Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI — August 7, 2022
With just four races to go until the NASCAR Playoffs begin, the competitors are looking toward Michigan International Speedway and FireKeepers Casino 400 to lock themselves into a postseason position with a win on the two-mile track in the Irish Hills.
Kevin Harvick has the most wins of any active driver at Michigan and he could use another one today as he currently sits outside of the top-16 in points and is in a must-win situation if he is to qualify for the playoffs.
|Active Michigan Race Winners||Wins||Seasons|
|Kevin Harvick||5||2020 sweep, 2019, 2018, 2010|
|Joey Logano||3||2019, 2016, 2013|
|Kurt Busch||3||2015, 2007, 2003|
|Kyle Larson||3||2017 sweep, 2016|
|Denny Hamlin||2||2011, 2010|
Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney Looking for a Repeat
Needing a win to secure his spot in the Playoffs this season, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney revisits Michigan International Speedway with hopes of returning to Victory Lane this weekend and making it back-to-back victories at the two-mile facility. If Blaney wins this weekend, he will become the 11th different driver to win consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway
The 28-year-old from High Point, North Carolina, Blaney, is currently ranked 15th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings, 121 points ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick in 17th – the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. In 22 starts this season, Blaney has scored five stage wins, seven top-five, and 10 top-10 finishes.
The largest crowd to attend a race at Michigan International Speedway since 2016 filled the grandstands. With the infield sold out for the first time since 2012, Michigan was ready to cheer on their favorites after two years of Covid restrictions. Just prior to the start of the race a storm rolled in and soaked the track. The green flag was delayed for over an hour as track crews worked with the jet dryers to get the racing surface ready.
However, it did not dim the enthusiasm of the fans who patiently waited for the race to get underway.
Bubba Wallace starts on the pole today, his first career pole in the Cup series. Should the 23XI driver enter victory lane today the playoff standings will take a huge shuffle.
On the two-mile speedway, 200 laps make up the 400 miles of today’s race. Stages today are 45/75/80 laps.
Bubba Wallace(23) rolled out to a big lead coming off turn two on the first lap as drivers quickly fell into single-file racing. With the new Next-Gen car, most of the field was unsure of what to expect when the green flag fell with 37 racers on the track. Early on it appears track position will be a deciding factor in the race as passing will not be an easy task.
Wallace quickly built a one-and-a-half-second lead over, last week’s winner, Tyler Reddick(8). Kyle Busch(18), Kyle Larson(5), and Christopher Bell(20) made up the remainder of the top five. Michigan’s own, Erik Jones(43) moved from his 10th starting position to sixth in the early laps.
With the rain washing the track clear, NASCAR scheduled a competition caution for after lap 20 allowing crews to check tire wear and make adjustments to the race cars. Most of the leaders came to pit road for a look at their tires. Bell and Jones stayed out and took over the top spots for the restart.
Coming out of turn two, after the race resumed, a number of cars made contact and the race was immediately back under caution. Austin Cindric(2), Aric Almirola(10), JJ Yeley(15), Kyle Busch(18), Michael McDowell (34), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) were all caught up in the incident.
A clean restart on the second try had Bell, Denny Hamlin(11), Jones, and Martin Truex Jr.(19) breaking away from the pack at the front of the field.
Stage One Results
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.||7|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Ty Gibbs(45), again subbing for Kurt Busch who is still battling concussion symptoms from his wreck at Pocono, led coming to the restart. But, it was Ross Chastain(1) taking over the top spot as he outran Gibbs at the drop of the green flag.
Kyle Larson(5) passed Gibbs for the second spot. Still, the grandson of JGR Racing owner Joe Gibbs held his own in just his third race in a Cup car. The driver making moves was Christopher Bell, who drove up behind Chastain. Hamlin joined the fight for the lead, as did Noah Gragson(16), dropping Larson and Gibbs back in the running order.
Hamlin took a turn at the front spot as green flag pit stops began on lap 81 with Gragson first in, followed by Gibbs. Kevin Harvick(4) and Wallace came to pit road on Lap 90 while running in the top 10. Chastain pitted on lap 92, Larson and Hamlin a lap later.
Ross Chastain’s crew had a tire get away from them and roll out onto pit lane. That is an infraction that NASCAR will penalize. Chastain had to come back to the pits and drive through at a reduced speed to serve his penalty.
Cole Custer suffered a left front tire going down and it came apart causing damage to the chassis. A fire broke out on the car as he was coming to pit road and NASCAR was forced to display the caution flag.
The timing of the yellow was advantageous for Erik Jones as he had not yet pitted and was scored the leader. Trapping a number of cars a lap down, including Bubba Wallace. Fortunately for Wallace, he was the first car a lap down and got the free pass returning to the lead lap as the “lucky dog.”
Back to racing on lap 104, it will be a 16-lap sprint to the end of Stage Two. Hamlin and Bell led the field to the green flag. Harvick moved up to challenge the two leaders and took the second spot just before Gragson spun on the backstretch putting the race back under caution.
The sprint to the green and white checkered flag is now down to seven laps as the race restarted on lap 113. The cautions jumbled the running order with Hamlin leading, Daniel Suarez(99) moved to second, followed by Larson, Bell, and Brad Keselowski(6) in the 5th spot. Erik Jones ran sixth.
Stage Two Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Kyle Larson was too fast on pit road during his stop at the end of the Stage. He had to return to pit road and will restart at the end of the field. Suarez and Bell sat on the front row when the race went back to green. It was Suarez who drove off with the top spot as clean air seemed to work well with his car.
Chastain, running third, closed on the two leaders as they fought for the top spot. Bell will now have to try and pass Suarez while fending off his teammate Chastain behind him. He could not do it. When Bell dropped low to try for the pass, Chastain pulled up behind and pushed him clear of the #20 car.
The fight for the lead heated up when Bell’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, joined the fight and he passed into the third spot. Meanwhile, the pole sitter, Bubba Wallace worked his way back into the top five with Harvick running in sixth.
Both Track House Racing drivers pitted together with 43 laps to go. Chastain led Suarez when they exited the pits. With fresher tires, Chastain tried to pass Bell down the front stretch. The two got together with Bell’s car suffering extensive damage to the right front.
The yellow flag came out for the incident allowing all the teams to pit for enough fuel to finish the race. When all the stops were completed, Harvick led with Hamlin beside him on the front row. Wallace and Larson sat on row two.
Hamlin’s crew lost control of a tire and he was penalized, sending the #11 car to the rear of the field. On the restart, Harvick moved out to a 10-car length lead with Logano, Wallace, Blaney, and Jones in tow with 30 laps to go. Martin Truex Jr.(19), the driver who would be knocked out of the playoffs if Harvick wins, ran in the sixth position.
Wallace passed Logano with 18 laps to go. He trailed the leader by four-and-one-half seconds when he took over the runner-up position. Hamlin worked his way back up to the third spot with nine laps to go. But it may be too-little-too-late. Harvick still led Wallace by four seconds and Hamlin was two seconds behind the car he owns and can offer no help to Wallace in chasing the lead.
Once out front there was no denying Harvick. He drove away with the victory ending his 65-race streak without visiting victory lane. The win was also the eighth in a row for Ford Performance at Michigan, sending the Heritage Trophy back to Dearborn for another year.
Kevin Harvick’s win today pushed the driver with the second most points earned over the course of the season to the brink of elimination from the 2022 NASCAR Playoffs. Ryan Blaney now sits on the bubble and another new winner this year will place him outside of the top 16.
Blaney is also in danger of being caught by Martin Truex Jr., who trails the 16th position by just 19 points. After sitting out the last three weeks Kurt Busch is the driver at the bottom of the points among those who have captured a win this season. Two more first-time winners in 2022 could push both Blaney and Busch out of the postseason.
|1||Chase Elliott||847||In Win(4)|
|2||Ross Chastain||710||In Win(2)|
|3||Joey Logano*||673||In Win(2)|
|4||William Byron||617||In Win(2)|
|5||Tyler Reddick||557||In Win(2)|
|6||Denny Hamlin||524||In Win(2)|
|7||Kyle Larson||705||In Win|
|8||Christopher Bell||668||In Win|
|9||Kyle Busch||634||In Win|
|10||Kevin Harvick*||618||In Win|
|11||Alex Bowman||572||In Win|
|12||Daniel Suarez||556||In Win|
|13||Chase Briscoe*||533||In Win|
|14||Austin Cindric*||531||In Win|
|15||Kurt Busch||485||In Win|
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line|
|17||Martin Truex Jr.||709||-19|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Next week the series visits Richmond Raceway where the drama ratchets up to a new level.
Results of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr.||8.236||200|
|33||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-175||25|