Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Larson Prevails in Overtime to Earn Third Straight Victory at Michigan

Larson restarted the final restart of the race from the third spot with a few options to steal the victory from Martin Truex Jr., who led the field to green to start NASCAR Overtime. Larson made the move in between Truex Jr. and Erik Jones and sailed off to his third straight victory at Michigan and second straight victory in the Pure Michigan 400.

Furniture Row Racing teammates finished second and third while Ryan Newman finished fourth and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-five.

Stage One 

Brad Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano led the field to green to start the race. Keselowski showed how strong of a car he had leading until he came down pit road, but as green flag stops cycled around, Keselowski was back in the lead. He’d come to the green white checker flag to earn his fourth stage victory of the season.

Kevin Harvick finished second followed by Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Erik  Jones, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-ten and earned stage points.

Stage Two

To start stage two, Kyle Busch pitted too soon causing the No. 18 to go to the back at the restart. Keselowski won the race off pit road, but the No. 19 of Daniel Suarez elected to stay out on older tires to take the lead on the restart, however, Keselowski took the lead from Suarez and began to work his way away from the field as he’d done most of the afternoon.

Truex Jr. was the first driver to come down pit road for his service under green which started green flag pit stops. The early pitting by Truex Jr. caused him to pass Keselowski with the lead and put the No. 78 in the position to win the stage. Keselowski would make a late stage charge but it wouldn’t be enough as Truex Jr. would cross the line for his 15th stage win, the most of any driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

As noted, Keselowski finished second followed by Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin.

Final Stage 

Strategy calls started the final stage as the top-ten stayed out while Suarez led a few drivers down pit road. Truex Jr. and Keselowski led the field to green to start the final stage. Truex grabbed the lead with a flawless restart while Keselowski fell to second. Keselowski’s Ford teammate, Ryan Blaney, had a left front tire go down after he suffered damage which would set the No. 21 back.

On lap 140, Kasey Kahne moved up in front of Suarez and just nipped the No. 19 sending both cars into the outside wall in the exit of turn two. The crash would end both Suarez and Kahne’s afternoon early. The caution coming out would allow teams to pit but it wouldn’t be the final time as any driver who came down pit road would be 15 laps short of making it to the end, the leaders would come down down with Truex and Jones winning the race off pit road.

The field went to green with Truex leading the way, as he had done most of the afternoon. On lap 159, green flag pit stops would start again with Logano pitting. Leader, Truex Jr. would come down pit road at lap 161, but he wouldn’t come back out as the leader as Denny Hamlin stayed out, hoping for a caution. Hamlin’s prayers wouldn’t be answered and he would surrender the lead to teammate, Kyle Busch. With 15 laps to go, Busch had that prayer answered as the No. 22 of Joey Logano would lose a right front tire.

Trevor Bayne would take two tires and would win the race off pit road, but that race wouldn’t be for the lead, it would be for fifth. Again, another flawless restart by Martin Truex Jr. would send the No. 78 in front of his teammate and he would look to sail off and earn his fifth victory of the season. Dampening the hopes of Truex, Paul Menard made contact with Michael McDowell. McDowell would spin, setting up NASCAR overtime. It would be the first time with the movement of the overtime line to the start finish line.

Truex Jr. did something a little different under the final restart and spun the tires which set up the incredible run by the No. 42 that would eventually set up race win for Larson. It would be his fourth victory of his career and his ninth victory in the top two series for team owner Chip Ganassi.

“I was running a few options through my head of what to do if I got a good jump, and that was one of them and it worked out perfect. I can’t believe that happened. We were struggling all day,” Larson said. “We were definitely not as good as the last two times we won here, but we preserved and had a great restart at the end.”

Noteworthy Nuggets from Today’s Race

Larson Caps off Incredible Weekend with Victory 

On Friday, Kyle Larson was given the okay from his team owner Chip Ganassi to run the Knoxville Nationals last night in Knoxville Iowa which was a really big deal to the driver from Elk Grove, CA. Larson finished second to Donny Schatz, who won his 10th Knoxville Nationals Title.

Then today Larson came into his statistically best track and won for the third straight time. The victory was probably his biggest as the driver came off three finishes outside the Top-20. The victory is the tenth victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“I want to thank Chip Ganassi, for one, for finding me in 2011 and bringing me up from USAC to race for him. I want to thank all my fans as well. This has been an incredible week for me. We ran second in Knoxville yesterday to Donny Schatz, and then to come here and win and beat Martin Truex, Jr., who is a Donny Schatz right now, is definitely a week I’ll never forget.”

Strong Performance for Richard Childress Racing 

Richard Childress Racing brought a new generation car to Michigan this weekend and two of the three drivers found the Top-10 with Ryan Newman earning his fifth Top-five finish of the season today. Newman made a hard charge into the top-five on the final restart to earn a little bit of momentum as we head into the playoffs in three weeks.

Austin Dillon finished seventh, his first Top-10 finish since his victory at Charlotte in May. A strong run for the No. 3 team has to give them confidence as they battled alongside many of the drivers they will race against in the playoffs.

Chris Buescher Earns Third Top-Ten Finish of 2017 

A rather unfamiliar face found his way into the top-ten today as Chris Buescher brought the No. 37 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing home in sixth. The driver from Texas has found something that clicks in recent weeks with improvement evident. Last weekend at Watkins Glen, Buescher finished 11th. A few weekends earlier he survived chaos at Indianapolis to finish ninth.

The strong runs from Buescher has the team in discussions of ending the regular season on a strong note which would be great as the season started off rough. Should we see another chaotic race like Indianapolis in the next three races, Buescher could play spoiler for the second straight year in the playoffs.

Another Disappointing Finish for Keselowski at Michigan 

Brad Keselowski dominated the first half of the afternoon, but it seemed that once the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr. got around Keselowski he fell off the pace. At the end of the race, Keselowski found himself in a bad spot at the bottom of the track causing him to lose positions. Keselowski brought the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford home in 17th.

Keselowski heads to Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. He’s won there before which has to be a positive for Team Penske.

Speed Wasn’t There for Logano in the Race 

Logano showed speed in qualifying and practice this weekend but when it came to the race, the speed wasn’t there again for the No. 22 team. Logano was treading water until a tire went down with 15 laps remaining in the race that resulted in the second to last caution of the afternoon. A disappointing 28th place finish for the Shell Pennzoil team digs a deeper hole with three races remaining.

One positive is that two of the next three races, Logano has wins. He’s a two time winner of the Night Race at Bristol and he’s won at Richmond a few times over his career.

The series now head to the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race on August 19.

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