In a day of fits and starts, drops and stops, here is what else was surprising and not surprising in the 47th annual Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Surprising: In spite of the race being rain-shortened, there were some interesting stats and history achieved for at least two of the drivers.
First, Kurt Busch notched his second win of the season and now has achieved his first multi-win season since 2011. And even more impressive was that Busch scored that win in a backup car to boot.
“It was a fantastic group effort,” Busch said “to be able to pull the backup car out and to have it as prepared as it was and then to have the extra work that went into it. All the crew members that Tony Gibson leads rolled up their sleeves, jumped right on in it, and we made it a race-winning backup car.”
“Excellent pit stops, excellent team chemistry. This is what it’s all about and anytime you win a second race, it really gives you that stamp on you’re in the Chase, now let’s work through these summer months to continue to make the team better.”
Second, Martin Truex Jr. made history with his third place run in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet. He became the first racer to score 14 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races since Richard Petty accomplished the feat 46 years ago in 1969.
“Really proud to have my name mentioned next to Richard Petty,” Truex said. “The King is pretty special and I am so thankful for my team and what they’ve done this year. Hopefully, we’ll keep this thing rolling.”
Not Surprising: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was up on the box and working the bar to take his fan- designed paint schemed No. 88 AMP Energy Chevrolet to the checkered flag in the runner-up position. Junior stayed on the pit box during the rain delays talking strategy with his crew chief Greg Ives, while also working the track bar throughout the race to gain positions.
“We had a real good car that was really fast on the long runs,” Junior said. “The No. 41 (Kurt Busch) and a couple of guys were faster than us the first 10 or 15 laps of a run. But then I could get my car really fast and I could work my trackbar and pass a lot of cars.”
“I was able to work that trackbar and pass a lot of cars and go forward instead of being just kind of stuck where I was.”
This was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 13th top-10 finish in 32 races at Michigan and his ninth top-10 finish for the season.
Surprising: Kyle Busch took a surprisingly hard hit right into the wall and safer barrier, one that was so hard that his brother Kurt asked his spotter to find out if Kyle was okay. And after the high of winning the Xfinity Series race the day before, Kyle Busch finished dead last in his No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota.
With that finish, Busch remained 39th in points, nine away from being able to qualify for the Chase if he secured a win as well.
Not Surprising: Both Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon were bit by problems in the pits involving tires. Harvick had a reoccurrence of a tire valve stem breaking and Gordon had to return to pit road to attend to missing lug nuts.
Gordon finished 21st in his No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet while Harvick took the checkered flag in his No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet in the 29th spot. Harvick, however, managed to stay in the point leads, currently 15 points ahead of Truex, while Gordon held onto his 10th place position.
“We had an awesome Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet today,” Harvick said. “But we had some unfortunate luck.”
Gordon summed it up by saying “We have not had the best of days.”
Surprising: Trevor Bayne had the time of his life at Michigan, scoring his best finish of the season in ninth place and leading the pack of Roush Fenway racers.
“I feel like this was a really solid weekend for this No. 6 AdvoCare team,” said Bayne after the race. “We qualified inside the top-20 and made really good gains on the car throughout practice. We had a good car today that had good speed all race long.”
“It’s great to come home with a top-10 finish. (Crew chief) Bob (Osborne) made a great pit call and we were able to catch a break with that caution. This feels great.”
Not Surprising: Luck was not a lady to either David Ragan or Kyle Larson, both of whom were in full gambling mode. Ragan finished 35th after gambling to get a lap back with pit strategy and Larson finished 17th after gambling on fuel hoping the rains would come.
“Our Aaron’s Dream Machine was decent today but got down a lap there about halfway through the race,” Ragan, behind the wheel of the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine with a new crew chief on board, said. “We gambled to get that lap back and the caution flag flew about a lap after we pitted.”
“We were obviously better than where we finished. We just rolled the dice and luck wasn’t on our side today.”
“Yeah, we could see weather coming there off of (Turn) 4 and just praying that it would get here in time for me to stay out and be in the lead when the rain did hit,” Larson, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet said. “Hey, I applaud my guys for trying.”
“We are pretty deep in points so we have to take risks like that to make the Chase. I’m happy with the call, just wish the rain would have come three laps sooner.”
Surprising: Ty Dillon, an interloper in the Cup Series, ran better than his brother Austin, a Cup regular, finishing 14th to his brother’s 20th place finish.
Not Surprising: Camry driver Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth, was the top-finishing Toyota driver He also led the race twice for a total of three laps (of 138).
“We had a really good Dollar General Camry, it was frustrating when you run all those laps under yellow,” Kenseth said. “Once we got rolling there we had a good car. We got real loose in the second to last run and we just weren’t able to adjust on it. Just didn’t have enough laps.”
“I thought we could have got to at least second with another seven or eight laps – the rain just came a little too early.”
Surprising: Jimmie Johnson was the biggest loser in the point standings, falling two spots to the fifth position. Johnson fought an ill-handling No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet all day and struggled in the pits as well.
Not Surprising: Team Penske was again the highest scoring Ford, with Joey Logano in fifth and Brad Keselowski in the sixth spot. And although both had to overcome challenges, they were still disappointed that they did not have a chance to better their results.
“It was a tough day but we got a good finish out of it,” the driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford said. “I felt like we were kind of stuck back in traffic a lot of the race and couldn’t get good restarts in the beginning of the day and kept losing spots.”
“That was frustrating. The car was loose. We made some good adjustments and got off the majority strategy which played right where we wanted to when the caution came out by staying out and getting a longer run on fuel. The last restart we lost a couple spots unfortunately.”
“I feel like overall it a good day considering how everything went and starting 11th which wasn’t very good.”
“I am disappointed because the Miller Lite Ford Fusion was getting better with each run,” the driver of the Miller Lite Ford said. “We were starting to get it where we needed to be when that last big rain came through and I would have loved to see what we had for the final stretch.”
Surprising: Danica Patrick used her time in between rain drops to plot strategy with her crew chief which allowed her to lead a few laps as well as bring her No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet home in the 16th position.
“The car was completely sideways early in the race,” Patrick said. “Daniel (Knost, crew chief) and I were able to sit down during all of the rain delays and talk through the adjustments we needed to make to help the car handle better.”
“Then he made the call to pit for fuel early in the race, and that put us in a position to stay out and take the wave-around there at the end and get a solid finish out of the day.”
Not Surprising: After the race being delayed by rain a total of four times with the final red flag on lap 138 resulting in the official end of the scheduled 200-lap event, it was no wonder that one driver had just about had it.
We really fought clean air versus dirty air with the car doing completely different things so it was a struggle as far as which one to adjust on,” Brett Moffitt, driver of the No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford, said after finishing 33rd as the highest rookie. “That second run we ended up pretty good and got good track position. We tried to play the fuel strategy game to beat the weather but it didn’t work out for us.”
“It would have been good to get it going but it has been a long day for everybody here. I think everyone is glad this is the end of it.”
The Cup Series will take a break for Father’s Day and will reconvene on the road course of Sonoma on June 28th.
And to all the dads out there, salud and Happy Father’s Day!