Ka-Chow! Kyle Larson’s Lightning Fast Performance In Michigan Seals Second Win Of 2017by Hunter Thomas June 18, 2017
BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kyle Larson did his best impression of Pixar’s Lightning McQueen when he rocketed to the race lead and won the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
Entering Sunday’s event, Larson was one of the favorites because he had been fast all weekend long. The driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Cars 3/Target Chevrolet started on the pole and led a race high of 96 laps. In the closing laps, Larson had to hold off the field on three late-race restarts. Thanks to a push from Wood Brothers Racing’s Ryan Blaney on a restart with 15 laps to go and from Team Penske’s Joey Logano with five laps to go, Larson was able to stay out in front of the field in the closing laps.
“Yeah, Ryan Blaney gave me a heck of a push,” Larson said in Victory Lane. “So, I’ve really got to thank him a ton. I knew the Penske cars took off good, so I was happy to see him behind me. For us to withstand a few restarts there with some tough competitors there was pretty important. I can’t thank these guys enough. The Cars 3 Chevy was really, really fast. And it was cool to win it.”
The win is Larson’s second of the season. He took the checkered flag at Auto Club Speedway back in March, a race where he also sat on the pole. With Sunday’s victory, the California native will now move into the top spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings. He leads Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. by only a mere 5 points.
Chase Elliott once again came up just short of his first series victory. The driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet finished runner-up, his fifth top-five finish of the season. Elliott was in position to win, but Larson was just so much faster in the closing laps.
“I’m really proud of our NAPA Chevy team,” Elliott said. “From where we started the day to where we ended up, I was really proud of our effort. I really think we over-achieved today from what we had on Friday and Saturday and even last night, I was getting a little nervous about how the day was going to go. So, I’m happy that we could have a solid day and put ourselves in position and kind of rely on some late-race restarts. We had a couple of opportunities to get the lead.”
Joey Logano powered his way to a third-place finish on Sunday, and the top-five finish came as a great relief for the driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford. Since Logano won at Richmond International Raceway back in April, he hasn’t finished inside the top-20 over the course of the last five races.
“Feels great,” Logano said. “You have no idea how good this feels (smiling). Feels like a win, just to stop the bleeding. No secret, last month, month and a half, has been a struggle for us with just a lot of things going wrong during the races. This was an uneventful race for us.”
Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five.
Although Martin Truex Jr. won Stages 1 and 2 and led 62 laps, he had to settle for a disappointing sixth-place finish.
“We had the best car out there without a doubt – just inside lane restarts at the end killed us, so just stinks when you have to race like that, you know,” Truex Jr. said. “You get just in a bad spot and there’s nothing you can do about it. We seen it the last couple restarts, so just wrong place. Probably should have took two tires that last time we pitted – we took four. That killed us. Just wrong lane on the restart every single time all day long and couldn’t use the best car to win.”
Kyle Busch finished seventh. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rebounded from a pit road speeding penalty to finish eighth. Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson completed the top-10.
During the 200-lap race, there were eight cautions, but only one was for a multi-car accident. The caution came out on lap 192 when Ryan Blaney began backing up through the field on a late-race restart. A chain reaction sent Daniel Suarez into Kevin Harvick, who then bounced off Blaney. Darrell Wallace Jr. then made contact with Suarez and sent him into Danica Patrick who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Patrick spun down the backstretch and made hard contact with the backstretch wall.
“That was an unfortunate way to end what had been a promising weekend for the TaxAct Ford team,” Patrick said. “I knew when there was a caution with about 15 laps to go that there would end up being another one. I had a good run and went for it and just got hit.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will turn left and right on Sunday, June 25 as the next stop on the schedule is the Toyota/Save Mart 350 ay Sonoma Raceway. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 3 p.m. ET.
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