BROOKLYN – The battle for the final spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series took another wild turn Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
The final spot in the playoffs was up for grabs with four races remaining but by the time the checkered flag flew, all of the drivers battling for those precious final positions all stumbled.
Late in the race, Michigan native, Erik Jones and a batch of other contenders came into Sunday’s race needing a win to secure a playoff spot. Late in the race Jones was battling his teammate and points leader, Martin Truex Jr. for the win. It appeared the Furniture Row cars would finish one-two until two late restarts jumbled the field, allowing Kyle Larson to steal a precious win.
“I just couldn’t get going,” Jones said about the last restart. “The 20 (car) got to the bottom of me and the 42 (car) was to the right of me. I saw them getting runs and had to pick one or the other.I wish it would have worked out a little better”
Truex ended up finishing third after dominating the majority of the late part of the race, followed by Jones. Jones now sits 130 points out of the playoffs 19th in the standings.
The rest of the bubble drivers did not fair so well.
The day looked like it would be a step in the right direction for Joey Logano who eventually tumbled even further down in the standings after finishing 28th. Logano started second and came into the Pure Michigan 400 needing a win to qualify for the playoffs. He began the race sitting 18th in the standings, 95 points behind the behind Matt Kenseth in 16th. After the race Logano currently sits 119 points out of the playoff picture and remains 18th in the playoff picture.
Que Kenseth, who found himself in the top 5 in each of the final two restarts only to stumble with an issue on the final restart. Kenseth finished 24th and sits 31 points ahead of Boyer who struggled as well with two pit road speeding penalties and suffered damage on lap 148, resulting in a flat tire on lap 151. He ended up 23rd, one spot ahead of Kenseth.
The biggest loser of the day was Daniel Suarez who was battling Brad Keslowski for the lead early in the race but ended up tangling with Kasey Kahne on lap 139 when Kahne came across his nose.
“I was just trying to hold my line,” Suarez said. “He (Kahne) went up a little bit too soon for me. This is going to be damaging to our (playoff) chances.”
The finish was Suarez’s first DNF since Daytona in July.
Truex built on his overall points lead, earning the most points of any driver (52) and winning stage 2, adding to his impressive playoff points total of 35 with 15 stage wins.
“We go beat fair and square,” Truex said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. There was no distinctive move. If a guy screws up in front of you, you take advantage. He (Larson) took advantage.”
Brad Keslowski looked like the driver to beat for the first 100 laps of the race before falling back late with pit road gambles and trouble on late restarts. Keslowski won Stage 1, his fourth of the year. He now has 14 playoff points.
“It just didn’t come together at the end, but it was nice to lead a bunch of laps,” Keslowski said. “I was really proud of us. We just didn’t have enough to really run with the 77 and 78.”
To read more about Kyle Larson’s win at the Pure Michigan 400, click here.
1 Kyle Larson
2 Martin Truex, Jr.
3 Erik Jones
4 Ryan Newman
5 Trevor Bayne
6 Chris Buscher
7 Austin Dillon
8 Chase Elliott
9 Jamie McMurray
10 Kyle Busch