Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service BROOKLYN, Mich. – Clint Bowyer gambled.
Then he made sure he cashed the winning ticket with a determined charge on two new
tires as rain threatened Michigan International Speedway. Bowyer got the lead under caution at the end of Stage 2 of Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 when crew chief Mike Bugarewicz opted for two tires on the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Bowyer had to do the rest, holding off teammate Kevin Harvick after a restart on Lap 126, barely preventing Harvick, who had fresh rubber on all four corners of the car, from clearing him off Turn 2. Bowyer got the good fortune he needed when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun in Turn 2 on Lap 129, causing the eighth caution of the afternoon. Rain started almost immediately and soaked the track, forcing NASCAR to call the race after 133 of a scheduled 200 laps at the 2-mile track. That made Bowyer the winner of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race for the first time at Michigan and the second time this year. With pole winner Kurt Busch finishing third behind Bowyer and Harvick, Stewart-Haas pulled off its first 1-2-3 sweep in the organization’s history. “It took something crazy on a restart to be able to get Kevin,” a jubilant Bowyer said in a raucous Victory Lane celebration. “That was a gutsy call. When we went out there on two tires, I looked in the mirror and I was so far ahead of everybody else (coming off pit road), I was like, ‘Oh man, we are in trouble!’ “The rain came just in enough time. I was trying to hold him off. I was cutting him off and taking his line away pretty bad. If it wasn’t for a win, you wouldn’t be doing that. He was so much faster than me in (Turns) 1 and 2. I got down in (Turn) 3 and just had to take his line because that bear was coming.” Harvick was close indeed. He was roughly one foot away from clearing Bowyer off Turn 2 on the restart and picking up his sixth victory of the season. “The 14 just gambled, rolled the dice that the rain must have been going to come, and he was able to keep me on the bottom there just by a little bit on the restart,” Harvick said. “Then it was just going to take me a few laps to work back by. “But he did a good job hanging onto his car, and the gamble paid off for him. Look, I’ve been on both sides of this. If you’re going to have racing luck work against you, you want to at least stay on your own team.” Kyle Busch ran fourth in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota, the only non-Ford driver in the top eight. Paul Menard came home fifth, his best finish of the season in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray completed the top 10. Kyle Busch retained the series lead by 75 points over Harvick in second and 98 over Logano in third. The start of the race was delayed two-and-a-half hours by rain, and it ended when the rain returned, but the afternoon belonged to Bowyer, who was well aware of just how close his teammate came to depriving him of his 10th career victory. “He almost cleared me off of (Turn) 2, and he would have rode off into the sunset again for the 4 car,” Bowyer said of Harvick. “I was able to just get by him, because he left me room and was courteous and a good teammate. “I tried to give him enough room in 3 and 4 but just enough that I was going to try to stay in front of him and take the air off him. That is the only thing you can really do in that situation.” Ford horsepower is the dominant force at Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. – With Clint Bowyer winning Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400, Kevin Harvick running second and Kurt Busch coming home third, Stewart-Haas Racing swept the top three positions in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race for the first time in company history. Stewart-Haas, however, didn’t have a monopoly on Ford performance in Sunday’s event at Michigan International Speedway. Ford drivers took seven of the top eight finishing positions with Paul Menard claiming a season-best fifth and Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney running sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. With its cars powered by Roush Yates engines, Ford claimed the Michigan Heritage trophy that goes to the winning manufacturer. “We always want to win every race, so that’s always the goal,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “Certainly, this I think would exceed what our expectation is. “We’re working on all fronts of what it takes to be successful in racing with our teams and giving them the right tools, making sure they have the best engines, aero tools, CFD (computational fluid dynamics) tools to optimize what they’ve got. We’re just going to keep pushing as hard as we have been and not giving up.” Michigan, according to Rushbrook, proved an ideal place to showcase the strides Ford has been making in NASCAR’s premier series. “To be successful with this track, you’ve got to have strong engines, with the RPM range that they’re running—high RPMs, having the power up there,” he said. “But (you also have) to be able to get out of the corners with the speed differential in the corners, and aerodynamics. “That’s what we’ve been working with the teams on. I think it’s that combination. If you’re not strong in all areas, you’re not going to do well at a track like this.” Clearly, the Fords were hitting on all cylinders on Sunday. Kyle Larson’s bid for four straight Michigan wins comes aprt in Turn 4 Despite a 26th-place qualifying effort, Kyle Larson appeared poised to make a run at the FireKeepers Casino 400 trophy in the early stages of Sunday’s race, but his bid for a fourth straight victory at Michigan International Speedway took an unexpected, adverse turn. Larson was 13th in the running order when the field restarted after a planned competition caution at the end of Lap 25. By Lap 41, he was eighth for a restart after a wreck involving Bubba Wallace and David Ragan brought out the second yellow. Larson finished second in Stage 1, which ended on Lap 60, and he ran consistently in the top 10 thereafter, until his race unraveled on Lap 85. Running fourth at the time, Larson spun off Turn 4, and his No. 42 Chevrolet tore through the infield grass, damaging the right front of the car. After multiple pit stops and a liberal application of tape to the injured vehicle, Larson was two laps down. Under the eighth and final caution on Lap 129, Larson returned to the lead lap as the highest scored lapped car, but he never had a chance to improve his position because rain ended the race under yellow four laps later. Larson finished 28th and will have to wait until August to try to start a new streak. Austin Dillon wins rain-shortened NASCAR Xfinity race at Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. – Austin Dillon powered past Kaz Grala on Lap 72 of Saturday’s LTI Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway and held the lead the rest of the way to win his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race since Aug. 19, 2016 at Bristol. Dillon kept Richard Childress racing teammate Daniel Hemric behind him after a restart on Lap 89 of a scheduled 125, but the race ended under caution two laps later when rain pelted the asphalt. The event started three hours late after a window opened in the inclement weather. The victory was Dillon’s first at the two-mile track and the ninth of his career. RCR hadn’t won in the series since Michael McDowell took the checkered flag at Road America in 2016, a week after Dillon claimed his victory at Bristol. “It’s always amazing to get to Victory Lane,” Dillon said. “In the Xfinity Series for RCR, we’ve been working real hard to get our cars back where they need to be. This feels good… “Me and (crew chief) Nick (Harrison) have gotten to run off a couple of wins together a couple of years back, and we felt like, if they put us back together that we could go do it again. We’re a pretty good duo, it seems like. It’s nice to be back with him and that group.” Hemric rolled home second, a career-best finish on an oval track, but his satisfaction with the 1-2 result by his organization was tempered by the nagging feeling he had failed to execute when it counted. “If I had done my job or drug the brake and or done something maybe to form the bottom lane up better, maybe I could have passed Dillon,” Hemric said. “Obviously, I was lined up next to, in my opinion, one of the best restarters in our sport, and Austin does a great job of that and had a lot of help on top.” Cole Custer ran third, followed by Ryan Reed and Paul Menard. Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Truex completed the top 10. For the second straight week, the Xfinity Series cars ran a high-downforce restrictor-plate package that kept the cars in closer quarters, though the outside lane established a clear advantage. But there was plenty of action in a race that featured nine cautions in 91 laps. Christopher Bell recovered from a hard hit against the outside wall on Lap 17 and a subsequent spin on Lap 67. He rallied to finish 11th in a No. 20 Toyota despite serious damage to the right rear quarter and bumper cover. Series leader Elliott Sadler wasn’t as lucky. His No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet scraped the outside wall on Lap 73 after contact with Alex Bowman’s Camaro. Sadler finished 30th, the last driver on the lead lap, and saw his lead in the standings shrink to 41 points over Custer in second and 49 over Hemric in third.