving fuel for the finish.
The Closing Laps
Harvick moved into 2nd place and appeared to have the speed to catch Logano. Taking the lead with 17 laps to go it was Harvick, Logano, and Keselowski. Harvick quickly opened the interval between himself and Logano to over one second.
Keselowski pitted with 10 laps to go, his crew had failed to completely fill the car on the pit stop with 50 to go. Dropping him to 25th, the next to last car on the lead lap. Logano was forced to pit with three laps to go as he ran out of gas.
Harvick was good on gas and he easily held off Hamlin for the win. After taking the checkered flag Harvick drove to pit road and picked up his son Keelan. Sharing the experience of the burnout and Keelan rode to the finish line picking up the checkered flag from the flagman.
Asked by NBC what he thought of the ride in Dad’s car Keelan responded “Kind of scary at first, but I liked it.”
The big loser today in the Playoff chase was Jimmie Johnson. His early tire trouble dropped him from a tie for the final playoff spot to 18th and 22 points below the bubble. It was also a bad day for Clint Bowyer, after hitting the wall and finishing 37th Bowyer dropped onto the bubble. Ten points behind Ryan Newman in 15th and six points ahead of Daniel Suarez.
Suarez entered the day 23 point below the cut line in 18th. His 5th place finish vaulted him into 17, just six points out of the playoffs. With three races left to go, Bristol, Darlington, and Indy the intensity is sure to amp up.
Michigan’s Erik Jones finished 18th breaking his four-race string of top-five finishes. While dropping from 13th to 14th, he remained 54 points above the cut line heading to a track he usually performs well at.
More Live Coverage from The Lasco Press this coming weekend from Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Tickets are still available, come and join us in the hills of Tenessee for a bucket list event. Bristol Motor Speedway, the Last Great Colosseum!
|Rank||Driver||Points||Behind||Wins||Stage Wins||Playoff Points|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||805||In||4||3||23|
|Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Driver
Results of the Consumers Energy 400 from Michigan International Speedway
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.||200|
|28||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||199|