BROOKLYN, MI — Kyle Larson will look to defend his victory last year in the Pure Michigan 400 when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes to the track Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, but he’ll have to deal with some tough competition if he wants to make it three in a row at the 2-mile speedway.
Larson will start ninth Sunday.
The field will be led to the green by the Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Keselowski took the pole Friday with a speed of 203.097 miles per hour.
“Paul Wolfe and my team, they kept dialing in on the car and working on it,” Keselowski said. “I’ve got goosebumps. It feels really good to run well here at Michigan. This is my home track. A lot of fans here. I have to put my glasses on so nobody can see me. Really cool. Really special.”
Logono was knocked off to top starting spot by just .034 miles per hour, or 0.006 second. He said he was happy with how competitive he and Keselowski were, and felt it would translate over to the race as well.
“It seems like Team Penske has brought some speed, even the 21, and really most of the Fords look pretty good here,” Logano said. “That’s a good sign. I think we were really good in race trim too. I feel good about it. Obviously a good starting spot and a good pit stall is gonna be key, and hopefully we can just maintain that track position and we need to win, so this is a good start.”
Logano is fighting for a chance to contend for a championship this season. His one win was encumbered earlier this year, and he now finds himself in a must-win situation if he wants to make the playoffs.
“I love the pressure,” Logano said. “I’m all right with pressure. It’s good. I’d rather be in, but the pressure part is OK. You’ve got to get used to that, but that’s what this sport is, especially during the playoffs. We just have to turn into playoff mode a little bit earlier than everybody else to get in, but so far so good, and we’ll just get this Shell/Pennzoil Ford and do our thing. Like I said, execute our race. If we have speed, it makes it a lot easier, kind of like earlier this year, and make something happen here.”
If there was a track where Logano could turn things around, Michigan could be just the ticket. The 2-mile oval has been kind to him in the past. Logano has two wins at MIS, five top-5s and 12 top-10s. His average finish at MIS is 12.06.
Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne will need to work a little harder if they want to get a victory Sunday. Both will drop to the tail end of the field due to going to backup cars after catching the wall in final practice Saturday. Johnson will give up a 22nd-place starting spot, while Kahne will fall from 23rd.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also hit the wall in final practice, but the crew was able to repair the car so he could finish out final practice.
Kyle Busch also hit the wall during one of the practice sessions, but the crew was able to fix that car as well. He will roll off sixth.