BROOKLYN, Mich – Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 may have been won by one of the members of the “Big 3” but the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Michigan International Speedway was action packed all the way though.
Here are five takeaways.
Stewart-Haas Racing Was Strong
In June, Stewart-Haas Racing left the June rain shortened Cup Series race at Michigan with a 1-2-3 finish. On Sunday, they put another car in victory lane for the season sweep. Kevin Harvick led 108 laps en route to a win in Sunday’s race. It was his seventh top two finish at Michigan since 2013.
While they didn’t go 1-2-3 this weekend, they did put three of their four cars in the top seven.
Kurt Busch earned his fifth straight top 10 finish when he brought his No. 41 Ford home sixth. He was fourth in each of the first two stages. He had a great view of Harvick winning each stage.
Aric Almirola came home seventh in his No. 10 Ford for his third top 10 finish over the last five weeks. He was seventh and eighth respectively in the two stages on Sunday.
June’s winner Clint Bowyer could only muster a 12th place finish in his No. 14 Ford but was seventh after the second stage.
It was another dominating day for SHR in Michigan.
Penske Overcomes Troubles For Top 10 Finish For All 3 Drivers
I wrote on Saturday how Team Penske looked strong so far this weekend at the Michigan International Speedway but I didn’t know how much I trusted them. Both Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney were in the top 10 of every session including qualifying while Brad Keselowski showed some promise in his No. 2 Ford as well.
But, over the last three weeks, all three drivers have struggled. Would the speed translate over to good finishes?
Well, they actually did.
Brad Keselowski earned his first top five finish since a third place run at Kentucky a month ago with a runner-up on his home track in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400. Keselowski, had finished 32nd, 38th and 17th respectively before his second place run this afternoon.
Ryan Blaney finished fifth in his No. 12 Ford for his first top five finish since Kentucky too. He was second in that race a month ago and had finishes himself of seventh, 12th and 12th respectively after in his camp.
Joey Logano was 10th in his No. 22 Ford to give all three Penske cars top 10 finishes for the day. All three were in the top 10 in June too.
Blaney, was the best all day as he was third in each stage. Logano, was 11th and sixth respectively in each of the stages. Keselowski, dodged a bullet when he had a loose wheel early on but saw Ryan Newman crash on Lap 74 which allowed him to pit under caution instead of during a green flag run.
Logano also averted an issue when his crew had to change his left front shock before the race even started.
As you can see, it wasn’t a win for the bunch but it feels like one as they needed this momentum and luck.
Ford Earns 38th Career Win At Michigan
Harvick’s win on Sunday gave Ford their 38th career win in the Irish Hills. That breaks a tie with Daytona for the most wins on a single track. On top of that, Ford had five of the top seven finishers on Sunday and debuted a new car this past week for 2019 and beyond.
It was a great weekend for the Ford camp.
Pit Call Costs Truex As Toyota’s Struggle
For most of the middle of the first stage through the final few laps of the second stage of Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at the Michigan International Speedway, it looked like the “Big 3” would dominate the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch would dominate the top five and would at times run 1-2-3.
But, for one of the members, they had a rough day in the grand scheme of things.
Truex, had to settle for a 15th place finish in his No. 78 Toyota for his worst finish since the June race on this very same race track. In June, Truex finished 18th. On Sunday, he was looking like a legitimate contender after he rebounded from an early race crash, but a missed strategy cost him the race though.
Truex, was chasing his car all weekend as he cited before the race that the new sets of Goodyear tires for this year on the 2-mile, D-shaped oval threw them for a loop. He and Cole Pearn sat down overnight and thought of some adjustments that could help. While in theory they could have, they lost a few spots on the drop of the green flag and was involved in an incident with William Byron on Lap 15.
Truex, would make his ground back up though just 10 laps later when they didn’t take tires on the Lap 25 competition caution. By the end of the first stage, he was fifth. Then, early on in the second stage, he jumped up to the top three and by Lap 85, he was leading.
One problem though, he needed to pit one more time before everyone else as he was off sequence. Instead, they tried to stretch their fuel. He’d slow down dramatically over the final few laps of the stage but it didn’t work. He ran out of fuel with two laps to go in stage 2 which forced him to pit when the pits were closed.
He’d be penalized for that and while on pit road, they were hit with an uncontrolled tire penalty as well forcing them to the rear of the field for the final stage restart and a lap down. He’d get the free pass when Ty Dillon crashed on Lap 132 but he was too far back from then on to make up any ground.
His former teammate Erik Jones had a rough day too. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver spun twice in the first 83 laps and had to settle for a 13th place result.
Daniel Suarez saw his streak of consecutive top five finishes end with a 11th place finish in his No. 19 Toyota. He started last but had a fast car. He quickly moved through the field but tried to stretch his fuel in stage 2 too but like Truex, it didn’t work. That put him a lap down and ruined his day.
Denny Hamlin started on the pole and led the first 13 laps of the day but that was about it for him. He came home eighth.
Kyle Busch grabbed a third place run, the best for Toyota’s but he was a non factor all day too in comparison to Harvick.
What looked like a good weekend for Toyota ended like the rest of the races have at Michigan.
“Big 3” Dominance
Harvick now has seven wins on the season but if you go back to the start of last year’s playoffs, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have combined to win all but four races on non plate tracks. They’re 25-for-29.
If you go back to the last 39 races, they’ve combined to win 28 of them with Busch reaching victory lane 11 times, Truex nine and Harvick eight. If you want to go back even further, Busch, Truex and Harvick have won 29 of the last 45 overall races.
It’s still clear, these are the three to beat for this year’s title.