Michigan Race Wrap Up: Bowyer makes it rain in the Irish Hills
CONCORD, N.C. - On a day that was dominated by Mother Nature and blue ovals, Clint Bowyer found himself in the right place at the right time, winning the rain-shorted Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan.
The win was the 10th of Bowyer's Cup Series career and first at the 2-mile oval where manufacturer bragging rights are on the line. In 15 races this year, Stewart-Haas has won seven times, eight if you include Kevin Harvick's victory in the All-Star Race last month at Charlotte.
"So much fun to be in this equipment," Bowyer said. "Last year was a shocker to me, it was. It was frustrating. You get this opportunity, you're thinking, 'boy, we got them. I'm back on the map,' but it just didn't happen.
"I think that's what gets you through those tough times is when you see the potential. Not only see it, you feel it. You can lie to yourself, you can lie to anybody else. But success is the only thing that brings that potential to the forefront and bleeds over across the board to everybody in the race team."
How Bowyer won the race: At the conclusion of Stage 2, all eyes were on the radar and dark gray skies, as rain loomed large at MIS. Knowing the race could end at any moment, crew chief Mike Bugarewicz gambled and changed just two tires on Bowyer's Ford.
"When we were coming to
On the ensuing restart, Bowyer held off teammate Kevin Harvick for the lead off Turn 4 and held on before a crash involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kasey Kahne brought out the yellow four laps into the final stage. That's when the skies opened and NASCAR had no choice but to call it a day due to a soaked speedway and impending sunset. The start of Sunday's race was delayed over two hours thanks to rain, which plagued the weekend in the Irish Hills. We'll get to that later. But first…
SHR sweeps the podium: For the first time in team history, Stewart-Haas Racing finished 1-2-3 at Michigan, with Kurt Busch bringing the No. 41 home third after leading 46 laps from the pole.
"It's a team effort to not have any weaknesses," Busch said. "We also come here to Michigan for bragging rights. I've always driven that way. It really shines through when you see Doug Yates here, Mark Rushbrook is here, everybody from all departments, the chief aero guy was here this weekend from Stewart-Haas. We put in a full effort. It's bragging rights to win at Michigan."
The last time a team went 1-2-3 in the Cup Series was Roush Fenway at Dover in 2008, when Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards took the top three spots. With 11 races left before the playoffs, Stewart-Haas is sitting comfortably with all four of its drivers in the top 11, led by Harvick's series-leading five wins.
Fast Fords: Sunday's Michigan race might as well have been called the Ford Invitational, as the blue ovals were practically untouchable at the front of the field. Fords finished in seven of the top eight spots and led all but 12 circuits around the high-speed oval. Fords swept both stages in addition to Bowyer's win.
Runner-up Kevin Harvick credited Ford's dedication to making mega power under the hood to this weekend's success.
"I think it's a real honor to drive the Roush-Yates engines when you get to a place like this because you can be a lot easier on your car," said Harvick. "Obviously they're doing a great job with their cars, it's a combination of things but Doug Yates and those guys, they like to make big horsepower on the big end of the motor and they put a lot of effort into this particular race weekend."
Larson's bid to make history ends with a spin: Entering Sunday's race, Kyle Larson had the chance to put his name alongside NASCAR legend Bill Elliott at Michigan, as he was looking for his fourth consecutive win at MIS.
After qualifying 26th, Larson quickly made his way into the top 10 and looked poised to be a real contender. But it all went downhill for the No. 42 team when Larson spun on Lap 87, sending his Chevy into the grass and picking up some damage on the front splitter.
Larson managed to get on the lead lap, but it was too late as the rain fell and relegated him to a disappointing 28th-place result.
Who'll stop the rain? Sometimes, Mother Nature simply wins. As evidenced by snow at Martinsville and persistent showers at Bristol earlier this year, there are those days where there's nothing you can do but wait it out.
Unfortunately for NASCAR, that was the case on Saturday and Sunday, as both races at Michigan were shortened by rain. Here's hoping that we've got all the precipitation out of the way as we kick off the dog days of summer beginning with a trip to Sonoma Raceway and the Toyota/Save Mart 350 in two weeks.
Did you see that? In case you haven't heard, there's no party like a Clint Bowyer party. For the second time this year, Bowyer and his team were left celebrating, and just like Martinsville, there's an off weekend to follow. Coincidence or fate?
Either way, here's a little taste of how the 14 team and family celebrated at MIS.
Social Media Spotlight:
"Oh my God! Look at that," McMurray exclaimed. Watch and enjoy:
Bloomin' Monday: In what's quickly becoming standard procedure, Outback Steakhouse is once again giving away Bloomin' Onions thanks to Kevin Harvick's performance!
A Free Bloomin' Onion is a FREE Bloomin' Onion! ?? Visit us for your free Bloomin' Onion with purchase on Monday, June 11th. pic.twitter.com/jLv0hVu9yS— Outback Steakhouse (@Outback) June 10, 2018
Race into an Outback Steakhouse near you and tell them you want the Bloomin' Monday special and they'll bring a free Bloomin' Onion out to you faster than Kevin Harvick turns a lap around your favorite race track.
Next week: It's a welcomed off weekend for the Cup Series as NASCAR recognizes Father's Day! But that doesn't mean everyone's taking time off, as the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series visit Iowa Speedway in a standalone doubleheader weekend. Catch all of the action on Fox Sports 1 and the Motor Racing Network.