Busch takes rain-shortened Quicken Loans 400
BROOKLYN, Mich. — The Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday was interrupted by red-flag-inducing rain four different times and then shortened by 62 laps. When the race was deemed official by NASCAR, Kurt Busch was declared the race winner for the second time in 2015.
“It’s amazing when you have team chemistry at the level we do,” Busch said. “I grew up watching Rick Crelli and Ron Hornaday, the legends of the Southwest Tour, run, and to have Carelli as my spotter, I have so much respect for him. And he has so much wisdom to gain. And he’s a good mentor. He teaches me so many things. It’s a team combination all the way around.
“Tony Gibson (crew chief) led these guys through a back-up car. And the pit crew was there, giving their best. It’s an unbelievable feeling to know what we went through, paced ourselves, and found the lead toward the latter part of the race when the rain came in.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, Martin Truex Jr. third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Joey Logano fifth.
“We had a real good car that was really fast on the long runs,” Earnhardt said. “The No. 41 (Busch) and a couple of guys were faster than us the first 10 or 15 laps of a run, but then I could get my car really fast and I could work my track bar and pass a lot of cars and go forward instead of being just kind of stuck where I was.”
The race, scheduled for a 200-lap distance, started on schedule but was plagued by rain early. The first 11 laps were run under green before two yellow-flag laps and then a 59-minute red flag for rain. The race went back under yellow as the track was nearly dry, only to see another quick shower that resulted in a second 34-minute red flag.
Carl Edwards was the race leader when the race was stopped for the first time. He led the first lap, pole sitter Kasey Kahne led the second lap, and then Edwards returned to the lead on lap three and led until the first caution.
Once restarted, Truex moved up to second. Edwards and Truex ran one-two until a competition caution on lap 40.
Kevin Harvick got off pit road first during the caution to restart the race up front. That restart was delayed, though, by more rain that led to a 35.5-minute red flag.
On lap 55, Kyle Busch reported another shower on lap 55 when he made hard contact with the wall, bringing out the third caution of the race. The race continued, though, with Harvick up front.
The race field began cycling through green-flag pit stops on lap 77. Because of uncertain weather, pit strategies varied, lengthening the cycle to 20 laps before Danica Patrick finally pitted on lap 97. After Harvick pitted, Logano remained on the track to lead several laps before running out of fuel on pit road.
When the cycle of stops finally completed, Harvick was back up front but gave up the lead to begin another cycle of green-flag stops on lap 120. Two laps after pitting, he washed up the race track because of a flat right-front tire and pitted again, going two laps down.
The yellow flag waved again before the second cycle of green-flag stops completed. After some green-flag stops and some yellow-flag pit stops, Kyle Larson restarted the race with the lead. Unlike everyone else, Larson had yet to stop, hoping rain would return and the race would be called before he needed to pit for fuel.
“We could see weather coming there off of (turn) four and just praying that it would get here in time for me to stay out and be in the lead when the rain did hit,” Larson said. “Hey, I applaud my guys for trying. We are pretty deep in points, so we have to take risks like that to make the Chase. I’m happy with the call, ,just wish the rain would have come three laps sooner.”
Rain did return, but it was a few laps too late for Larson. A few laps before the race-ending shower, Larson fell off the pace, low on fuel, handing the lead over to Kurt Busch.
NOTES: Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, his first Xfinity Series race since an injury suffered at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February. ... Jeff Gordon was the most recent Sprint Cup winner at Michigan before Sunday’s race, winning at the track in August 2014. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson won last year’s Quicken Loans 400. ... Greg Biffle leads active drivers with four wins at Michigan, while Roush Fenway Racing is the winningest team at MIS with 13. ... MIS is Brad Keselowski’s home track, but he never won a Sprint Cup race in his home state of Michigan. ... The Michigan race was the first for the new driver/crew chief pairings of Clint Bowyer and Billy Scott and David Ragan and Brian Pattie at Michael Waltrip Racing.