FireKeepers Casino 400

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson ‘made a lot of his own luck’ with Michigan restarts

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A few weeks after Kyle Larson lost out on a win at Dover because of a poor late restart, Larson used restarts to his advantage to win Sunday at Michigan.

Larson restarted on the front row multiple times throughout the race, on the inside and outside, and each time was able to beat the other car to the lead.

NASCAR America’s analysts discussed what Larson did right in order to win at Michigan, as Larson mastered the art of the side-drafting to win the day.

“Even though the 42 of Kyle Larson says a lot of things went his way, he made a lot of his own luck on those final few restarts,” said Steve Letarte.

Letarte and Slugger Labbe went over factors outside of driver ability that impact restarts.

“What helps the restart is what happens when the yellow comes out,” Labbe said. “You see the drivers shutting the cars off. What that does is manage the water temps. These cars, as the temperature gets hotter, the engine goes into protection mode and there’s less horsepower because it takes timing away, it puts fuel in the engine and it takes horsepower away. So if you don’t manage your temperatures when the yellow comes out, you’re going to pay the price when they throw the green flag.”

Parker Kligerman also further dissected Larson’s restarts at Dover and Michigan.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson’s Michigan win celebrated by three generations of Larsons

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Kyle Larson‘s third Cup win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway was a family affair on Father’s Day.

Larson celebrate the victory with his father, Mike Larson, and his 2-year-old son, Owen, who was caught up in Larson’s Cars 3 paint scheme.

“My parents don’t get to come to a ton of races, they still live out in California,” Larson told NASCAR America. “It’s cool to be in victory lane with them. As well as Owen, with our car looking like Lightning McQueen’s, he was really excited about it.  I took him to the shop a few weeks ago and he was in awe of it. He was like ‘Lightning? Lightning?’ Going crazy.'”

Mike Larson had a feeling during the race’s final restart, when his son restarted on the inside, that he would have a chance at the win.

“I said to my wife and our friend that was sitting to next to us, ‘you know what? Kyle started on the bottom last year on that last restart when he won,'” Mike Larson said. “I thought I bet he can do this again. And sure enough, he did it and here we are.”

The elder Larson also talked about his son’s journey from go-karts to being one of the rising stars of NASCAR.

“I’m pretty much told him early on that go-karts is far as I’m going to be able to get you and talents going to have to get you the rest of the way,” Mike Larson said, adding his son said from 8 and 9 years old that was going to be in NASCAR. “I’d be like, ‘that poor kid, he just doesn’t know what he’s up against.'”

Watch the video for the rest of the interviews with Kyle and Mike Larson.

Denny Hamlin earns third top five of year with late rally at Michigan

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For much of the closing laps in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Michigan, it looked like Kyle Busch was the best shot at giving Joe Gibbs Racing its first win of the year.

But through a combination of three restarts in the last 20 laps and teams on different pit strategy, Denny Hamlin wound up giving JGR its best result of the race, finishing fourth after a battle with Joey Logano.

Hamlin earned just his third top five of the season despite being second on the final restart, on the inside lane below eventual race winner Kyle Larson.

“I knew I was going to have a tough time on the bottom,” Hamlin said. “Everyone did have a tough time on the bottom, so I tried to do my best and that’s all I had.”

Hamlin told Fox Sports 1 anybody restarting in the lower groove was a “sitting duck.”

“The biggest thing is you try to minimize how many spots you lose versus how much you gain, but when you’re sitting there side-by-side for the lead, you’re going to try to do everything you can,” Hamlin said. “I tried to carry speed in there and obviously got sucked around there and you just try to minimize your losses at that point.”

Hamlin had his No. 11 Toyota in the top most of the day, finishing Stage 1 in fourth and Stage 2 in seventh. But Hamlin had to fight back to the top five after a bad pit stop sent him just outside the top 10.

He earned his first top five since the Coke 600 and his best result since finishing third at Richmond

JGR is still winless since Carl Edward won at Texas Motor Speedway in November.

“(JGR’s Toyotas are) fast, but it’s circumstances – cautions falling at the right time and all that stuff matters,” Hamlin said. “We just hadn’t had the breaks we needed, but overall we’re making improvements.”

Danica Patrick suffers another hard hit in a season of hits

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For the fourth time in the last eight races, Danica Patrick failed to finish because of an accident.

Her car slammed into the inside backstretch wall after a late restart Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, marking her second hard hit in the last five races. Her car was destroyed in a crash May 13 at Kansas Speedway (the same wreck that left Aric Almirola with a T5 compression fracture expected to sideline him until next month).

Patrick’s No. 10 Ford was one of five cars involved in the crash with 10 laps left at Michigan.

The field was going down the backstretch when Kevin Harvick was sandwiched between Ryan Blaney on his outside and Daniel Suarez on the inside.

Contact between the three sent Suarez down the track. Darrell Wallace Jr. hit the left rear of Suarez’s car, which made an impact with Patrick that sent her car sliding toward the inside backstretch wall.

“I went into (Turn 1) and got super loose,” Blaney said. “I hate that it took a couple cars out off  (Turn 2). I got really free for some reason. It caught me off guard, which made it look bad. We had a decent enough car to run up there once we got track position.”

Said Patrick: “I knew when there was a caution with about 15 laps to go that there would end up being another one. I had a good run and went for it and just got hit.”

Patrick finished last in 37th for her sixth DNF, five because of crashes. Blaney, who won last week at Pocono, finished 25th after running as high as second. Harvick placed 14th. Darrell Wallace Jr. finished 19th in his second Cup start as a substitute driver for the injured Amirola.

The crash was the latest hard hit for Patrick in a Cup career that has been full of them (recently documented here by NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan).

At one point this year, Patrick exited three races in four weeks — Bristol, Talladega and Kansas — because of wrecks.

Sunday’s accident marked the end to a tough week for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who made negative headlines with a viral Facebook Live video that captured her lecturing fans at Pocono after they booed her for not signing autographs.

Patrick later admitted that she “had a moment,” and that she should have just continued walking.

That was in the midst of reports that Patrick may not be with Stewart-Haas Racing after 2017.

Following her finish at Michigan, Patrick is 30th in the points standings. She is two spots and 12 points behind Almirola, who has missed the last four points races.

MORE: Nate Ryan looks at looming Silly Season movement.

 

Chase Elliott’s ‘rut’ may be what helps him earn his first career Cup win

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Chase Elliott remains stuck in a rut of sorts.

But if finishing second three straight times at Michigan International Speedway is a rut, Elliott will take it.

Elliott finished second in both races at MIS last year, first to Joey Logano in June and then Kyle Larson in August.

It was the same finish again Sunday in the FireKeepers Casino 400, as Larson won and Elliott was again second.

But Elliott still managed to get some consolation from his second-place showing. If nothing else, his finish at Michigan continued to bring him closer to what he seeks the most: his first career Cup win.

“Yeah, I hope so,” Elliott said in the post-race media conference. “I really felt like we ran better last year in the two races than what we ran today. I think we executed the race better today than what we did last year on pit road, with restarts, the way things played out.

“If you had to choose one or the other, I would rather overachieve with a car, finish a little better than what we deserved, than the other way around. So I was proud of that.

“Obviously, we would much rather win the race, but we gave ourselves a couple opportunities at the end, restarting up front, which was nice. Had a couple decent ones. Just didn’t work out in our favor.”

This was Elliott’s second top five and third top 10 in the last three races. That, after a terrible four-race run where he finished 24th (Richmond), 30th (Talladega), 29th (Kansas) and 38th (Charlotte).

“But it wasn’t easy,” Elliott said.

“We really struggled Friday and Saturday,” he said. “(I) felt like we overachieved today from what we thought we were going to have kind of coming into the race.

“Those are the kind of things that you have to have, whether you have a really fast car or a mediocre car. Our pit stops were just incredible on pit road, which is a huge help. I mean, I can’t express how nice that was to come in and gain two or three spots. It was unreal.

“(I) hope we can keep some of that moving forward. Gave ourselves a chance at the end. Really at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for.”

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