Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway
A hat trick for Kyle Larson at Michigan
Brooklyn, MI, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017: For the first half of the race at Michigan it looked like Brad Keselowski was the sure thing winner and then, in the second half, the advantage went to Martin Truex who still had the lead when they took the final restart in overtime. But Kyle Larson, taking this restart from the second row, immediately barged past into the lead in the first turn and pulled out a solid lead to win the race over Truex. This was Larson’s third win in a row here, having already won the August race last year and the June race this year – and it was his third win of the 2017 season. This has to make him, after Truex, the favourite to win the championship this year.
Keselowski took the final restart in 11th place and he faded back to 17th place by the time those final two overtime laps were run. Matt Kenseth was another who fell far back on that final restart. He took the green in third place but he was back in 20th place at the checker.
Rookie Erik Jones matched his best Cup finish so far. He took that final restart alongside Truex and finished in third place after qualifying eighth fastest. This result matched his best ever result in his short MENCS career – his third-place finish at Pocono in June. Ryan Newman was fourth and Trevor Bayne was fifth.
The two Penske drivers – Keselowski and Joey Logano – started one-two on the front row and Keselowski led the first 42 laps of the 200-lap race – ahead of Kevin Harvick and Logano. While some others pitted under green a bit earlier, Keselowski stayed out and won the first Stage honours – and after those pit stops he soon regained the lead from Daniel Suárez on the restart which began the second Stage. As the race continued to run under green, some drivers made another cycle of green-flag pit stops and, after Truex pitted for fresh tires a few laps before Keselowski, we saw the ‘undercut’ that the F1 commentators so often talk about – by the time Keselowski came back out after his pit stop, Truex had gained time on his fresh tires and he had a solid lead over the Penske driver. He held on to this lead through the regrouping at the end of the second stage – when only a few drivers who had not pitted earlier came in for tires and fuel.
Truex continued to hold the lead but, by now, Jones had come up past Keselowski into second place – showing that Keselowski’s earlier dominance was over. Finally, on lap 140, there was a crash, bringing out the first non-Stage yellow. Kasey Kahne was passing under Suárez and he pulled up across his nose too soon and clipped him, causing them to both crash out of the race. After this the pit stop strategy became hard to follow as the teams went onto alternate tire and fuel management strategies.
Under this third caution, Keselowski pitted while Truex and about eight others stayed out, dropping Keselowski back to tenth for the restart. When Truex pitted out of the lead on lap 159, Keselowski followed soon after but again, Truex had the advantage – albeit back in 14th place just ahead of Keselowski. This allowed Kyle Busch, who had been penalized earlier for pitting too soon under the first caution to cycle up into the lead but this was an illusory gain because he gave this up when, during the fourth caution which came on lap 187 for debris, he pitted and the real challengers – Truex, Jones and Kenseth – were able to stay out and take up their positions at the front again. But by now Keselowski’s race was falling apart and he took the restart on lap 191 back in tenth place.
As the final ten laps wound down it looked like Truex was still in command and set to win the race ahead of Jones and Kenseth but, on lap 196, Michael McDowell and Paul Menard tangled and brought out the final yellow. The race was red-flagged while the track crew took their time to clean up a big oil spill and now we were going into overtime.
On that final restart, it all fell apart for Truex when Larson shot up through the middle between Truex and Jones to take the lead and win the race.
The next MENCS race is on Aug. 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Sam Hornish takes a dominant win in the Penske Mustang at Mid-Ohio
Lexington, OH, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017: Sam Hornish who made his name as an Indy car driver with three series championships and who drove for a number of years for Roger Penske in Indy cars and in Cup now makes only occasional appearances driving Penske’s Xfinity car. On this weekend when the Xfinity series regulars could expect that, with the Cup drivers otherwise occupied over in Michigan, they would be fighting it out among themselves for the honours Hornish spoiled that plan, starting from the pole in the No. 22 Penske car and leading 61 of the race’s 75 laps on his way to a dominant win.
On the restart after the first caution, which came after only thee laps when Cole Custer’s car seemed to have some kind of oil leak problem and it was towed off the track, Hornish had the lead ahead of Elliott Sadler, Blake Koch, Daniel Hemric and James Davison. Davison is an Australian road racer and sometime IndyCar driver who filled in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais at the Indy 500 this year and who drove a rent-a-racer in the Xfinity race at Road America last year.
On lap 17, another rent-a-ride driver, Matt Bell, crashed heavily into the barrier off the first turn bringing out the yellow and then the red flag while his car was ignominiously towed away and the barrier rebuilt. During this extended yellow, Hornish made a pre-emptive pit stop and handed over the race lead to Koch which gave the Stage #1 win to Koch – but after the Stage-end pit stops Hornish was back in the lead, ready to go. When the second Stage ended at lap 40, Hornish was still in front and he came out of this pit stop sequence in second place behind Hemric who is a rookie in this series, having signed on with Richard Childress this year after driving Ford trucks for Brad Keselowski’s team last year.
After this, Hemric seemed to be a threat to Hornish’s dominance – especially on restarts – and he took the lead twice during the remaining laps but Hornish was able to claw his way back past him to regain the lead both times.
A pair of yellows came close together on lap 66 and lap 69. The second was the result of a big melee at the top of – the esses when a mid-field car turned sideways over the top of the hump and collected almost everyone who was behind – a total of ten cars. Another red flag. On the restart, Hemric continued to hound Hornish but he was able to hold him off and he stayed in front to the checkered flag.
Hemric finished second, 1.3 seconds behind, while Matt Tifft was third, James Davison a laudable fourth, and Andy Lally, another experienced road racer, finishing fifth. Given that Hornish is not entered to run in any other NASCAR series this year, he is eligible to earn championship points in this series – and (so far as I can figure it) this win gives him an automatic entry into the season-end playoffs. Penske’s two Cup drivers cannot drive in the playoff rounds so perhaps Hornish will have an entry into the playoffs via this win – and, who knows, he might take fire in the playoffs and win the championship. Wouldn’t that be something? Probably there’s a wrinkle in the NASCAR rules that would obviate this possibility but I’m not aware of it.
The next Xfinity Series race is at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 18.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series LTi Printing 200 at Michigan International Speedway
Bubba Wallace makes a drop-in return to the trucks and wins
Brooklyn, MI, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017: Darrell (‘Bubba’) Wallace has been having an up-and-down year. Here at Michigan he had a one-off drive for Matthew Miller’s MDM Motorsports team and he turned that opportunity into a win. This was his sixth win in this series but he hasn’t driven here since 2014 when he was driving for Kyle Busch and he won at Homestead that year in his final race of the season.
Earlier this year, Wallace was driving in the Xfinity Series for Roush before he accepted an offer from Petty to fill-in for the injured Aric Almirola in their Cup car. He drove four races with them without blotting his copy-book until Almirola returned but by then Roush had shut down the Xfinity team and Wallace was left without a ride –even though he had continued to produce credible performances. This MDM deal came along at just the right time.
But, here at MIS, Wallace did not seem to be a threat to the series regulars. He qualified in ninth place and he never led a lap in the first 89 laps of the 100-lap race. Coming off the fifth and final caution on lap 73, Austin Cindric took the lead ahead of Christopher Bell, Wallace, Ryan Truex and Matt Crafton. On lap 89, Bell made his move and passed Cindric for the lead but almost immediately Wallace dropped low on the track and dove under both of them to shoot out into the lead. It looked like a dicey move and one that was unlikely to succeed but somehow he managed to hang on and lead the field around. Now with just ten laps left, Cindric was hounding him but the tag team of Bell and Kyle Busch caught and passed him before they went after Wallace. Meanwhile Cindric lost another position to Truex, dropping to fifth at the finish.
Although Busch challenged his teammate Bell for second, Bell held him off to come home second, 0.176 seconds behind Wallace. Busch was third, Truex fourth and Cindric fifth.
Busch had started from tenth place and, after chasing Chase Briscoe and Crafton in the opening laps, he took over the lead on lap 16 and led for the next 47 laps, winning both of the first two Stages. On the restart after the second Stage he got together with Briscoe and they both had to pit top replace flat tires – dropping them both back out of contention. Busch was back up to speed in the final 25 laps and he made up most of his lost positions but he had to settle for third at the finish.
The MDM Motorsports team is fairly new and this was their first win – up against the might of the more established teams and drivers. Wallace’s strong drive up through the field and his daring pass to take the lead shows that he is a driver who can be competitive. This year, with the rising class of good, young drivers, more experienced drivers like Wallace stand the risk of being overlooked by team owners who opt for the flashy youngsters. Wallace has proven that he can drive well in any of the three NASCAR national classes and he deserves consideration to be given a full-time ride for next year.
The next NCWTS race is at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 16.
NASCAR Pinty’s Series Le 50 Tours de Trois-Rivieres
Tagliani holds off Ranger for the win
Trois-Rivieres, QC, Aug. 13, 2017: Alex Tagliani took the lead from the polesitter Andrew Ranger on lap 28 of the 50-lap race (which turned out to be a 54-lap race with overtime) and, despite Ranger’s best efforts, he held on to that lead to the end and through one overtime restart to win the race.
This was Tagliani’s first win here on the T-R street course and his first win in the series since last summer at Edmonton.
Marc-Antoine Camirand had another good result, finishing third ahead of L.P. Dumoulin and Alex Labbe. The 2016 champion Cayden Lapcevich finished in seventh place.
Coming away from T-R, Labbe continued to lead in the championship points standings, now with a 23-point margin over Kevin Lacroix (who finished 18th here after retiring with transmission problems). Lapcevich is third, ten points behind Lacroix.
The next NASCAR Pinty’s Series race is at Riverside International Speedway on Aug. 19.
MENCS: Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing
NXS: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/NASCAR
NCWTS: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images/NASCAR
NPS: Matt Manor/NASCAR
Box Score Results