NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are on a well-deserved break this weekend and will return to action Sunday, June 26th at Sonoma Raceway for the Save Mart 350. Television coverage starts at 2 pm ET on FOX Sports 1 with the green flag waving at around 3 pm ET for 110 laps covering 218.9 miles on the California road course. Radio coverage is on PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
Logano Captures First Win of Season; Becomes Tenth Different Race Winner
Joey Logano led 138-of-200 laps on his way to Victory Lane in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway for his first win of the 2016 season.
The No. 22 Team Penske Ford driver became the tenth different winner in 15 races this year and posted a near-perfect 149.2 driver rating. His triumph marked the 100th victory for Roush-Yates Engines.
Sunday’s race was the second event of the season Logano has won with the adjusted aerodynamics package that further lowered the downforce. Logano also won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, though that does not count for points.
Following his win and three consecutive top-ten finishes, Logano sits seventh on the Chase Grid. On the season, he claims five top-fives and nine top-tens.
Logano has the week off before he heads out to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota – Save Mart 350 on Sunday, June 26th.
Fountain of Youth:
Michigan Produces Youngest Top-Three in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series History
Juan Ponce de León would be proud of last Sunday’s racing festivities at Michigan.
The top three finishers – Joey Logano, 26, Chase Elliott, 20, and Kyle Larson, 23 – combined to form the youngest top-three in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history with a 23.0 average age.
Logano, who’s racing in his eighth full-time season, boasts 15 career wins, including 12 over the last three years.
Elliott and Larson, both alumni of the NASCAR Next initiative, are still searching for their first career wins. Elliott’s runner-up showing at Michigan set a career best, topping his third-place showing at Dover three races ago and following up his fourth-place performance at Pocono last week.
Larson’s third-place result comes a mere three races after his runner-up at Dover where he led 85 laps.
Elliott boasts 11 top-tens and six top-fives through the first 15 races of his Sunoco Rookie season. In comparison, Jimmie Johnson had ten top-tens (2002) and Dale Earnhardt (1979) possessed five top-fives through the first 15 races of their Sunoco Rookie seasons.
Six Spots Remain in Chase after Logano Becomes Tenth Different Winner in 2016
Only six berths in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are left with 11 races to run until the playoffs.
Thirteen of the now winless drivers have captured checkered flags on at least one of the ten tracks leading up to the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, David Ragan, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola.
Furthermore, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, and Austin Dillon have shown the ability to run up front and could pop up in Victory Lane for the first time at any moment.
Earnhardt is the only race winner from last season who hasn’t captured a checkered flag in 2016.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: Stewart Posts Second Top-Ten Showing
‘Smoke’ sent signals he just might make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Tony Stewart registered a seventh-place finish at Michigan International Speedway – his second top-ten showing of the season.
And it was no fluke.
The No. 14 Chevrolet driver posted a 5.20 average running position and 112.0 driver rating.
After missing the first eight races, Stewart must win a race and end NASCAR’s regular season in the top-30 in points to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Right now, Stewart sits 35th in points, 45 markers behind 30th-place Brian Scott.
“That’s the type of weekend I have been waiting for,” Stewart said. “Today is proof that we can do it. I would rather have this than win a race and run 15th, 20th the next week. From start to finish all weekend it’s been solid, and that is what we are looking for right now. I’m tickled to death.”
Bubblicious: Drivers Without Wins Hope Chase Aspirations Don’t Pop
With just six open Chase berths and 11 races remaining until NASCAR’s playoffs, drivers with a ‘0’ in the wins column have to play the risky game of selling out for victory or maintaining a strong points position.
If a driver goes for the win and wrecks or runs out of fuel, he/she could fall out of the Chase points positions. In contrast, a driver could go for the safe points finish and get jumped by a new winner outside the Chase Grid.
The winless drivers who would make the Chase on points today are Chase Elliott (100 points above the cutoff), Dale Earnhardt Jr (+30), Austin Dillon (+28), Jamie McMurray (+21), Ryan Newman (+16) and Ryan Blaney (+11).
Elliott and Blaney would become the second and third Sunoco Rookies to ever make NASCAR’s playoffs. Denny Hamlin earned a Chase berth in his first full-time season in 2006. Third-year competitor Austin Dillon would also take the wheel for his first Chase.
The first driver on the outside of the Chase bubble looking in is Kasey Kahne, who lurks 11 points behind Ryan Blaney. Following Kahne are Trevor Bayne (18th on the Chase Grid, 19 points below Blaney), AJ Allmendinger (19th, -27) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (20th, -27).
Kurt Busch, Elliott, Keselowski Current Kings of Consistency
Following his tenth-place showing at Michigan – his ninth straight top-ten result – Kurt Busch tied Kevin Harvick for the longest top-ten streak this season.
Busch’s consistency, displayed by his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series-high 13 top-tens in 15 starts, has propped him up to second in points, 30 markers below his teammate Kevin Harvick. Busch occupies the sixth slot on the Chase Grid and has three bonus points for the Round of 16 due to his one win.
The next-best top-ten streaks belong to Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner Chase Elliott and 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, who have strung together six consecutive top-tens each. Keselowski’s run of three top-fives in a row leads the series.
At Michigan, Elliott and Keselowski finished second and fourth, respectively.
Dillon Continues Breakout Season
A mere 15 races into 2016, Austin Dillon’s numbers already surpass those he recorded in his first two full-time Sprint Cup seasons.
The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing driver has logged career highs with three top-tens and seven top-fives. His previous-best totals were one top five (2014 and 2015) and five top-tens (2015).
Dillon’s average finish so far this season is 15.1, 2.4 spots better than his 17.5 number produced in 2014.
Dillon placed eighth Sunday for his first top-ten result since May 7 at Kansas. He ranks 13th on the Chase Grid, 28 points ahead of Kasey Kahne on the cutoff line.