Monster Energy Cup Series News (16975)
Given the statistics, you might think Joey Logano ran away with Monday’s rain-delayed Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Yes, Logano led 163 of 203 laps at the two-mile track in the Irish Hills. He had the fastest car in qualifying on Saturday and the fastest car in the 15th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event of the season.
But after a late caution for Erik Jones’ spin into the infield grass below Turn 2, Logano needed overtime to seal the win. He needed a superb restart on Lap 202 to gain an edge. And he needed a determined drive over the last two laps, aided by spotter T.J. Majors, to hold off charging Kurt Busch by .147 at the finish.
Logano wasn’t about to reveal how he got such a good launch on the decisive restart.
“I can't tell you everything I learned,” quipped the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, who won for the second time this season, the third time at Michigan—all from the pole—and the 23rd time in his career. “You race this whole race, you keep building that notebook up.
“What a great execution day from our race car, obviously very fast. Our pit crew was amazing. T.J. Majors spotted his butt off up there. The race fans sticking around till Monday--you guys are the best. We love coming up to Michigan. Nothing like bringing a Ford to Victory Lane in their home turf, Roger Penske cars as well. This is a big win for us.”
Thanks to Logano’s victory, Ford Motor Company retained the Michigan Heritage Trophy that goes to the manufacturer of the winning car. Ford drivers have won the last three races at the 2.0-mile track.
Despite sustaining right rear damage to his No. 1 Chip Ganassi racing Chevrolet during a brush with the outside wall on Lap 42, Busch ran in or near the top five for the vast majority of the race. He was third for the final restart and quickly steered to the inside of Martin Truex Jr.’s Toyota to grab the second position.
Busch, however, couldn’t catch Logano on the final lap.
“I had a blast,” Busch said. “Tightest I ever put my belts at the end of a race. We got enough stage points today, we said ‘Hell with it, we don't need to get anything but the win.’ We got second today.”
Before the final caution, Busch was running behind Martin Truex Jr., locked in a tight draft. The two cars were gaining on Logano, but the yellow flag interrupted their progress.
“Logano's car was tough,” Busch said. “I really wanted it to go green at the end with Truex. I was going to push him straight through the 22 (Logano). My best shot at it.
“We'll get it. It gives us reason to smile and be happy. We ran up front, were strong in our manufacturer's back yard, but got second today.”
Truex held the third spot, followed by Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski ran sixth ahead of Kevin Harvick, who rallied from early issues with a vibration that cost him a lap but lost too much ground on a four-tire call on his final green-flag pit stop.
Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman completed the top 10.
Though Logano led 163 laps, the race wasn’t a cruise for the Team Penske driver. In one hotly contested section of the race, Logano passed Harvick on Lap 148, surrendered the top spot back to Harvick on lap 149 and regained it on lap 150.
But a two-tire call from Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, on a Lap 175 pit stop gained more than five seconds on Harvick, who had taken four tires one lap earlier. Even with the late caution, Harvick couldn’t regain the lost track position on the final two-lap shootout.
Race Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):
● Aric Almirola started third, finished fourth and earned seven bonus points.
● Almirola raced the No. 10 Smithfield Ford inside the top-10 before the competition caution was called on lap 20.
● During the caution period, he took two tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments, then restarted third. He said his Ford Mustang handled well but felt tight into turn one.
● Almirola raced as high as second place during the remainder of Stage 1, but he got caught behind a lapped car and was passed by two other cars.
● At the end of Stage 1, Almirola said his only balance issue was that he was tight on the exit of turn two. He pitted for four tires and fuel and took back the previous air pressure adjustments.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):
● Started third, finished fifth and earned six bonus points.
● During the restart, the inside row did not have as much momentum as the outside row so Almirola fell to seventh place.
● A caution was called on lap 72. Almirola pitted for fuel only and was scored 11th for the restart.
● Almirola fell back to 17th by lap 80. He rallied back to 12th place before multiple cars pitted for fuel in front of him, promoting the Smithfield Ford back to the top-five.
● Almirola said his car handled loosely when the runs began but became tight on the exit of the turns as the stage wore on.
● He pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments at the end of the stage. Several cars behind him only pitted for two tires, ultimately putting Almirola in 10th place.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 121-203):
● Started 11th, finished 17th.
● Almirola gained eight positions in one lap when the green flag waved, but the caution was called on lap 130 for a spin by teammate Clint Bowyer.
● Another caution was called on lap 135 with Almirola in ninth place.
● On lap 162, Almirola indicated tight-handling conditions as his No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang ran in 15th.
● Almirola pitted for four tires and fuel under green-flag conditions on lap 174 from 11th place.
● The caution was called on lap 196 for a spin by the No. 20 car, and crew chief Johnny Klausmeier radioed Almirola to stay out of the pits. He raced just outsde the top-15 during the final laps, finishing 17th.
● Almirola finished fourth in Stage 1 to earn seven bonus points and fifth in Stage 2 to earn an additional six bonus points.
● Almirola led a single lap to increase his laps-led total at Michigan to four.
● Joey Logano won the FireKeepers Casino 400 to score his 23rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his third at Michigan. His margin of victory over second-place Kurt Busch was .147 of a second.
● There were seven caution periods for a total of 35 laps.
● Twenty-five of the 36 drivers in the FireKeepers Casino 400 finished on the lead lap.
● Logano leaves Michigan as the new championship leader with a nine-point advantage over second-place Kyle Busch.
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang:
“We had a better Smithfield Ford Mustang than 17th place today. We got way behind on the restarts and just couldn’t recover in traffic. I’m proud of our No. 10 Ford team for bringing a fast Ford Mustang to Michigan.”
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Save Mart 350 on Sunday, June 23 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
With four laps left in Monday’s rain-delayed Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Truex thought he had second place in the bag.
He and Kurt Busch were trailing eventual winner Joey Logano—and making progress in a two-car draft—when Erik Jones spun into the infield grass inside Turn 2. That set up an overtime restart, and Busch passed Truex for the runner-up spot on the next-to-last lap.
“I felt like before that we were going to finish second no matter what,” said Truex, who finished third. “My mind-set there was at least we got a shot at it here. Rack 'em up, have a green‑white‑checkered and see.”
The higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package introduced into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season had the desired effect at Michigan—producing closer racing throughout the field. At no point did a leader pull out to a sizable advantage.
Certain characteristics of the racing also resembled what fans are accustomed to seeing at superspeedways. Cars were fastest with drafting partners and could sustain major runs. On the other hand, a car that pulled out of line alone was in danger of getting freight-trained.
“Man, you have to be so patient in this racing,” Truex said. “It's really hard. Early in the race, I kept getting runs, going underneath guys, getting them in the corner. If you can't clear them, you lose two, three, four spots every time.”
DANIEL SUAREZ CHARGES TO FOURTH-PLACE FINISH AT MICHIGAN
An up-and-down day ended on the up side for Stewart-Haas Racing driver Daniel Suarez.
After starting ninth in Monday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Suarez fell back in the early going as he fought the handling on his no. 41 Ford. After the second stage, however, Suarez’s car came to life, and by the time the race went to overtime, he had driven up to the sixth position.
Taking advantage of a strong run in the outside lane, Suarez surged forward after the final restart and gained the fourth spot in the two-lap dash to the finish. The top-five result was Suarez’s second of the season and kept him 13th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, solidly in contention for a Playoff spot.
“The car was pretty strong the entire weekend and then again today,” Suarez said. “We just struggled for whatever reasons on the long runs in the first half of the race.
“We were able to make some adjustments and come back, and I’m proud of my guys. We still have some work to do, but we are slowly heading into the right direction.”
CLINT BOWYER’S ROLLER-COASTER SEASON CONTINUES IN IRISH HILLS
On Monday at Michigan International Speedway, Clint Bowyer continued a pattern he would love to break.
In a feast-or-famine Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Bowyer ran fifth at Kanas in May, only to follow that with a 24th-place result, three laps down, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
A week ago, he finished fifth at Pocono, only to have calamity strike in the next race, Monday’s rain-delayed Firekeepers Casino 400.
Bowyer, the event’s defending winner, had a top-five car through much of Stage 2, but on Lap 130, his No. 14 Ford broke loose as he was trying to steer away from Erik Jones’ Toyota and backed into the outside wall.
With his car crippled, Bowyer dropped out of the race in 35th place and feel two spots to 12th in the series standings.
“The 20 (Jones) got loose, and I tried to basically make an evasive move to get under him,” Bowyer said. “The 3 (Austin Dillon) was there and got loose under him and then I got into him and ran out of real estate. It was a pretty frustrating day. Pretty frustrating out there.”
Joey Logano won today's Fire Keepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
The defending NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion led 163 of the 200 lap race from the pole and pulled away from Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch to win on Monday evening. The race was originally scheduled for Sunday but weather would move the race into Monday afternoon.
"You race this whole race and you keep building that notebook up," Logano told FS1 post-race. "What a great execution day from our race car was obviously fast. Our pit crew was amazing. TJ Majors, my spotter, worked his butt off up there. We love coming up to Michigan. Nothing like bringing a Ford to Victory Lane in their home turf, Roger Penske cars as well. This is a big win for us."
This is Logano's second win of the 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series season.
Erik Jones suffered a flat tire and that would lead to a two-lap dash for the finish. Logano was in command of the lead at the time of the caution. Driver No. 22 would accelerate away from Truex Jr. and Busch and win.
After the race, Truex said that he thought Logano sprinted away from him too early ahead of the final final restart.
"Then the 22 just went like a whole car length before the restart zone, so i don't know how you get away with that," Truex told FS1 post-race. "I thought you were supposed to go in the box.
" Rounding out the top five were Kurt Busch in second, Martin Truex Jr. in third, Daniel Suarez in fourth and Kyle Busch in fifth.
Rounding out the top ten were Brad Keselowski in sixth, Kevin Hsrvick in seventh, Ryan Newman in eighth, Ryan Blaney in ninth and Alex Bowman in tenth.
The Monster Energy Cup Series will have next weekend off before heading to Sonoma Raceway Sunday, June 23rd at 3:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1.
Stage 1 Winner: Joey Logano
Stage 2 Winner: Austin Dillion
Race Winner: Joey Logano
A persistent drizzle foiled track-drying efforts on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway and forced postponement of the Firekeepers Casino 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event until Monday afternoon.
The race has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. ET Monday and will be broadcast on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
With pole winner Joey Logano and second-place starter at the head of the field, the Cup drivers got the one-to-go signal at 3 p.m. Sunday, but as the cars circled the track, the rain picked up in Turns 3 and 4 and scrapped the start.
NASCAR ordered the cars to pit road, and the drivers exited. The track was almost dry by 4:15 p.m. when another rain cell struck and forced the postponement. Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie passed the time during the rain delay by throwing a football, eventually lobbing it into the grandstand and playing catch with fans who braved the rain.
Paul Menard turned in a season-best sixth-place effort on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway as Ford drivers took five of the top six starting spots for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400.
Menard, driving the No. 21 Menards/Nibco Ford Mustang, earned that spot with a lap at 186.659 miles per hour. It’s the fifth time in 15 qualifying sessions this season that Menard has been among the top 10.
His speed on Saturday represented a step up from practice on Friday, where he was ninth fastest in opening practice with a best lap at 187.251 mph and 19th best in Happy Hour with a best lap at 186.417 mph. Menard also had the fifth-best speed of those who ran 10 consecutive laps in the first practice with an average speed of 186.025 mph.
Eddie Wood said Menard, crew chief Greg Erwin and the No. 21 Menards/Nibco team focused on race set-up in both practices on Friday and were pleased with how their Mustang performed in practice and in qualifying.
“They’re really happy with the car, which is good because you want to be at your best here in the backyard of Ford Motor Company,” Wood said. “We’re glad to be a part of a strong qualifying effort by the Ford teams.
“Now we have to go out and try to do it again tomorrow.”
The FireKeepers Casino 400 is set to get the green flag just after 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.
The Ford drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series apparently took the words of Edsel Ford II to heart.
At a dinner with Ford drivers on Thursday night, the member of the Ford Motor Company board of directors emphasized the importance of putting a Mustang in Victory Lane after Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
On Saturday morning at the 2-mile track, Joey Logano took the first step toward fulfilling the mission outlined by the Henry Ford’s great grandson. Taking a racing line that differed from that of his competitors, Logano covered the distance in 38.474 seconds (187.139 mph) to win the pole position for Sunday’s race.
In winning his second Busch Pole Award of the season, his fourth at Michigan and the 22nd of his career, Logano led five Fords into the top six in time trials, edging Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola (187.047 mph) for the top starting spot by .019 seconds.
Logano demolished the rest of the field through Turn 3 and 4, entering the corner on the high side, arcing to the bottom in the center of the corner and getting off the bottom sooner than almost every other driver.
How did Logano develop the line he ran?
“I just got lucky—it was all luck,” Logano quipped. “Of course, we all work at things. We all try to figure things out and try to take an advantage when you have it. It’s always short-lived, but today we were able to take advantage of a lot of things and be able to have a fast car.
“Our (No. 22) Shell/Pennzoil Ford definitely has speed in it, for sure, especially for one lap. Hopefully, that maintains throughout the race to where we can stay up there. That (No. 1) pit stall is going to help a lot. The first pit stall here is quite the advantage. It’s nice to have that, and hopefully it keeps us up front and keeps us out of the big chaotic mess that I think is going to be toward the middle of the pack.”
But did the lap go according to plan.
“It was all luck,” Logano joked again. “Of course, it’s planned—I drive the car. I’m still the driver. At least it went where I told it to go.
That part really helped a lot.”
Almirola was the only other driver to crack the 38.50-second mark. His teammate, Kevin Harvick was third in 38.522 seconds (186.906 mph). Denny Hamlin qualified fourth in the fastest Toyota, followed by the Fords of Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard. Kurt Busch was seventh in the quickest Chevrolet.
“I’ve heard everybody else talk about Edsel’s message to us Thursday night at dinner,” Almirola said. “That was really cool to get to go and experience that…
“That’s the (fifth) front-row for our team this year, the 10 team, and only one pole. That’s frustrating to get that close to getting a pole that often and only have one pole. We seem to always get beat just by a little bit by somebody different every time.
“I feel like our car is really fast. We have a really fast Smithfield Ford Mustang. All the Fords are really fast. I think eight of the (top) 10 are Ford. This is definitely Ford country, and we’re excited to go try and get a Ford to Victory Lane.”
To Kurt Busch, there were two distinctly different aspects to Friday’s opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Michigan International Speedway—in the draft and out of the draft.
“There cars by themselves are very stable, and there’s a ton of speed,” said Busch, who ran the eighth fastest single lap in the opening session at 187.490 mph. “The you got in the draft, and it was magnified by 10 on how difficult the draft feels and how the car’s reacting.
“So I’m not sure where the balance needs to be between that raw speed versus the handling in the draft.”
That doesn’t mean Busch expects Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to resemble a superspeedway event, with cars racing in close proximity in large packs. But drafting will still be an integral part of the competition at the 2-mile track.
“Yes, it is, because you don’t know where you’ll end up in the corner,” Busch said. “You want the clean air in the corner, but you want the draft on the straightaway. There’s no way to have your cake and eat it, too, so you’ve got to work on the handling side of things to cover that base.”
Even though the fastest Cup cars were roughly 14 mph slower than they were last year with the current higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package, Busch said the cars felt edgy in the draft.
“Either everybody’s struggling with it, or for us in the 1 car and the 42 car (Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson), the drafting stability was compromised quite a bit,” Busch said. “I didn’t even check the overall lap times, but by itself, the car felt slower, and in the draft it feels faster.”
CAN DANIEL SUAREZ TRANSLATE PRACTICE SPEED INTO SUNDAY PERFORMANCE?
For the fourth time in three weeks, Daniel Suarez had the fastest car in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session.
In Friday’s opening practice for Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Suarez topped the speed chart at 188.882 mph.
Though he previously led two practices at Charlotte and one at Pocono, those efforts didn’t translate in results on Sunday afternoon. Suarez finished 18th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in late May and eighth in last Sunday’s Pocono 400.
“Our cars have been very fast,” Suarez said after Friday’s first practice session. “The problem that we have had in the last month is that we haven’t been able to race that way. We have fast cars—there is no doubt. We just have to be able to transfer that into the race and that means having a good car for traffic and having a good car in the draft and all those different situations.
“I feel like everyone has been working hard and making gains. It is always fun to be the fastest in practice, but we know that isn’t the most important part. It shows we have speed, but now we need to transfer that into the race. Hopefully, we can do that this weekend.”
Suarez also explained his current contract situation with Stewart-Haas Racing, indicating that both he and the team have renewal options after the 2019 season. Suarez came to SHR this year after two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, where he lost his ride to make room for Martin Truex Jr.
“I feel very confident in where we are,” said Suarez, who was fourth fastest in Happy Hour and quickest in 10 consecutive lap average. “We have options on both sides, which is good. I have an option, they have an option, and I feel that is the best way to do things, especially when you have a lot of unknowns at the beginning of the year. We know where we are at and what we can do. We haven’t won races—that was my goal, but nobody has on the team.
“It isn’t like I am the only one not winning races like it was the last (two) years. It’s a way different situation. I feel like, when we move forward, we move forward together. I don't feel like I am the guy that is struggling of the group. I feel like we are going to be in good shape. I feel like I am in a good home with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Performance and everyone in this group. I’m not really worried. I feel confident about it.
“But I will tell you that I felt confident about it as well last year and you saw what happened. You never know in this sport. I don't like talking about it until it is 110-percent secure. The sport is at a point where anything can happen. What I can control is this weekend. I have to do my thing this weekend and try to win races. I feel like the rest will take care of itself.”
CLINT BOWYER LOOKING FORWARD TO “LAKE TIME”—IF FLOODING PERMITS
During next week’s break in the monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Clint Bowyer is looking forward to spending time at his house on the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.
But the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford is concerned about the natural disasters that have hit the Midwest and have affected more than a few people he knows.
“Flooding is affecting everything,” Bowyer said on Friday at Michigan International Speedway. “These people are getting beat up in the Midwest bad. Whether it is tornadoes or flooding, whatever the case may be. It is literally a text or phone call every single day of people that you know. Farmer friends that got their crop in the ground and then it flooded out.
“My dad sent me a picture yesterday of one of my buddies’ freight trucks buried, I mean buried in the mud right in the middle of the field. It’s sad what everybody is going through. Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City), I saw a picture of that, and it’s back under water for the second time this year.
“Hopefully they get some relief and some sunlight, and hopefully we will be enjoying the lake. Everything is backed up. The lakes, the retention, literally everything is backed up big time, and they need relief in a big way.”