The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited Michigan International Speedway for a second time for the running of the Carfax 400. The speedway is known as a track where the Ford drivers tend to excel. However, this year, a Ford driver would not win at Michigan. After Denny Hamlin, in a Toyota, won the race at MIS in June, Kevin Harvick, in a Chevrolet, won on Sunday.
Riding a wave of momentum, the Roush Fenway Racing drivers came into the weekend looking to prove that Michigan was still the “House of Roush”, and the organization welcomed back team owner Jack Roush in spectacular fashion. Roush’s presence at the track inspired all four Roush Fenway drivers to give it their all at MIS. Even though none of the Roush Fenway drivers won the race, all four finished inside the top 11—three of the drivers inside the top 5.
David Ragan started the weekend by running solidly inside the top 10 in practice on Friday and finishing final practice in the 2nd position on Saturday. However, a disappointing qualifying effort saw the No. 6 UPS Ford taking the green flag from the 29th position on Sunday. As soon as the race started, Ragan began to pick up positions. He was up to 23rd by the 2nd lap of the race, but reported his car was tight in the center of the turns, free off. The first caution of the day came out on lap 32 when Kurt Busch’s engine blew. Ragan took the opportunity to pit for four tires, fuel, and air pressure and track bar adjustments. Once the race restarted, Ragan’s car began to get loose and lacked the grip he needed. He fought the ill-handling machine, but remained between the 22nd and 24th positions over the next run. The caution came out again on lap 60 when rain fell due to a passing shower. The rain didn’t last long and caused no delay in the race. Ragan pitted under that caution for four tires, fuel, and another track bar adjustment. A long green-flag run followed, resulting in Ragan making a green-flag stop just after the halfway point of the 200-lap race. He cycled through in the 21st position, and despite more adjustments, the No. 6 Ford was still loose. The green-flag run continued, and Ragan pitted once more under green, but his stop was just a little ahead of the leaders’, which resulted in him going a lap down. However, the caution wasn’t too far off. Ryan Newman spun after getting tapped by Joey Logano, bringing out the caution. Ragan was in the Lucky Dog position and was able to get back on the lead lap. He pitted for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. The UPS crew also took the opportunity to raise the decklid to check the fuel intake—everything looked like it was working properly. After a great restart on lap 153, Ragan narrowly avoided disaster as Jeff Burton moved to avoid Jeff Gordon, who scraped the wall. Burton came ever so close to getting into Ragan, who was running near the 15th position at the time. The caution came out after Gordon made contact with the wall. Crew chief Donnie Wingo instructed Ragan to stay out since they couldn’t make it to the end on fuel anyway. As others pitted, Ragan restarted in the 3rd position. He took the lead a few laps later, leading two laps before settling into the 2nd position. A caution for debris came out on lap 168. Since they were inside the fuel window, Ragan pitted for four tires and fuel. Most of the drivers took two tires so Ragan restarted in the 10th position. He battled his way up to the 5th position, but as the laps wound down, his car got loose again. Ragan was 11th when the checkered flag waved. He is still 24th in the standings.
Matt Kenseth came into the weekend ranked 2nd in the best average finish of active Cup drivers at MIS, and the Crown Royal crew had high hopes of a successful weekend. Kenseth was able to qualify well on Friday and started Sunday’s race from the 7th position in the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford. Almost as soon as the race started, Kenseth radioed to his team that his car was loose in and off the turns. It was a problem that had plagued the team during the practice sessions earlier in the weekend. Under the first caution, Kenseth pitted for four tires, fuel, and air pressure adjustments. The loose-handling condition continued, but Kenseth hung tough until the caution came out again due to rain on lap 60. The cloud cover had actually helped tighten the No. 17 Ford up, but Kenseth still didn’t have the handling he needed to challenge for position. The caution provided Kenseth’s crew with the opportunity to make more air pressure adjustments as well as a track bar adjustment. Once the race restarted, it became clear that, despite the adjustments, Kenseth was still having difficulty with the looseness of his racecar. He ran between the 11th and 13th position over the following green-flag run. Under the caution on lap 149, Kenseth reported that his car was lacking rear grip. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig called for a two-tire stop to try and gain track position. Kenseth restarted 8th, and after the caution on lap 155, he was in the 15th position due to some drivers taking the wave around. The restart found Kenseth mired in a group of drivers who were going three-wide when challenging for position. He slowly drifted back to the 19th positions. The caution came out again on lap 168 for debris, and Kenseth made another two-tire stop. He restarted 7th and was able to gain two more spots to finish 5th. It was Kenseth’s 5th top five finish of the season and it was also his 100th top five finish of his Sprint Cup career. He moved up one position to 9th in the standings.
Greg Biffle was inside the top five during all practice sessions and qualified 6th in the No. 16 3M Ford, despite an early draw. It didn’t take him long once the green flag waved on Sunday to take the lead. On lap 15, Biffle claimed the lead. He pitted under the first caution for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment to fix the loose-handling condition of the car. Biffle’s pit crew was able to send him right back out in the lead for the restart. Biffle continued to lead until lap 84 when Tony Stewart was able to pass him. Biffle had fallen to 3rd by the time green-flag starts began around lap 99. He made his stop on 101 for four tires, fuel, and another track bar adjustment. He cycled through in the 2nd position and remained there through another round of green-flag stops. When the caution came out again, Biffle pitted on lap 149 as crew chief Greg Erwin called for a two-tire stop. The caution came out again just a few laps later, and Biffle made a fuel-only stop. However, it seemed that more adjustments would be needed if Biffle was to get back to the front. The final caution came out on lap 168, giving Biffle the opportunity get those much needed adjustments. He pitted for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment. Many teams either stayed out or took only two tires so Biffle was stuck restarting 14th. Biffle powered his way through the field in the closing laps, battling teammate Kenseth to finish in the 4th position. He is 11th in the standings.
Carl Edwards celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday and had hoped to become just one of three drivers to ever win on their birthday. Edwards’s next victory will be the 50th of his career—it would have been a great way to celebrate his birthday! Still, Edwards was able to get a podium finish on Sunday. Edwards qualified in the 24th position, and it didn’t take long for him to make his way through the field once the race was underway. In the first 7 laps, he had gained 13 positions. He was 13th when the first caution came out on lap 32. The No. 99 Aflac Ford was loose so Edwards pitted for tires, fuel, and adjustments. The loose-handling condition continued, resulting in Edwards’s crew making wedge and air pressure adjustments when they had the chance. He cracked the top 10 around lap 107. As the laps began to wind down, crew chief Bob Osborne told Edwards to save fuel after a two-tire stop on lap 149. Edwards was 7th by lap 153 and if the caution didn’t come out again, he planned to make it to the end on fuel. When the final caution came out on lap 168, he was still in the 7th position. Osborne called Edwards down pit road for four tires. Edwards restarted 17th, but with four fresh tires, he was able to gain four positions on the restart. He passed Tony Stewart for the 3rd position with 5 laps remaining. While he had a fast car at the end, Edwards just didn’t have enough time to run down the two drivers ahead of him. He finished 3rd. The finish helped him gain enough point to move up three positions in the standings to 6th.
While the Roush Fenway Racing drivers were able to prove they are making a comeback this season, they were still not able to bring home another win for the organization. Kevin Harvick was the driver who made the trip to victory lane on Sunday. Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 team on their victory!
Next up: Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway
And I’d like to say…Welcome back, Jack! I was ecstatic when I found out he was released from the hospital. I was even happier when I saw he was at the track. I'm glad to see him back!