Firekeepers Casino 400 – Michigan International Speedway

What do you get when you combine a 2+ hour rain delay with a new tire compound and the imposing threat of more bad weather cutting the race short? The answer – a whole lotta aggression.

Pole Sitter Kurt Busch leads the Field to Green

NASCAR scheduled a competition caution for Lap 25 to check tire wear after Michigan International Speedway incurred heavy rain all morning and most of the afternoon, effectively washing away any rubber the Xfinity race had put down the afternoon prior. But even before the yellow flag flew, drivers were already beating and banging.  This was evident on Lap 24 when Austin Dillon in the #3 car shot to the bottom of the track to gain momentum and then abruptly shot back up to complete the pass on Ricky Stenhouse Jr in the #17. Stenhouse was not pleased with the move and immediately began door slamming the #3. This caused both to lose speed and, as a result, 3 positions each were lost.  Ironically, Stenhouse had pulled the very same slid-job on Chase Elliott just a few weeks ago and felt completely justified in the action.

Ten laps after the comp caution, the yellow flag flew again. This time for Darrell Wallace Jr in the #43 who got loose and turned partially sideways in Turn 3. In the process, Wallace accidentally tapped the right rear of David Ragan in the #38 and sent Ragan into the wall. With just 3 laps to go in the first stage, Matt Kenseth spun around in Turn 1. NASCAR issued a “quickie yellow” and triggered a 1 lap shootout for the end of the stage, in which Ryan Blaney took the extra playoff points.

Seven laps into Stage 2, a chain reaction sent Daniel Suarez in the #19 spinning down the backstretch. It all started when Martin Truex Jr got caught in the middle lane and lost speed, stacking up the field three wide behind him.  With Suarez on the bottom of the track, Ricky Stenhouse Jr made contact with the back bumper of Suarez and the spin began. Although Suarez did not sustain much damage, he still struggled to a 30th place finish.

As the race progressed, more drivers complained of being loose due to cool track temperatures and imminent rain in the air.  Further complicating matters was the tire compound which wasn’t fully compatible with the weather.  As such, cars continued to spin out.

To that point, it happened again with 34 laps to go in Stage 2, when Kyle Larson got loose and spun into the front-stretch grass, which tore up the front of his #42 Chevy. Larson had started the race 26th after a poor qualifying run but had quickly made his way to the front once the race started. Larson looked to be in contention for his 4th win in a row at Michigan Speedway, however, the tangle with the grass caused too much damage and Larson would finish P28 despite battling back to regain the 2 laps he lost during the incident. When the race went back to green, it was season-dominator, Kevin Harvick, who took the stage win.

The final caution of the day came out with 74 laps to go when Kasey Kahne got into the left rear of the #17 Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr, sending him into the wall. Stenhouse would finish in the 29th position.

Clint Bowyer followed by teammate Kevin Harvick

The race no sooner got back green yet again, with Clint Bowyer in the lead, when Mother Nature decided she couldn’t hold back any longer and let go with a drizzle that quickly turned to a downpour. After taking only 2 tires while the rest of the field took 4, Bowyer was able to hold off the 2nd place car of teammate Kevin Harvick until the sky opened up and the drizzle began. The NASCAR Rule Book states that a race can be declared as official if it is completed Stage 2 and there is no chance of finishing the event. With this rule in place, NASCAR called the race and Clint Bowyer was announced as the winner, marking his second victory of the season.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has an off-weekend before making their way to Sonoma for the first road course race of the season. Get your tickets HERE

 

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