EditorsNote: rewords fourth graf; fixes “Darrell” in seventh graf
When the rains came again at Michigan International Speedway, Clint Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz made the call of the race to make the difference, taking the trophy for the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday in Brooklyn, Mich.
Electing to take two tires to start up front, Bowyer got past Kevin Harvick on a restart and held it after 133 of 180 scheduled laps as the skies opened and the race was made official early.
“When (Bugarewicz) said two (tires), I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know!’” Bowyer said after the race on Fox. “But it worked, it was a great call and we won.”
Kurt Busch finished third behind Harvick in a 1-2-3 sweep for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kyle Busch was fourth, Paul Menard fifth, with Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray rounding out the top 10. Ford Fusions took seven of the top eight spots, with only Kyle Busch breaking up the string in a Toyota Camry. Elliott and McMurray were in Chevrolet Camaros.
The race was delayed from its scheduled 2 p.m. ET start by more than 2 1/2 hours because of persistent rain in the area.
Kurt Busch broke into the lead when the green flag finally waved and kept it until the first caution came out for competition reasons on Lap 30 as NASCAR wanted to check tire wear and other variables as is custom after rain washes a track “green” before a race.
Kurt Busch came out in front after the first round of pit stops and adjustments and stayed there even after a Lap 40 restart after a caution came out for a Darrell Wallace Jr. spin.
But Blaney got to Kurt Busch and passed him on Lap 47 and cruised into the lead. Blaney held on for the Stage 1 win after another restart, with Kyle Larson second in his Chevrolet Camaro, Bowyer third, Harvick fourth, Denny Hamlin fifth in a Toyota Camry, Keselowski sixth and Busch seventh as the Ford Fusions dominated, taking five of the first seven spots.
When the cars lined up to start Stage 2 after multiple pit stop strategies came into play, Kasey Kahne started up front, but Daniel Suarez spun and brought out another caution on Lap 67.
Harvick came out second after pit stops on Lap 87 after a Larson spin brought out a caution a spot behind Menard, who didn’t pit. Harvick blew by Menard in Turn 1.
Harvick had no trouble hanging on to the Stage 2 win, with Bowyer finishing second, Kurt Busch third, Kyle Busch fourth and Menard fifth.
With more bad weather threatening but the race past official length, Bowyer started up front, with Harvick, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Keselowski comprising the rest of the top five, in order.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes a week off for Father’s Day before heading to the West Coast for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on the road course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway on June 24.
—Field Level Media