The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series went to the Irish Hills of Michigan Sunday to race at Michigan International Speedway. As NASCAR’s fastest track on the circuit, cars can enter the corners at nearly 220 miles per hour and slow down to 180 to make it through the corner and this can lead to some exciting racing. The track requires that drivers have perfect timing between braking and getting back on the throttle.
Kurt Busch in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 car earned the pole for the start of the race and after fighting off his teammate Kevin Harvick, he was out to a comfortable lead. After the competition caution, Busch gained the lead back after the restart, but shortly after Ryan Blaney earned the top spot after chasing down Busch. Blaney led all the way to the end of the stage to pick up a stage win for himself.
Kevin Harvick always seeks the spotlight, so Stage 2 was all him. The No. 4 car for Stewart-Haas Racing has been dominant all season, so it was no surprise for him to find the lead in this race. Harvick led wire to wire in this stage and won the segment.
Since NASCAR implemented stage racing, the race can now be declared complete after the end of Stage 2. The old rule was the half-way mark of the race is when mother nature could end the event. Now with the end of Stage 2 as the determining mark, a lot of drivers were playing strategy on some restarts early in the third stage.
Clint Bowyer was one of those drivers. After a caution, he took only two tires on the pit stop, which was a big gamble for him as he had to go toe to toe with Harvick on the restart. Harvick hung with Bowyer through turns one and two. It was a drag race down the backstretch and Bowyer motored by Harvick on the outside.
With rain in the area, it was a matter of when the rain would show up and who would be in the lead. Shortly after Bowyer gained the lead the caution flag waved for rain. After NASCAR made sure Bowyer was the leader, they called the race and Bowyer was the winner in the Irish Hills. The two tire stop by Bowyer was the right move as he hung on long enough for the rain to decide the race.
Clint Bowyer won his second race of the season and Stewart-Haas Racing earned another one for the team.
The Xfinity Series raced with restrictor plates on Saturday as NASCAR is trying to use restrictor plates at other tracks so more races are more exciting. This is what the Cup Series raced with at Charlotte for the All-Star race. The Cup Series usually races with restrictor plates only at Daytona and Talladega. These two tracks offer the best action for the plates because cars can still travel at fast speeds in tight areas. At Charlotte, drivers were still able to make passes for the lead, but we did not see the three wide action through the corners like at the superspeedways.
Maybe Michigan can offer this type of racing since it is longer and has long sweeping corners. Drivers were still able to pull away from each other on Saturday, if that is the case then it eliminates the purpose of restrictor plates because their intention is to keep the action close and tight. At the Cup level, however, this could offer a chance to use a restrictor plate because of the lay out of Michigan. This would not be a bad idea if the series just tried it for a race or two at Michigan. It would be interesting to see how it plays out.
The series is off next weekend for Father’s Day, but in two weeks they head out west for road course racing at Sonoma. This is a switch up for the guys as Sonoma is an exciting track to race. A lot of hills and corners lead to a lot of exciting action and close quarter racing. It will be exciting to see if we have a new winner next week at the first road course of the season.