Joey Logano ekes out overtime win at Michigan

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - JUNE 10: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 10, 2019 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN – JUNE 10: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 10, 2019 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Given the statistics, you might think Joey Logano ran away with Monday’s rain-delayed Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Yes, Logano led 163 of 203 laps at the two-mile track in the Irish Hills. He had the fastest car in qualifying on Saturday and the fastest car in the 15th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event of the season.

But after a late caution for Erik Jones’ spin into the infield grass below Turn 2, Logano needed overtime to seal the win. He needed a superb restart on Lap 202 to gain an edge. And he needed a determined drive over the last two laps, aided by spotter T.J. Majors, to hold off charging Kurt Busch by .147 at the finish.

Logano wasn’t about to reveal how he got such a good launch on the decisive restart.

“I can’t tell you everything I learned,” quipped the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, who won for the second time this season, the third time at Michigan—all from the pole—and the 23rd time in his career. “You race this whole race, you keep building that notebook up.

“What a great execution day from our race car, obviously very fast. Our pit crew was amazing. T.J. Majors spotted his butt off up there. The race fans sticking around till Monday–you guys are the best. We love coming up to Michigan. Nothing like bringing a Ford to Victory Lane in their home turf, Roger Penske cars as well. This is a big win for us.”

Thanks to Logano’s victory, Ford Motor Company retained the Michigan Heritage Trophy that goes to the manufacturer of the winning car. Ford drivers have won the last three races at the 2.0-mile track.

Despite sustaining right rear damage to his No. 1 Chip Ganassi racing Chevrolet during a brush with the outside wall on Lap 42, Busch ran in or near the top five for the vast majority of the race. He was third for the final restart and quickly steered to the inside of Martin Truex Jr.’s Toyota to grab the second position.

Busch, however, couldn’t catch Logano on the final lap.

“I had a blast,” Busch said. “Tightest I ever put my belts at the end of a race. We got enough stage points today, we said ‘Hell with it, we don’t need to get anything but the win.’  We got second today.”

Before the final caution, Busch was running behind Martin Truex Jr., locked in a tight draft. The two cars were gaining on Logano, but the yellow flag interrupted their progress.

“Logano’s car was tough,” Busch said. “I really wanted it to go green at the end with Truex. I was going to push him straight through the 22 (Logano). My best shot at it.

“We’ll get it. It gives us reason to smile and be happy. We ran up front, were strong in our manufacturer’s back yard, but got second today.”

Truex held the third spot, followed by Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski ran sixth ahead of Kevin Harvick, who rallied from early issues with a vibration that cost him a lap but lost too much ground on a four-tire call on his final green-flag pit stop.

Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman completed the top 10.

Though Logano led 163 laps, the race wasn’t a cruise for the Team Penske driver. In one hotly contested section of the race, Logano passed Harvick on Lap 148, surrendered the top spot back to Harvick on lap 149 and regained it on lap 150.

But a two-tire call from Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, on a Lap 175 pit stop gained more than five seconds on Harvick, who had taken four tires one lap earlier. Even with the late caution, Harvick couldn’t regain the lost track position on the final two-lap shootout.

Exercising patience as required, Martin Truex 

Jr. comes home third

With four laps left in Monday’s rain-delayed Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Truex thought he had second place in the bag.

He and Kurt Busch were trailing eventual winner Joey Logano—and making progress in a two-car draft—when Erik Jones spun into the infield grass inside Turn 2. That set up an overtime restart, and Busch passed Truex for the runner-up spot on the next-to-last lap.

“I felt like before that we were going to finish second no matter what,” said Truex, who finished third. “My mind-set there was at least we got a shot at it here. Rack ’em up, have a green‑white‑checkered and see.”

The higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package introduced into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season had the desired effect at Michigan—producing closer racing throughout the field. At no point did a leader pull out to a sizable advantage.

Certain characteristics of the racing also resembled what fans are accustomed to seeing at superspeedways. Cars were fastest with drafting partners and could sustain major runs. On the other hand, a car that pulled out of line alone was in danger of getting freight-trained.

“Man, you have to be so patient in this racing,” Truex said. “It’s really hard. Early in the race, I kept getting runs, going underneath guys, getting them in the corner. If you can’t clear them, you lose two, three, four spots every time.”

Fuel strategy pays off for Tyler Reddick in Michigan Xfinity win

BROOKLYN, Mich. – “Three” was the magic number in Saturday’s LTI Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway, and that was just fine with Tyler Reddick.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series leader—one of the so-called “Big Three” in the series this year—saved enough fuel over the closing 44-lap green-flag run to win for the third time this season, matching fellow Big Three members Christopher Bell and Cole Custer for most so far this year.

After Custer and Bell pitted for fuel from the top two positions with 10 and 11 laps left, respectively, Reddick inherited the lead on Lap 115 of 125 with a lead of just over three seconds over Michael Annett. Ultimately, Reddick finished 1.515 seconds ahead of Noah Gragson, who passed Annett for the runner-up spot on the final lap.

Annett held third, followed by pole winner Paul Menard and Justin Allgaier.

The victory was Reddick’s first at Michigan and the sixth of his career, accomplished with three different organizations (Chip Ganassi Racing, JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing, his current ride. Reddick overcame a Lap 33 snafu on pit road where he slid through his pit stall and dropped to 10th for a restart on Lap 38.

Reddick came to pit road for the final time on lap 78 and got 47 laps out of his last tank of fuel.

“I just didn’t want to burn a lot of fuel there,” the driver of the No. 2 RCR Chevrolet said of the closing run. “Our Chevrolet was really good, but I made some mistakes on pit road, and we didn’t get the track position until the end there.

“A great team effort. I didn’t do the thing I needed to do on the race track but, man, that was a great car and we put ourselves in position to win.”

The victory was Reddick’s third in the last five races.

“All the guys at Richard Childress Racing just make an outstanding effort throughout the week,” Reddick said. “Their efforts back at the shop and their hours spent from morning to afternoon every single day is what’s paying off in getting us back to Victory Lane so often this year.”

Miscommunication between crew chief and driver cost both Bell and Custer chances to win the race. Under caution on Lap 78, after Chase Briscoe’s spin a lap earlier, Bell misunderstood instructions to pit and stayed on the track. Custer was told on his team radio to do whatever Bell did and also missed a chance to refuel his car.

“That was our first time using code words, and we got the code mixed up,” said Bell, who had just picked up his sixth stage win of the season on Lap 60.

Custer finished 12th and Bell 13th.

“We had a really fast Mustang,” Custer said ruefully. “I really wanted to win here for Ford in their back yard and everything. We got the track position and got up front, and I think we had the best car here. The strategy just didn’t work out for us. That one kind of stings, but I definitely feel like we had a fast car.”

Brandon Jones finished sixth, followed by Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek, Jeb Burton and Justin Haley completed the top 10. Reddick increased his series lead to 89 points over Bell in second.