Bowyer gambles on track position to win at Michigan

by Tucker White On Sun, Jun. 10, 2018

Clint Bowyer celebrates victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Photo: Tim Jarrold/SpeedwayMedia.com

A miscommunication to the pace car sent half the field down pit road while the other half remained on track. As a result, race leader Clint Bowyer came down pit road with the pace car, while Kyle Busch went around another lap. Although timing and scoring displayed Busch as the race leader, Bowyer was declared the winner of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

NASCAR Executive Vice-President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell took to Twitter after the race to explain the miscommunication.

Bowyer gambled for track position and took just right-side tires under the second stage break caution to take the lead on the ensuing restart. Harvick ran alongside him for the first lap on the restart, but got loose exiting Turn 4 and Bowyer drove away to his 10th career victory in 447 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts.

“It took something crazy on a restart to be able to get Kevin (Harvick). That was a gutsy call,” Bowyer said. “When we went out there on two tires I looked in the mirror and I was so far ahead of everybody else I was like, ‘Oh man, we are in trouble!’ The rain came just in enough time. I was trying to hold him off. I was cutting him off and taking his line away pretty bad. If it wasn’t for a win you wouldn’t be doing that. He was so much faster than me in one and two. I got down in three and just had to take his line because that bear was coming.”

It was his first career victory at Michigan.

Kevin Harvick led a race high of 49 laps and won the second stage, on his way to a runner-up finish.

“It was a good day for us,” Harvick said. “Our pit crew was solid. Rodney made a good call there in the middle of the second stage to keep the track position and be able to drive away and get the stage win. They had a good pit stop to close out there, and the 14 just gambled, rolled the dice that the rain must have been going to come, and he was able to keep me on the bottom there just by a little bit on the restart. Then it was just going to take me a few laps to work back by. But he did a good job hanging onto his car and the gamble paid off for him.”

Kurt Busch led 46 laps, on his way to a third-place finish.

“We had an excellent day all the way through,” Busch said. “No big mistakes, no rough moments. Pit stops were solid, adjustments were solid. Restarts, I’d say three quarters of the time I was on the inside lane, so that might have been a little bit where we were pinned down. But you have to make do with what you have, how the chips fall. I’m happy with our effort today. To finish third, rain shortened, of course you always want to go back racing again, but to see the two cars in front of me at the end, the 4 and the 14, that’s a big day for Stewart‑Haas Racing. It’s very special to finish 1‑2‑3. Tried to get to your outside when we were on the track, maybe get a picture with the 14, 4 and 41 to symbolize such a special day at Michigan. To win at Stewart‑Haas for Ford 1‑2‑3, it’s a huge day.”

Kyle Busch and Paul Menard rounded out the Top-five.

Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray rounded out the Top-10.

RACE SUMMARY

Scheduled to go green at 2:14 p.m., the start was delayed for two hours by rain. The field rolled onto the race track half-past the hour and went green at 4:44 p.m. Up until the final 15 laps of the first stage, Kurt Busch led un-challeneged. Blaney posed Busch his first challenge of the day, however, exiting Turn 4 on Lap 46 and drove on to win the first stage.

Darrell Wallace Jr., who opted not to pit under the stage break caution, led the field back to green on Lap 65. Exiting Turn 2, however, Kevin Harvick drove around him to take the lead and won the second stage.

Clint Bowyer exited pit road with the race lead and led the field back to green on Lap 126.

“Being at the same tires on a restart against Kevin Harvick, you know what you’re up against. He was so much faster than me in (Turns) 1 and 2. I got down in 3, and 4 and I had to chop him off, take his line away. He got loose a couple of times. I’m like, ‘Man it better rain quick, because one more lap, he’s gonna get me.'”

Caution flew three laps later for a one-car (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) wreck in Turn 2, but rain forced NASCAR to throw the red flag.

NUTS & BOLTS

The race lasted two hours and 15 seconds, at an average speed of 132.723 mph. There were nine lead changes among seven drivers, and eight cautions for 30 laps.

Kyle Busch leaves Michigan with a 75-point lead over Joey Logano.

C1815_UNOFFRES
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