The playoff points bubble bursts in Michigan

Pure Michigan 400-4946

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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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.