The Final Word – New package excites Brad, Joey, Jeff and D.W. but as for Junior, not so much

Michigan brought us tremendous action. I mean, how could it not? Brad Keselowski tested the new aero package and he was excited about it. In the end, even ole Brad led 10 laps, as did Martin Truex Jr. Chase Elliott led 35, while of the other 145 circuits, 138 of them saw Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano, on point. In fact, the 26-year old was up front for the final 48 laps to take his first of the season and 15th of his career.

Fifteen races in, 10 different victors. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not one of them. Did he think the new package was a God-send, like announcers Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon seem to think?

“Not a whole lot different than the other package,” was the assessment of NASCAR’s most popular driver. Mind you, he was being interviewed in the garage after Chris Buescher had wiggled, waggled Junior, who wrinkled A.J. Allmendinger against the outside wall to remove both of them from the action. Even a Top 35 was too much to hope for. From the stat sheet, you could not say the much-promised passing materialized at Michigan, though the lower spoiler made sure things had the feel of a Montana country road in January.

If this were Game of Thrones, those boys were the ice but Kyle Busch was all fire. Rowdy did not even make the mid-point, as his blown engine left the defending series champ dead last. The engine was fine for Denny Hamlin, but after a tire blew up he found himself on a wild ride and a 33rd place finish. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. cut a tire with a half dozen laps remaining and had to settle for 29th. Not good, but their hard times on this day will prove as memorable in the long term as a race that was just newly named for a casino. I mean, even 15 years of Miller and its brands of beer did not leave much of a legacy since they departed as title sponsor after 1998. Since this has been the Kmart Sirius DHL Batman 3M Citizens Bank Life Lock Heluva Good! Sour Dips Quicken Loans FireKeepers Casino 400. Then again, what in hell do I know about event branding?

Still, those holding a Chase place coming in did so when they left Michigan. The kids did fine, with Elliott the runner-up and Kyle Larson finishing third. He sits 23 points out of that final Chase berth currently held by Ryan Blaney, who was 17th on Sunday.

Tony Stewart finished seventh, and while he still needs a win over the next 11 contests to get an invite for himself, he improved his position somewhat. Smoke shortened the gap between himself and 30th in the standings, at which point a win would actually mean something in the season rankings, down to 45 points. A single victory and Top Tens through to Richmond would sure be helpful to his cause.

As for this weekend, they rest. Well, except for Keselowski who will try to take a starting spot away from somebody when the junior loop visits Iowa. I bet he is pretty damned excited about that, too. As for the rest of the grown-ups, they will wait for Sonoma on June 26th.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.

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