Here’s what you need to know from the Pure Michigan 400 – the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday:
WINNER: Kyle Larson surprised the field, moving up from fourth to first in overtime to win his third consecutive Cup race at the 2-mile oval. He passed Martin Truex Jr., who led the field to green, on the first of the final two laps.
“I was running a few options through my head if I got a good jump, that was one of them, and it worked out,” Larson said. ”We weren’t as good the last two times we won (at Michigan), but we got some good restarts, persevered and got it done. It’s a week I’ll never forget.”
Rounding out the top 10 were: Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch.
DOUBLE DUTY: Larson, who started ninth, competed in the Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Speedway in Iowa on Saturday night. After winning the sprint car A Main event Wednesday, he qualified for Saturday’s race but had to rely on team owner Chip Ganassi giving his blessing to return.
A groundswell of support on social media helped sway Ganassi. Larson lost to Donny Schatz in the finale and flew back to Michigan afterward. “Still a heckuva race,” said Larson, who spent time signing autographs before the finale and thanked fans for their support on social media. Larson is one of several NASCAR drivers who moonlight in sprint car racing.
FIELD VS. TOYOTA: Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski, one of the most outspoken drivers on the circuit, rankled feathers at Toyota before the race with his comments this weekend that the manufacturer perhaps was sandbagging and hadn’t brought its best equipment. He also called on NASCAR to level the playing field, saying the speed advantage Toyota had on the field would lead to a lackluster playoffs.
The Toyota camp was having none of it, with Busch responding after Saturday’s Truck race, per ESPN: “Brad’s a [expletive] moron. We don’t just turn it down. We actually have a new engine package here this week. He’s a moron.”
Denny Hamlin tweeted: “
#Fakenews by someone trying to control the rhetoric” and Truex tweeted a rolling-eyes emoji.
Typically, NASCAR does a close inspection of cars after the last superspeedway race before the playoffs to see if tweaks are necessary to keep the three manufacturers – Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota – on a level playing field.
MCDOWELL SPIN: With five laps remaining, Michael McDowell spun on the backstretch and collected Paul Menard, setting up an overtime finish. NASCAR red-flagged the race for cleanup of fluid on the track.
More: Memories of Michigan: Dale Earnhardt Jr. says good-bye to a special track
MORE LOGANO WOES: With 14 laps left, Joey Logano – who must win to get in the playoffs – suffered a flat tire. He had started second, alongside Team Penske teammate Keselowski.
KAHNE CRASH: On Lap 138, Kasey Kahne crashed hard into the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 2, collecting Daniel Suarez. Kahne’s car briefly had all four tires off the asphalt. He radioed his crew that he was OK. The race was delayed while the wall was repaired. This was Kahne’s first race since Hendrick Motorsports announced he would not return in the No. 5 Chevrolet in 2018. He will be replaced by William Byron.
“Daniel was going backwards and I was going by and I ran the bottom,” Kahne said after being released from the infield care center. “I expected we could be close off the corner, and I was just coming off and then we hit. So, I don’t know. I expected to run side-by-side down the backstretch, but not give a lot of room, because you don’t. Nobody does. But I was making the pass and I don’t know how we hit. Ruined it. It’s over.”
Said Suarez: “I don’t really know, I was very, very tight and I was just trying to hold my line. I think the 5 (Kahne) – he was passing me obviously and he went up a little too soon for me. I was trying to give him some room, but actually I got out of the throttle at that point, but I don’t know if he was told it was already time to go up – I don’t know.”
STAGE 1: Pole-sitter Keselowski breezed to the opening stage win, beating Kevin Harvick to the line. Keselowski led 56 of the 60 laps after getting a great start and putting Logano behind him going into Turn 1 on the opening lap. Harvick was second, followed by Elliott, Truex, Jones, Logano, Matt Kenseth, Busch, Larson and Denny Hamlin. Busch was sent to the rear of the field for the start of Stage 2 because he came to pit road too soon, while Clint Bowyer went to the back for speeding on pit road.
STAGE 2: Truex, who took the lead after pitting on Lap 105, won the stage – his series-leading 15th. He was followed by Keselowski, Harvick, Jones, Suarez, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Larson, Busch and Hamlin. Bowyer again was speeding on pit road and was sent to the rear.
CRUNCH TIME: NASCAR’s most popular driver, who has two Cup wins here, was seeking a third that would automatically qualify him for the playoffs in his final full-time season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. started 19th, but couldn’t find the right handling in his No. 88 Chevrolet to contend. He finished 14th. There are three races remaining to join the 16-driver field for the 10-race postseason: Bristol Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Richmond Raceway.
“Well, it was alright it wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible,” Earnhardt said after the race. “Just ain’t had the car just right the way we need it for the race.
“I think at times we needed track position and we might have been able to run in the top five, but I didn’t know a lot of guys that really passed many people. It was really pretty even out there competition wise. We weren’t like losing a chunk of time to all them guys, I mean I could see them, but just I don’t know what we’ve got to do.”
BABY TIME? Christopher Bell was on standby to fill in for Hamlin should he need to join longtime girlfriend Jordan Fish on the birth of their second child. Fish was due Aug. 10. The call didn’t come, so Hamlin made the start for Joe Gibbs Racing.
BACK IT UP: Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kahne started from the rear of the field after accidents in practice relegated them to backup cars.
Follow Tucker on Twitter @HeatherR_Tucker
Lap length: 2 miles
(Starting position in parentheses)
1. (9) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 202.
2. (13) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 202.
3. (8) Erik Jones, Toyota, 202.
4. (25) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 202.
5. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 202.
6. (20) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 202.
7. (17) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 202.
8. (5) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 202.
9. (7) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 202.
10. (6) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 202.
11. (15) Kurt Busch, Ford, 202.
12. (24) Aric Almirola, Ford, 202.
13. (3) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 202.
14. (19) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 202.
15. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 202.
16. (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 202.
17. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 202.
18. (14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 202.
19. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 202.
20. (29) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 202.
21. (33) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 202.
22. (18) Danica Patrick, Ford, 202.
23. (11) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 202.
24. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 202.
25. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 200.
26. (27) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 200.
27. (26) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 200.
28. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 200.
29. (31) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 199.
30. (28) David Ragan, Ford, 199.
31. (34) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, 199.
32. (35) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 198.
33. (38) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 197.
34. (30) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, Accident, 196.
35. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 196.
36. (39) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 178.
37. (16) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, Accident, 138.
38. (23) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 138.
39. (37) Derrike Cope, Toyota, Engine, 107.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 150.903 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hours, 40 Minutes, 38 Seconds. Margin of Victory: 0.310 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 28 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: B. Keselowski 1-42; E. Jones, 43-46; B. Keselowski 47-63; D. Suarez, 64-66; B. Keselowski 67-110; Kyle Busch 111-113; M. Truex Jr. 114-127; B. Keselowski 128; M. Truex Jr. 129-159; E. Jones, 160; B. Keselowski 161; D. Hamlin 162-177; Kyle Busch 178-188; M. Truex Jr. 189-200; K. Larson 201-202.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): B. Keselowski 5 times for 105 laps; M. Truex Jr. 3 times for 57 laps; D. Hamlin 1 time for 16 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 14 laps; E. Jones, 2 times for 5 laps; D. Suarez, 1 time for 3 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 2 laps.