Monster Energy Cup Series News (15363)
Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Jack Links Ford team head to Michigan hoping for a strong performance at the home track of Ford Motor Company and a home track of sorts for Menard.
“Michigan and Chicagoland are the closest,” Menard said of the distance between the two Monster Energy Cup Series tracks and his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “I remember more going to Road America and the Milwaukee Mile.”
Michigan and Chicagoland both are at least 300 miles from Menard’s hometown while Road America in Elhart Lake and the Milwaukee Mile are home-state tracks for him.
But his career results at Michigan, including four fourth-place finishes, are enough to make him feel right at home in the Irish Hills of southeastern Michigan.
“It’s been a good track for me, pretty solid,” Menard said. “I ran good there before the repave and after too.”
Menard said the challenges at Michigan include adapting to regular tire combination variations Goodyear and to the changes in track conditions due to fluctuations in temperatures.
“It’s a very weather-dependent track,” he said. “If it’s hot, the track is edgy, and if it’s cool it’s fast.
“But it’s a cool track, and as the surface wears, the groove opens up more.”
Menard also said the race is important because of Ford’s connection to the area.
“It’s in Ford’s backyard,” he said. “There’s a lot of support from Ford when we race at Michigan.”
Menard heads to Michigan after closing out Sunday’s 400-miler at Pocono Raceway with a strong charge from the back of the pack to finish 11th.
He’s now 17thin the championship standings with 12 races remaining in the 26-race regular season.
Qualifying for the FireKeepers Casino 400 is set for 4:10 p.m. on Friday, and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.
The summer stretch of races has begun on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit. The speedweeks at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway are through and the series is now venturing across the northern part of the country.
Last week’s stop was at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, and this week it moves to historic Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has three wins at Michigan, which puts him in a tie with Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson for most among active drivers. And just like he’s done at Pocono, his three wins have come with three different teams.
He scored his first win at Michigan in June 2003 driving for Roush Fenway Racing, then backed it up with a victory in August 2007 with Team Penske. His last Michigan win came in a rain-shorted race with SHR in June 2015.
Busch also qualified on the pole at the 2-mile oval in June 2010 and 2011, and he’s scored five top-five finishes there.
He’ll be looking to take Ford back to victory lane at Michigan, which is about an hour from the Detroit area, where Ford is based. The blue oval has a long history at Michigan, winning nearly half the races since the track opened in 1969. Of the 97 NASCAR Cup Series races contested at Michigan, Ford and its Mercury brand have combined for 47 wins – 35 by Ford and 12 by Mercury.
Busch is credited with one of those triumphs – June 2003, when he snatched the lead from Jeff Gordon with 24 laps to go to claim his seventh career Cup Series win.
The Las Vegas native has five top-12 finishes, including a win, in his last six Michigan starts. He’s hoping to score another victory as the dog days of summer get underway.
Ragan on Michigan
"The racetrack still hasn’t widened out as much as we had all liked for it to. It’s taken some time for that asphalt to mature. It’s getting better and better, and I’m sure this year it’s going to be better than the previous year. But the bottom groove and a half is still the preferred line. We can’t fan out four- and five-wide at the corners like we used to. I think that’s going to come with time.
"Those restarts, you can’t be super aggressive because you don’t have a lot of margin in the corners. So, qualifying is important. We always have long green-flag runs, so it’s important to establish your track position and try to get up front so you can control your own race."
Ragan Michigan Stats
22 starts, 1 top-5, 2 top-10s, 5 top-15s
Best finish: 3rd
McDowell on Michigan
"Michigan is one of the toughest tracks we go to now. It’s always been fast, but it wasn’t as daunting as it is now. Our cars are so on the edge there and nervous on entry. As we’ve pulled off all the downforce over the last three to four years, Michigan is where you notice it the most. Coming to a mile-and-a-half and you’re a little free in, it’s manageable. At Michigan, you’re hanging on for dear life. The cars are a handful, and that’s made racing there a challenge. Getting your car to drive well is very important. But you can’t take speed out of it to do it. It’s a balance. The drivers want more comfort and the crew chiefs want more speed.
"Qualifying well and keeping track position are super important. You’re already on edge by yourself, and then you put your car in a pack and it’s hard to make moves. It’s hard to make passes, especially when you’re at similar speed to the cars you’re racing. So, strategy comes in for sure. We’ve seen that race be a fuel mileage race. There’s always a plan going into Michigan: How do we get off strategy and maybe steal a win?"
McDowell Michigan Stats
Best finish: 23rd
Sunday, June 10, 10:50am - Ford Performance display (Michigan International Speedway Fan Zone)
Life comes at you fast. Especially at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits the wide, sweeping corners and long straightaways of the 2-mile, D-shaped oval in the state’s scenic Irish Hills region this weekend for the 15th race of the 2018 season. Last year’s Michigan races provided the fastest two qualifying laps of the 2017 season with each pole winner’s speeds exceeding 202 mph.
It’s a far cry from the 206.558 mph track record set by Jeff Gordon in August 2014, but it’s still fast.
Just ask the drivers.
“Michigan will surely get your attention,” said No. 14 Haas Automation VF-1 for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver Clint Bowyer, who qualified third and 11th at Michigan in 2017. “You better have everything right at Michigan. That’s engine, aero, handling and everything else. You are going so fast there that anything slightly off will show up.”
Bowyer arrives at Michigan after a good run but disappointing result at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway last weekend. Bowyer finished fourth and third in the race’s first two stages and appeared destined for a top-five finish. But a missed shift with five laps remaining in the race left him “sick to my stomach” with a 20th-place finish.
The stage points earned Sunday, coupled with trouble encountered by competitors in the race, moved Bowyer from eighth to sixth in the standings. The No. 14 owns a victory, three top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 2018. His average start is 17.7 and average finish is 18.7 at Michigan.
Bowyer showed speed at Michigan in 2017. In June, he started third and ran as high as second early in the race. He finished sixth in both Stage 1 and Stage 2. He restarted the race seventh with 15 laps remaining but visited pit lane after right-side contact with the wall. The damage relegated Bowyer to 26th.
In July he finished 23rd after enduring two speeding penalties and contact with another car with 50 laps remaining in the race.
Bowyer’s average finish of 11.4 in 2018 is the second best of his career. In 2012 he averaged a 10.9 finish. His 2018 numbers would be even better were it not for accidents caused by other drivers at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City that saw Bowyer’s good runs end early.
SHR drivers own one points-paying victory at Michigan – Kurt Busch in June 2015 – and 10 top-fives and 18 top-10s in 54 starts. The organization arrives at Michigan as strong as ever. In 2018 SHR cars have won six points-paying Cup Series races – five for Kevin Harvick and one for Bowyer – and the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race, and have earned three poles and led 1,427 of the season’s 4,462 laps. An SHR Ford has led approximately one-third of all laps in 2018.
SHR drivers are high in the standings, as well. Harvick is second, Bowyer sixth, Busch seventh and Aric Almirola 11th.
“Life is good right now at SHR,” Bowyer said. “Our Fords are fast and we hope to keep making them faster. It being Michigan, I know Ford will have a lot of folks at the track this weekend. We are going to meet a lot of them on Sunday and tell them how much we appreciate their support and hard work. I’d really like them to come get their picture with us in victory lane.”
Garrett’s Smithley will compete in his first MENCS Race for StarCom Racing in the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday, June 10 at Michigan International Speedway. Garrett will pilot SCR’s 99 Victory Lane Chevy.
Garrett’s racing career has come full circle, due in large part to the opportunities given by SCR Team manager, Derrike Cope. Garrett and Derrike have a relationship that started out back in 2013 while Garrett was a driver in Cope’s Driver Development Program.
“Five years ago to the weekend, I made my stock debut in the ARCA series at Pocono, and now I’m getting a shot at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series. It’s surreal,” said Garrett Smithley. “When you’re a kid starting racing, the dream is to make it to the top. Victory Lane Oil, Showcase Auto Sales, and StarCom Racing are making that happen. Michigan is one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. It’s also cool to work with Derrike Cope again. We have a long history together with him giving me my first opportunity to race ARCA and my first opportunity in the Xfinity Series. My goal is to finish all the laps and have a ton of fun doing it.”
SCR and Garrett are proud to partner with Victory Lane Quick Oil Change, headquartered in Ann Arbor Michigan, as the primary sponsor of the No. 99 Chevrolet. Victory Lane offers quick, full-service oil changes, as well as a full menu of other vehicle services. In addition, Victory Lane also offers Fleet Service, and is currently looking to expand with new franchise owners. For information about Victory Lane Quick Oil Change, www.victorylane.net.
"We are excited for a new partnership. It has been a pleasure watching Garrett develop over the past 5 years. SCR, myself and my wife Elyshia are delighted to welcome him back for his Cup debut and hopefully a solid run in the 99,” said Team Manager Derrike Cope.
In addition, SCR & Garrett have partnered with associate sponsors Showcase Auto Sales and JAS Expedited Trucking LLC. Located in Chesaning, MI, Showcase Auto Sales is one of Michigan’s largest used car dealerships. For more information or to shop Showcase’s current inventory, visit www.showcaseautosalesllc.com.
JAS Expedited Trucking LLC based out Imlay City, Michigan specializes in expedited shipping, while proudly guaranteeing on time delivery. Expediting is a special niche in the transportation industry dedicated to time sensitive freight. JAS celebrates 15 years of business in 2018. The company is currently looking to hire drivers. For more information about JAS Expedited Trucking, including current truck driving opportunities, please visit their website at www.JASNW.com.
To learn more about StarCom Racing, you can follow the team on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Snapchat @StarComRacing.
StarCom Racing PR
Kevin Harvick is heading to the Irish Hills of Michigan with Jimmy John’s on the hood of his No. 4 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
The driver of the No. 4 Ford has taken the Jimmy John’s motto of “Freaky Fast” to a whole new level in 2018. Starting on Fridays, Harvick has won two Busch Pole awards and started on the front row six times thanks to his qualifying efforts. He has been just as freaky fast on race day, scoring a series-best five points-paying wins and a win in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.
Harvick has led a series-best 909 laps, which ranks as the fourth-best single-season total of his career – and there are 22 races remaining. He leads the series with 10 top-five finishes and is tied for the series lead with 11 top-10s and 25 playoff points.
Those numbers are likely to continue on the 2-mile Michigan oval, where Harvick and the No. 4 team have been among the best in the series in recent years, scoring top-five finishes in seven of their last 10 starts there and leading the series with 372 points and an average starting position of 7.6.
Harvick scored four consecutive second-place finishes at Michigan from June 2013 through August 2014. He was runner-up to Greg Biffle by 2.989 seconds in June 2013. In August 2013, Harvick finished 1.018 seconds behind Joey Logano. In 2014, he followed Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon across the finish line in the June and August races, respectively. That’s four races, four second-place finishes, to four different drivers.
Harvick scored back-to-back top-five finishes at Michigan in 2016. In June, he started 29th and raced his way to a fifth-place finish. His next start in August, he started fourth, led 33 laps and finished fifth.
For his career, Harvick has been to victory lane at Michigan in each of NASCAR’s top three national touring series.
He scored an Xfinity Series win at Michigan in August 2003, when he led 10 laps and beat Kasey Kahne to the finish line under caution. His NASCAR Cup Series win came in August 2010, when he led 60 laps and outran Denny Hamlin to the finish line by 1.731 seconds. He scored a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in August 2011, when he led 13 laps and finished ahead of Timothy Peters as the race ended under caution.
The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion would like to add a fresh Cup Series win to his resume Sunday at Michigan. A win would give Harvick a new single-season-best sixth points-paying win and would add to his series-best 25 playoff points as he continues his march toward NASCAR’s 2018 playoffs.
During the 19th century, the Irish Hills area of Michigan – located near U.S. 12 just about halfway between Detroit and Chicago – was a well-known stopping point during the five-day stagecoach trip between the two large Midwest cities.
At the turn of the century, the Irish Hills turned into an enjoyable tourist destination with its plush, green landscape and more than 30 lakes for vacationers and residents to enjoy in peace and quiet.
For the last several decades, the Irish Hills become anything but peaceful and quiet two weekends per year when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
During this weekend’s semiannual stopover at the track located approximately 80 miles southwest of Detroit, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White and Blue Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), looks to keep his hot start to the season going while also breaking out of some tough luck at Michigan in recent years during Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400.
Busch won at Michigan in August 2011 for his first Cup Series triumph there. However, the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season and, while he scored a solid fourth-place finish on the new surface in June 2013, he has just two top-10 finishes since the repave, both coming last year, which is not up to Busch’s high standards. This weekend, Busch looks to overcome that recent string of bad luck at Michigan and turn his fortunes around on the blazing-fast oval.
While Busch has had some tough luck at Michigan in recent years, he’s had no such thing during the 14 races contested in NASCAR’s top series thus far in 2018. He has four victories thus far among his impressive nine top-five finishes, and 11-top-10s, and he’s led 888 laps just past the halfway point in the Cup Series regular season.
Busch will bring the M&M’S Red, White and Blue paint scheme back for a third weekend in a row after running the colors at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend and at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway last weekend. The patriotic scheme celebrates M&M’S Red, White and Blue Mix, which is available at retailers nationwide and is the perfect treat to celebrate summer.
So, as Busch and the M&M’s Red, White and Blue team head to the Upper Midwest this weekend, they hope to turn their luck around with the ultimate goal of a second career Cup Series victory for Busch in the Irish Hills of Michigan.
Martin Truex Jr. will most likely have an extra bounce in his step when he gets to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400.
The attributing factors for Truex’s uplifting attitude is that he is coming off a NASCAR Cup Series victory at Pocono Raceway along with his performances last year at Michigan’s 2.0-mile oval.
“I felt we had the best car at the Michigan races last year but came away empty handed in the win column,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota this weekend. “In fact if we circled races that we haven’t won at prior to the season Michigan would be high on the list. We really want this victory after what happened last year. It would also be nice to drive the blue car to Victory Lane since Auto-Owners Insurance is based in Lansing, Mich.”
Truex finished sixth and second at Michigan last year and won three of the four stages – two in the June race and one in the August race. Even Kyle Larson, who won both Michigan races in 2017, said Truex’s No. 78 Toyota was “the class of the field” after the first Michigan race.
But late-race restarts in the non-preferred inside lane dropped Truex out of contention in last year’s first Michigan race. In the second Michigan race, Truex held a safe lead but after a late caution he got beat on a restart for the two-lap overtime shootout.
“Although they were both solid finishes, they were frustrating results from our standpoint,” said the Furniture Row Racing driver.
Back to 2018.
Truex’s recent performances have quieted some critics who felt he was losing some of his 2017 championship mojo. In the last four races he has had finishes of fourth (Dover), second (Kansas), second (Charlotte) and first (Pocono) for a 2.25 average.
“I think if you look at our season as a whole -- we had four weekends where obviously we finished really bad,” Truex noted. “We had two blown tires and got caught in two wrecks all coming in four straight weeks, which really hurt us and set us back momentum-wise, but more so points-wise. Besides those four races, we've been top-five all but once. So if you look at that, it's like, it's pretty good.
“The things that we've had to battle back from to keep finishing in the top-five, it's hard to do. We've had more battles this year. We've had more adversity. Last year I felt like it was almost like we couldn't do anything wrong. This year we've had to really work a lot harder for it, but I feel like we're still right there.”
Truex’s first of two wins this season came at Michigan’s sister track -- the 2.0-mile oval in Fontana, Calif.
“I had a strong feeling prior to the California race and I have that same feeling for Michigan,” said Truex, who has nine top-five finishes in the first 14 races of the season. “Michigan has always been a special place for me. It’s where Sherry (Pollex, girlfriend) grew up and it’s also the closest track to our crew chief Cole Pearn’s hometown of London, Ontario. I am sure he will have family and friends attending the race. And yes, the fishing in northern Michigan is fantastic.”
Truex’s career record at Michigan International Speedway includes: 24 starts, six top fives, nine top 10s and 207 laps led. His average start is 13.8 and average finish 15.4.