By: Becca Cottingham
Headline Photo Credit: TheSunTimesNews.com
We are back at Michigan for race two of the year and tempers are still high from last week. We have a lot of drivers that are agreeing to disagree but you can still see with The Countdown to Green that drivers are still not happy with how they were raced last week. With this being one of four races left for the playoffs for Monster Energy cup we should be in for a great afternoon of racing. Pacing with a lot of single car racing once things settle down can be difficult, but with some side drafting and great pit strategy drivers still can make huge moves. The first couple of laps we see Joey Logano making serious moves after they change the set up for him before the race Martin Truex Jr coming from the back is using the traction to make up almost fifteen spots within the first eight laps. The first potential caution could have been for is Jimmie Johnson as he scraped the wall and then the back right tire blew. Johnson did an amazing job of slowing the car down to keep debris from making it on the track. Then we have Kevin Harvick with a tire issue. Denny Hamlin caught up to the leader Brad Keselowski and was able to make a really smooth pass for the lead. Kyle Larson was hit with a penalty for too fast entering. We have a battle for the stage win between Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. who has drove from the back of the pack. Every play off point counts at this stage of the season. In the end Martin Truex Jr was able to hang onto the lead and win the first stage.
The race off of pit road proved to be interesting as some drivers just took fuel only, others only two tires, and lastly four tires. Since Martin Truex Jr used pit strategy to win the first stage, he lost eight spots with a four tire and fuel stop. Restarts are extremely important, but seems like the top line is the line to be at for restarts. Then Brad Keselowski blocked Denny Hamlin. For stage two most everyone has settled in to race. We had some contact with Kyle Busch in a battle for eighth place. Then there is a battle between Martin Truex Jr and Bad Keselowski. Denny Hamlin is battling his car, but is still very much still part of the battle. Brad Keselowski was passed by three drivers and settled in the fourth spot. Drivers are slowly starting to make green flag stops close to the end of stage two to possibly stay out to start the stage three. Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano made a four tire pit stop. While Truex Jr gambles again with fuel only. Green flag stops have to be flawless with no room for error on any driver or crew. Brad lost a tire and brought out a caution and that lead to two laps to go. This gave us a restart right at the end and that caused several drivers to go out of control with Kyle Busch winning stage two. The wreck involved at least two RCR cars. Then we had Aric Almirola who is being held for two laps because too many men over the wall.
We started stage three and everyone was ready for a battle for the last stage. Spencer Boyd then got loose and hit the wall. This brought out another caution for everyone. All of the leaders stayed out but other drivers came to pit road. We got the team three and four wide again with the restart then Clint Bowyer got loose and hit the wall. This of course brought out another caution and another restart. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out another caution as he cut a tire. We are down to fifty laps to go and it is a huge gamble as fifty laps is just outside of the fuel window. The goal will be to save as much fuel as possible. But even then most drivers will probably come up short. Then with a little more than twenty laps to go we had a massive rush on pit road for fuel and tires. The issue with seven to go is fuel mileage with those who have not pit for fuel and tires. Kevin Harvick was able to get up front and he he drove away when they told him he was good for gas. Drivers around twelve on back started running out of fuel. Kevin Harvick stopped on pit road and got his son recreating that moment again. He took the side netting out and take him back to the front stretch while he does a small burnout on his victory lap. To him that is a meaningful way to go to victory lane. A moment that neither of them will ever forget.
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