The playoff points bubble bursts in Michigan

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Joey Logano makes his way down pit road with a flat tire late in the Pure Michigan 400. He finished 28th. Eric Young — The SuperSpeedway

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.

Finishing Order

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

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Wallace Wins the LTi Printing 200 at Michigan

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Darrell Wallace Jr. celebrates with his team in victory lane at Michigan International Speedway after winning the LTi Printing 200. Eric Young — The SuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, MI — The last time Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. was behind the wheel of a NASCAR Camping World Truck, he went to victory lane for Kyle Busch. Today at Michigan International Speedway, Bubba held off his former boss in a frantic finish to win the LTi Printing 200.

Wallace passed a battling Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric with 11 laps remaining to take the lead.

“I didn’t want to make that move, I didn’t want to make that move that early,” Wallace said, “I wanted to wait till three or four laps to go. I closed my eyes and turned left and when I opened them I was in the lead.”

Wallace said he and his team had two goals coming into his one-off run Saturday.

“We had a text message about the goal(s) we had. That was winning the race and beating Kyle’s ass and we did that.”

The win comes two and a half years since his his last truck series start. A 2014 victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

It was an uphill battle for Wallace, who started ninth in the No. 99 Chevrolet for MDM Motorsports and held the position until the end of stage one. After a caution on lap 53, Wallace was penalized for having a crewmember over the wall too soon and had to drop to the tail end of the field.

Using pit strategy to save fuel allowed Wallace to gain the field position needed to make his move. He said the win will help as he continues to look for a full time NASCAR ride in 2018. Wallace lost his Xfinity Series ride 12 races into the 2017 season due to lack of funding. He spent four races substituting for Aric Almirola’s No. 43 car at Richard Petty Motorsports.  

“I don’t know what my plans are for the rest of the year.” he said. “I have a lot of things working for 2018. I’m pretty confident that this helped. Hopefully this opens up more doors with these guys.”

Wallace said his one race deal with MDM came together approximately two weeks ago. The win is the first for the first year truck series team.

“This is such a huge moment for not only myself but for everyone involved,” Wallace said. “It’s all about who you surround yourself with. When you put a great combination together, there’s a good chance you can add a little more fire and come out here and do this.”

Christopher Bell battled for the win and had help from Kyle Busch, but it wasn’t enough to pass Wallace in the last 10 laps.

“I was pretty bummed,” Bell said. “I felt like I was in position to win. I’m disappointed in myself, really.”

The finish was the latest in a busy weekend for Bell who is on his way to compete in the Knoxville Nationals for Tony Stewart Racing. He also is on standby for Denny Hamlin on Sunday as Hamlin awaits the birth of his second child. Bell had the opportunity to practice the No. 11 Cup car during final practice.

“I was honored,” Bell said about being in Hamlin’s car. “It was a dream come true.”

Kyle Busch finished third after winning the first two stages, Ryan Truex was fourth and Austin Cindric was fifth.

The Camping World Truck Series returns to Bristol Wednesday night for the UNHO 200.

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The great thing about racing

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Note: As Eric and I prepare to cover a NASCAR Cup Series race for the first time ever, I wanted to share what NASCAR and Michigan International Speedway mean to me. This post was originally penned in 2010 but its meaning remains the same. A lot has changed in my life since I wrote this post all those years ago. The one thing that remains the same, racing is in my blood. Happy MIS week!

“It’s nothing but a bunch of cars running around in circles.”

“I drive a car every day, I could do that.”

“They aren’t athletes.”

Those are the quotes that I hear the most when I talk about racing. That all may be true, but I disagree.

Racing is more than just a Sunday drive. For me, it’s a passion, and obsession.

On Sunday, I took my annual pilgrimage to the Michigan International Speedway, and guess what? I had a blast.

Watching 43 drivers race at 200 mph is almost as much of a thrill for me as it is for them.

Someone can never get the full experience of NASCAR racing until they see it in person.

Baseball fans will tell you there is nothing like the sights, sounds and smells of being at the ball field. The same applies for me when I think about racing.

It all starts when I wake up at 4 a.m. to get ready to meet my family and friends. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning as I fill my cooler with sandwiches and bottles of frozen water. After a couple of hours of travel we make the final turn. There is no better sight than making that turn toward the track. There are thousands of campers flying flags of their favorite drivers, and heroes. They fill the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, surrounding the 2-mile oval.

Then there are the smells. The campfire, the charcoal of tailgaters grilling hot dogs at 8 a.m. Even the sunscreen, as I apply it to my shoulders that are sure to burn regardless of how much I cake on, has a different aroma on race day. And the best of all is the smell of the fuel and burning rubber as the cars take to the track. I am home.

As the cars scream down the front straightaway there is definitely a strain on my ears, but I don’t care. I am focusing on where Tony Stewart is, and how his team will strategize to get him to the front of the pack.

The great thing about MIS is the side-by-side dueling that drivers do all over the track. Every lap there is a pass. One driver will shoot to the top of the track inches from the wall, another will dive to the bottom, and as you think one will pass the other, the door slams and they take their battle to the next turn.

As the race comes to a close, and the grandstands are covered in smoke from the winner’s burnout, we rush back to the car for a race of our own, trying to beat everyone else who wants to get home.

And as I ride home, my head continues to spin about all that I have taken in that day. The excitement, the drama, and the fun with friends and family, it all leads to a giant grin on my face.

As my day comes to an end and I rest my head, I know that I lived my life to the fullest, being around the things I love.

Some people will never agree, or feel the same way I do about racing but that’s OK. I’m sure we all have something we enjoy just as much.

Falling Up

Is Paul Menard’s deal with the Wood Brothers good for NASCAR?

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I have a problem with Paul Menard. Not Paul Menard the man, Paul Menard the race car driver.

This week’s announcement that Menard would be taking over the legendary 21, Wood Brothers Ford, when Ryan Blaney moves to his home base at Team Penske in 2018, really rubbed me the wrong way. The reason? I believe this is a bad look for NASCAR as a sport. But before you get too upset with me, let me list the reasons why I feel this way.

Continue reading

The SuperSpeedway Power Rankings – July

The SuperSpeedway Power Rankings are moving to a monthly format. Here’s July’s rankings for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

1 Martin Truex Jr. (LM 1)

It’s going to take a lot to move Martin off the top spot. He’s bad fast week in and week out and now leads the regular season standings. He’s almost a lock to make the final in Miami.

2 Kyle Larson (LM 2)

The penalties have hurt. But the 42 team is still just a dangerous as ever. It’s going to be a two-horse race the rest of the way. 

3 Jimmie Johnson (LM 3)

Jimmie has not been overly impressive other than his wins. Those wins lock him into the third spot by default. This next month will tell us all we need to know about how legit the 48 team is. 

4 Kyle Busch (LM 4)

Just. Win. Kyle. It’s time to get it done. The 18 team is far too good to be win less. 

5 Kevin Harvick (LM 5)

Happy got his win at Sonoma! That was a huge boost for the 4 team and SHR. They are still not where they need to be but they are on the edge. 

6 Denny Hamlin (LM 10)

New Hampshire was a big deal. JGR need Denny’s win in a bad way. Are the floodgates officially opened?

7 Chase Elliott (LM 6)

MIS is coming. MIS is coming.

8 Jamie McMurray (LM 7)

I think this guy is going to be right there competing for the win in Indy. Good not great.  

9 Ryan Blaney (LW 9)

My pick to win Indy! Silly Season note: I really wish he would stay in the 21 car. 

10 Brad Keselowski (LM8)

I don’t even know what to say about Brad anymore. Check back next month to see if he’s still on the list. He’s hanging on by a thread.

Also considered
Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Alex Bowman

The SuperSpeedway Power Rankings – Toyota/Save Mart 350

1 Martin Truex Jr. (LW 1)

I said last week he would be fast… Not much of a leap. He won the first two stages at MIS but once again, did not seal the deal. He has a win at Sonoma in 2013.

2 Kyle Larson (LW 3)

It’s so cool to see this guy get better every week. He’s on a roll if you include his sprint car wins! I was so close to making him number one but Truex is still the top dog. 

3 Jimmie Johnson (LW 2)

His one road course win came at Sonoma in 2011. He’s coming off a top 10 at MIS and a wicked argument with Chad. 

4 Kyle Busch (LW 5)

His 2015 win in Sonoma catapulted him to a championship run. He could really use that type of bump again this season. 

5 Kevin Harvick (LW 4)

Kyle finally got past Harv in the rankings! I still feel like both of them can win any week now. Well maybe not this week for Happy. Although, he has been better at Sonoma since joining SHR. 

6 Chase Elliott (LW 7)

Mark it down! He wins MIS in August. 

7 Jamie McMurray (LW 8)

He’s running great! But you have to wonder when Larson’s success bleeds over and the 1 car wins a race. 

8 Brad Keselowski (LW 6)

Since I started these rankings, no one has fallen further. It’s time to be concerned.

9 Ryan Blaney (LW 9)

Follows up a win with a wreck. Still one heck of a year he’s got going.

10 Denny Hamlin (LW 10)

He had a shot at it on Sunday and got the job done Saturday. Even if the win was encumbered his battle with William Byron got me off the couch.

Also considered

Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones, Ernie Irvan

The SuperSpeedway Power Rankings – FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan

Note: My apologies for not posting a Power Rankings before Pocono! As a working, new dad, sometimes things get in the way of my hobbies. For the record, after Dover, Jimmie Johnson would have been number one as promised. However! We’re headed to my home track this week, leaving Pocono in the rear-view. Here are your updated Power Rankings.

1 Martin Truex Jr. (LW 1)

Two solid weeks back-to-back. Martin holds down the first spot again. I have a feeling he’s going to be fast at MIS… Just a hunch.

2 Jimmie Johnson (LW 5)

I don’t care that Jimmie crashed at Pocono. I’m glad he’s OK! His win in Dover was so reminiscent of Homested in 2016 that it’s giving me nightmares. 

3 Kyle Larson (LW 3)

Am I starting to expect too much out of Larson? Yes. Do I expect him to win Michigan? Yes. Do I expect him to win every week? Well, yeah!

4 Kevin Harvick (LW 4)

Kyle Busch has been better. But Harv is stringing together results! Getting closer. 

5 Kyle Busch (LW 6)

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Side note. Can you imagine if someone blocked him like he blocked Blaney? Tears would be shed. 

6 Brad Keselowski (LW 2)

Great interview by Brad and Blaney after Pocono. Again, I rather see the results and less TV.

7 Chase Elliott (LW 8)

Signs of life the last two weeks. His daddy was really good at MIS. Just FYI.

8 Jamie McMurray (LW 7)

Ouch.

9 Ryan Blaney (LW NR)

I’m so happy for this kid. He’s got a bright future. What a win!

10 Denny Hamlin (LW 10)

Blaney winning means that Denny might have this spot locked down for a little bit.

Also considered

Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roger Curtis

The SuperSpeedway Power Rankings – AAA 400 at Dover

1 Martin Truex Jr. (LW 2)

Just like last year, he dominated the 600. Unlike last year he didn’t take the checker flag. This dude leads all drivers with 16 playoff points and is the current 1 seed in the playoff standings. Martin is not going away anytime soon. He’s got a nice little history with Dover too!

2 Brad Keselowski (LW 1)

It’s fun when Brad has a Facebook Live and feud with Kyle Busch in the same day. I just wish he would complete the full race first.

3 Kyle Larson (LW 3)

I’m so sorry. This week was all my fault, Kyle. I won’t pick you to win for awhile.

4 Kevin Harvick (LW 4)

Alright, Kevin. It’s time to become a first-time Ford race winner. That’s the only thing left on the 2017 resume.

5 Jimmie Johnson (LW 6)

If Jimmie wins Dover, he’s going to the top of the rankings. I’m just warning you. He is the real Dover Monster.

6 Kyle Busch (LW 7)

Rowdy is slowly climbing. His All-Star win was a nice escape but another close call at the 600 had KB bumming again. Wins are coming.

7 Jamie McMurray (LW 5)

I don’t feel good about moving Jamie Mac down two spots. This is not taking away from his great season. He needs a win but his consistency should be noted.

8 Chase Elliott (LW 8)

It was a rough week for the some of our Power Ranking main stays. The Brad/Chase crash really bummed out The SuperSpeedway team, as race fans. It’s too early in the race to lose two big hitters.

9 Joey Logano (LW 9)

Joey is sitting 14th in the playoff standings. The way the Penske cars seems to be sliding, that encumbered win could be really costly.

10 Denny Hamlin (LW NR)

Denny takes back the 10th spot from Ryan Blaney. The way these guys are going, they will be wrestling for this spot for awhile.

Also considered

Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, The Dover Monster

The SuperSpeedway Power Rankings – All-Star/Coke 600

1 Brad Keselowski (LW 1)

Led zero laps in Kansas but walked away with another great run, finishing second. I don’t have the heart to bump him from the top spot. He’s just too good.

2 Martin Truex Jr. (LW 4)

From the Big One at Talladega to the Big Won in Kansas. Martin is no joke and that 78 team is no sleeper. They are a legit title contender. Let’s see if he stinks up the 600 again this year. You could call the four stages, in Charlotte, the “Martin Rule.”

3 Kyle Larson (LW 2)

The fire that was the start of 2017 has cooled for Kyle. But another top 10 at Kansas? He’ll take it. Look out for this guy in Charlotte.

4 Kevin Harvick (LW 8)

Here’s your big mover of the week! Not just because of his third place finish, but because everyone in front of him had issues and opened the door. I feel like the 4 team is oh so close to winning in that Ford.

5 Jamie McMurray (LW 7)

Ol Jamie Mac is not going away. He notched another top 10 in Kansas and has had some great success in Charlotte over the years. Is this the car to watch the next two weeks?

6 Jimmie Johnson (LW 3)

He’s not slumping. He’s not slumping. He’s not slumping… Sorry, I still need to remind myself because the 80+ wins and seven titles isn’t enough.

7 Kyle Busch (LW 9)

If he ever wins this year it won’t be soon enough. Sorry fans. It’s coming soon.

8 Chase Elliott (LW 5)

Kudos to Jeff Gordon for calling out the 24 team on the pit exit that ruined Chase’s day. You know he’s got some ties to the 24 car, right?

9 Joey Logano (LW 6)

Who would have thought his win in Richmond would be the start of a really hard slide? Side note: I’m really glad Aric is OK after that wreck. Wow.

10 Ryan Blaney (LW NR)

Ryan is going to be fighting for this 10th spot all season. I was really hoping he would seal the deal in Kansas. If this kid figures it out, look out.

Also considered

Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, The NASCAR Safety Team (Nice job guys)

The SuperSpeedway Power Rankings – Kansas

1 +2 Brad Keselowski

Battled through the big one and survived with a top 10. He was also your stage one winner. Is Brad the best restrictor plate racer on the circuit?

2 -1 Kyle Larson

Finished 12th at Talladega after having issues early. He’s struggled at Kansas but has also reached a new level this year. This week will be a good test, much like the rest of the season to this point.

3 +3 Jimmie Johnson

Was in position to steal another win at Talladega before sliding to 8th. He’s good at Kansas. Who am I kidding? He’s good everywhere.

4 -2 Martin Truex Jr.

Big one victim.

5 -1 Chase Elliott

Ditto. Did you see the camera angle of him grinding the wall like Tony Hawk? Awesome.

6 -1 Joey Logano

Ditto again. Bonus bad luck. His Richmond win will no longer count for the playoffs.

7 +2 Jamie McMurray

I’m not ready to rank him higher than 7th,but his second place run at Talladega was a great reminder of how good he is on the plate tracks.

8 -1 Kevin Harvick

Was in the big one but stuck around till the end. I’m starting to get itchy waiting for the 4 car to get to victory lane.

9 NR Kyle Busch

KB had it in the bag! How often are we going to say that this year? By the way, he’s a world-beater at Kansas. Fantasy players take note.

10 NR Denny Hamlin

What a day for JGR! Led a ton of laps and didn’t get the win. Denny did get a stage win, however.

Also considered

Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Spongebob Squarepants, Cole Whitt, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.