Right car wins in action packed Michigan race on Saturday, what drivers thought about choose cone and everything else between

Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Michigan International Speedway showed us that most races in NASCAR’s premiere series should be around that 300 mile length. Other than the Daytona 500, most races should stick to this duration. Here’s why.

The cars can easily make it 400-600 miles these days. No longer are longer duration races a test of man vs. machines vs. track. We don’t need long race for the finishing order to be the same that it would be at the 300 mile marker. People’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be, so a short race leads to a more action packed race which is a win-win all around.

From the green flag of Saturday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 to the checkered, was a little over 2 1/2 hours. But, the 161 lap race was action packed all the way through too. Still, the right guy won and the usual suspects found their ways to the top just like they normally would.

Kevin Harvick led a race-high 92 of 161 laps en route to his third straight August win on the 2-mile Irish Hills race track as despite several late race restarts, he was virtually untouchable.

“At no time did I think us or anyone else was better than the 4 (Harvick), said second place finisher Brad Keselowski.

ncs_mis_harvicklead_080820

Harvick, was just in a league all by himself as he now trails Rusty Wallace by one victory to move into the top 10 of the all-time wins list in the Cup Series. He’s scored eight straight top five finishes now and four top two results in his last five Michigan starts. So, the win was deserving.

Keselowski, has three straight top two finishes on the season and a top 11 in all but two starts since the COVID return. He also has four top six finishes in his last five Michigan starts as well.

Martin Truex Jr. was third for his third straight third place result and that comes after an early race problem. He still had enough time to overcome that, which furthers my point. Truex, has four top three finishes in his last five starts on the season and three straight top fours at Michigan.

Denny Hamlin was second and third respectively in the two stages and finished sixth. Joey Logano had a bad handling race car when he lost clean air but still rebounded to come away with an eighth place result.

So, I ask again, why run this race almost 100 more miles?

Plus, the restarts were as wild as ever and the new choose cone contributed to that.

Starting with this weekend’s races at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR will incorporate the ‘choose rule’ into the restart procedure for all national series races except those held on road courses and superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega). The rule made its NASCAR national series debut during the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway last month. As drivers approach a designated spot on the track, they must commit to the inside or outside lane for the restart. The rule will add strategy and is especially important on those tracks that have a distinctly dominant lane on restarts; the drivers will have their choice of track position or the preferred lane as the race returns to green flag conditions.  

Chase Elliott went from fifth on track to choosing the low lane to restart second late in the race. It paid off. He passed Harvick on the ensuing restart to take the lead and would lead the next nine laps. Then, another caution came out. Harvick, chose to restart behind Elliott while the Toyota’s lineup on the inside. Harvick, went high in Turn 1 above Elliott and used that to his advantage to take the lead for the final time and set sailt.

“Well, the best thing about it is they had a race with it yesterday with the Truck Series, made a lot of adjustments or a few adjustments this morning to the process, and I thought it went well today,” Harvick said of the choose cone. “You know, I think it definitely gave some guys a chance that were kind of buried eighth or ninth, and I think the 9 car was one of those and wound up racing for the win.

“So definitely a lot to think about right there and definitely some processes that you have to go through, but you can take a chance and gain some track position.  So I thought it went well and did exactly what everybody thought it would do.”

Truex, said he felt is went okay but wasn’t sure how much it altered the race.

“It was okay,” said the third place finisher. “I mean, it was interesting for sure to see kind of how it all played out there.  I don’t know that it changed the race a whole lot, but it was interesting for sure.  We’ll see how it plays out — we seen a lot of guys pick the outside, but a few guys were able to get the lead from the bottom, as well.  Pretty interesting how it worked out, and definitely learned some stuff for tomorrow.”

Keselowski agreed.

“Yeah, there were parts I liked and there were parts I didn’t like,” the second place finisher said. “I’m kind of agnostic to be honest.  I thought at the front, it seemed to be a little fun, something kind of different.  It’s one of those things where I think it’s just — when you eat chocolate you want vanilla sometimes; it felt different and different was kind of fun.  There was other parts where I was kind of a little questioning about it.  Overall I’m kind of neutral on it.”

Now that some guys saw that the low line worked late, will there be adjustments for Sunday’s race?

“It’s possible,” Keselowski continued. “It’s just a different dynamic for sure and opens up some different opportunities. “We’re all kind of learning together how that plays out.  This was a first time on a bigger track or a 550 rules package track that we’ve seen this, and so it definitely changed a little bit of the race.  I’m not confident to say whether it was better or worse, just felt a little bit different to me.  Which it should feel different; that’s kind of the point.  If it wasn’t a little different, then why would we do it?

“I thought there were times when it was interesting, there were times where I was kind of like, hmm, I don’t know.  Overall, like I said, I’m kind of agnostic.”

Truex, disagreed though. He think people will react to this and maybe adjust their approach to it on Sunday.

“Yeah, I do,” Truex said. “I think — I think we definitely will.  The hard part about it is if you are the guy that gets the front row, that’s a pretty good spot.  I just don’t know that anybody really wants to be third because like what we’ve seen today, usually the guy that picked that third spot, which is the second row on the bottom, was fifth on back coming to the choose cone.

“The problem with starting third is you have to try to push the guy in front of you, get him going, try to push him to the lead to give yourself a chance, and then you’re stuck on the bottom by yourself off of 2 down the backstretch.  It’s just a really, really tough spot to be in.  Obviously some guys made it work.  I had one opportunity to try it and I didn’t take it because I felt like we were probably not quite as fast on the straightaway as I thought we needed to be, to be able to make that position work.

“Yeah, I don’t know, I think tomorrow I may try it.  We’ll see if we’re in that position again.”

Part of what worked too was this racing package at Michigan. Harvick, says we’re almost there with the perfect package for this place.

“Yeah, well, I think NASCAR did a really good job of making that third lane available so you had options as a driver to move your car around and really make things happen,” Harvick said. “I think getting that third lane right with the PJ1 really made Michigan and the race here, especially with this rules package, just way better from a driver standpoint.  We’re getting close to having the races that everybody wants here.  I thought today was a good race, and I think having multiple lanes is really what it’s all about.”

Truex also agreed with this too.

“Yeah, I would agree with that.  I think it’s definitely a good step.  We’ve seen a lot of passes for position today.  And again, we had three good grooves on the racetrack where you could make some speed.  I definitely thought it was a good race, and Michigan is a challenging place to put on good racing because the speeds are so high.  Definitely thought it was a good day for everyone there, and it was a fun race, as well.”

 

 

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