Joey Logano led 138-of-200 laps on his way to Victory Lane in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway for his first win of the 2016 season.
The No. 22 Team Penske Ford driver became the 10th different winner in 15 races this year and posted a near-perfect 149.2 driver rating. His triumph marked the 100th victory for Roush-Yates Engines.
Sunday’s race was the second event of the season Logano has won with the adjusted aerodynamics package that further lowered the downforce (Logano also won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, though that does not count for points).
Following his win and three consecutive top 10 finishes, Logano sits seventh on the Chase Grid. On the season, he claims five top fives and nine top 10s.
Logano has the week off before he heads out to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota-Save Mart 350 on Sunday, June 26 (2 p.m. on FS1).
Michigan produces youngest Top 3 in series history
Juan Ponce de León would be proud of last Sunday’s racing festivities at Michigan.
The top three finishers – Joey Logano, 26, Chase Elliott, 20, and Kyle Larson, 23 – combined to form the youngest top three in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history (23.0 avg.).
Logano, who’s racing in his eighth full-time season, boasts 15 career wins, including 12 over the last three years.
Elliott and Larson, both alumni of the NASCAR Next initiative, are still searching for their first career wins. Elliott’s runner-up showing at Michigan set a career best, topping his third-place showing at Dover three races ago and following up his fourth-place performance at Pocono last week.
Larson’s third-place result comes a mere three races after his runner-up at Dover where he led 85 laps.
Elliott boasts 11 top 10s and six top fives through the first 15 races of his Sunoco Rookie season. In comparison, Jimmie Johnson had 10 top 10s (2002) and Dale Earnhardt (1979) possessed five top fives through the first 15 races of their Sunoco Rookie seasons.
Six spots remain
Only sixth berths in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup remain with 11 races left until the playoffs.
Thirteen of the currently winless drivers have captured checkered flags on at least one of the 10 tracks leading up to the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, David Ragan, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola.
Furthermore, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, and Austin Dillon have shown the ability to run up front and could pop up in Victory Lane for the first time at any moment.
Earnhardt is the only race winner from last season who hasn’t captured a checkered flag in 2016.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: Stewart Posts Second Top-10 Showing
"Smoke" sent signals he just might make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Tony Stewart registered a seventh-place finish at Michigan International Speedway – his second top-10 showing of the season.
And it was no fluke.
The No. 14 Chevrolet driver posted a 5.20 average running position and 112.0 driver rating.
After missing the first eight races, Stewart must win a race and end NASCAR’s regular season in the top 30 in points to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Right now, Stewart sits 35th in points, 45 markers behind 30th-place Brian Scott.
"That’s the type of weekend I have been waiting for," Stewart said. "Today is proof that we can do it. I would rather have this than win a race and run 15th, 20th the next week. From start to finish all weekend it’s been solid, and that is what we are looking for right now. I’m tickled to death."
Drivers without wins hope Chase aspirations
With just six open Chase berths and 11 races remaining until NASCAR’s playoffs, drivers with a "0" in the wins column have to play the risky game of selling out for victory or maintaining a strong points position.
If a driver goes for the win and wrecks or runs out of fuel, he/she could fall out of the Chase points positions. In contrast, a driver could go for the safe points finish and get jumped by a new winner outside the Chase Grid.
The winless drivers who would make the Chase on points today are Chase Elliott (100 points above the cutoff), Dale Earnhardt Jr (+30), Austin Dillon (+28), Jamie McMurray (+21), Ryan Newman (+16) and Ryan Blaney (+11).
Elliott and Blaney would become the second and third Sunoco Rookies to ever make NASCAR’s playoffs. Denny Hamlin earned a Chase berth in his first full-time season (2006). Third-year competitor Austin Dillon would also take the wheel for his first Chase.
The first driver on the outside of the Chase bubble looking in is Kasey Kahne, who lurks 11 points behind Ryan Blaney. Kahne is followed by Trevor Bayne (18th on the Chase Grid, 19 points below Blaney), AJ Allmendinger (19th, -27) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (20th, -27).
Current kings of consistency
Following his 10th-place showing at Michigan — his ninth straight top-10 result — Kurt Busch tied Kevin Harvick for the longest top-10 streak this season.
Busch’s consistency, displayed by his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series-high 13 top 10s in 15 starts, has propped him up to second in points, 30 markers below his teammate Kevin Harvick. Busch occupies the sixth slot on the Chase Grid and has three bonus points for the Round of 16 due to his one win.
The next-best top-10 streaks belong to Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner Chase Elliott and 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, who have strung together six consecutive top 10s each. Keselowski’s run of three top fives in a row leads the series.
At Michigan, Elliott and Keselowski finished second and fourth, respectively.
Dillon continues breakout season
A mere 15 races into 2016, Austin Dillon’s numbers already surpass those he recorded in his first two full-time Sprint Cup seasons.
The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing driver has logged career highs with three top 10s and seven top fives. His previous-best totals were one top five (2014 and 2015) and five top 10s (2015).
Dillon’s average finish so far this season is 15.1, 2.4 spots better than his 17.5 number produced in 2014.
Dillon placed eighth Sunday for his first top-10 result since May 7 at Kansas. He ranks 13th on the Chase Grid, 28 points ahead of Kasey Kahne on the cutoff line.
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES
Jewel In The Midwest
From one of the largest tracks on the circuit (Michigan) to one of the smaller tracks (Iowa), NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers will test their versatility in Sunday’s American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway. The .875-mile track has been home to some timeless racing through the years and this Sunday (12:30 p.m. on FS1) fans can expect more of the same great competition.
Iowa Speedway joined the NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule in 2009, and the inaugural race was won by former series champion Brad Keselowski back when he drove for JR Motorsports and owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
This weekend, Keselowski returns to Iowa with Team Penske to add another Iowa Speedway ‘American Ethanol Pump’ trophy to his collection. Keselowski has made five starts at Iowa, posting three wins (2009, 2013, 2014) – tied for the most in the series with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – five top fives and an average finish of 2.0.
Iowa Speedway has hosted 12 NASCAR XFINITY Series races, producing seven different pole winners and eight different race winners. Many of the drivers attribute the great racing to the design of Iowa Speedway. The frontstretch has a slight 10 degree banking that works great for cars on entry into the progressive banking in the turns that vary from 12 to 14 degrees. This weekend’s event is slated to run 218.75 miles / 250 laps.
Of the 12 races only one has been won from the Coors Light Pole – Elliott Sadler in 2012. The second starting positon has produced the highest number of winners in the field with four. Sadler and Keselowski are the only two drivers entered this weekend with previous wins at Iowa. Sadler also leads the series in poles at Iowa with three.
Suárez’s dream comes true
In the closing laps of last weekend’s race, the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Kyle Busch and Daniel Suárez, showcased their high-level talents as their Toyotas fiercely battled during the final lap. Kyle Busch boasts 80 wins in the series, but this past weekend, it was Suárez claiming the victory for the first time. In doing so, the NASCAR Next and NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national series race.
"I’m still trying to believe and understand how it all happened, but the truth is that you can’t ask for anything else than a weekend like this," said Suarez, from Monterrey, Mexico. "It could not have been better. Winning the way we did, beating one of the best drivers in NASCAR today. And not only that, but also having some issues at the beginning of the race. The truth is that the team worked very hard, they never gave up. I got the tools to be ahead and at the end of the race we were able to get in front to fight for the victory."
Suárez’s win grew his points lead to 18 over both second-place Elliott Sadler and third-place Ty Dillon. Suárez’s win also all but locked him into the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase that begins at Kentucky Speedway in September. In addition to the victory, Suárez has one pole, five top fives and ranks tied with Elliott Sadler for a series leading 11 top-10 finishes.
Suárez has made two series starts at Iowa, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 12.0. He’ll pull double duty this weekend, also racing in Saturday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.
Click here for a variety of assets detailing Suárez’s first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory.
Kennedy makes series debut
Ben Kennedy will make his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut driving the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet under the guidance of crew chief Danny Stockman Jr. this weekend in Iowa. The No. 2 team has been strong of late with drivers Austin Dillon and Paul Menard behind the wheel. The two have combined to post one win (Dillon at Auto Club), eight top fives and 12 top 10s in 14 starts this season.
The 24-year-old great grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., has 57 career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, as well as 41 starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and seven starts in the K&N Pro Series West.
Kennedy will become the 28th driver to make his series debut at Iowa Speedway, joining active drivers Darrell Wallace Jr, Brandon Jones, BJ McLeod and Joey Gase. Kennedy has made three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Iowa, logging one top 10 and an average finish of 11.3.
Jones eyes standings lead
Cue the famous ‘Jaws’ movie music, because Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones is back in the top five waters and hunting the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings lead. Just 19 points separate Jones and standings leader Daniel Suárez as the series heads to Iowa Speedway this weekend.
Jones’ season has been like a roller coaster with ups and downs and twists and turns. In 14 starts he has posted two wins, eight top fives, two DNFs and an average finish of 11.5. Jones posted his series leading eighth top five this past weekend at Michigan where he finished fourth.
Jones’ impressive season doesn’t stop there. The 20 year-old is also on pace to set a record for the most poles in the NASCAR XFINITY Series season during a rookie season. Jones currently has five poles in just 13 starts. The record is currently held by Denny Hamlin (2006) and Martin Truex Jr. (2004) with seven poles each.
In two starts at Iowa Jones has posted one top five, two top 10s and an average finish of 5.0.
A heavy-hearted Jones finished fourth at his home track – Michigan International Speedway – just days after his father, Dave Jones, passed away after a battle with cancer. Jones honored his father by displaying his name above the door of his No. 20 Toyota.
Click here for an infographic detailing Erik Jones’ stellar rookie season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Looking for first win
With Daniel Suárez being the latest driver to capture his first NASCAR XFINITY Series career win last weekend, the question now turns to – "Who’s next?"
Leading the contingent of those searching for their first taste of victory is Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next program graduate, Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang.
Wallace is in his second full-time XFINITY Series season. In 13 starts in 2016, Wallace has posted two top fives and four top 10s including a runner-up finish at Dover a few weeks back. Iowa is one of Wallace’s better tracks. In four starts on the .875-mile oval, he has posted three top 10s and an average finish of 8.2.
Two other potential ‘first-win’ candidates are Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Brandon Jones and Brennan Poole. Jones has been working with crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. this season and the pair has produced seven top 10s and an average finish of 11.3 for Richard Childress Racing. In two starts at Iowa, Jones has posted one top 10.
Last but not least, Brennan Poole sits eighth in points after posting one top five and five top 10s in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro. Poole has made two starts at Iowa, posting a best finish of 14th last fall.