NASCAR America: A strategy-aided win should be as valuable as any victory

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Last Sunday, Clint Bowyer gambled on two tires and track position at the end of the Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Raceway. In a brief run at the end of the race, he held off his teammate Kevin Harvick to win his second race of the season.

Not everyone was not happy about it.

“If you win a rain-shortened race, or you win a fuel mileage race, take your trophy and move on,” Brad Daugherty, one of the owners of JTG-Daugherty Racing, said Tuesday night on Sirius / XM radio. “I don’t want to hear anything else about it. I don’t want to hear on radio, TV; I don’t want to see somebody write something about it a year from later, talking about ‘oh yeah, Clint Bowyer had a great run at Michigan; they won the race.’ No!”

Daugherty suggests that strategy-aided wins should not be valued the same as races that go the full distance.

“I’m not looking at these guys who win these races – rain-delayed races – the same as I am as a guy who goes out, lays the coal to it, figures out how to get to that checkered flag at the end of the full period.”

Daugherty’s opinions were not echoed by NASCAR America analysts Jeff Burton and Dale Jarrett.

“You look at what Clint Bowyer and his group did on Sunday; they made a great pit strategy call and Clint Bowyer drove his butt off to keep the fastest racecar driver and the fastest car behind him, until it came the rain,” Burton said. “You want to tell me he didn’t deserve that? That’s wrong.”

“There are some exceptions where somebody runs terrible and just by chance – pit strategies and he’s a 20th-place car and he wins – I get that,” Burton continued. “But the majority of times, the by far, majority of times in a rain-shortened race, a really good car wins that race.”

Notably, one of JTG-Daugherty’s current drivers Chris Buescher won a rain- and fog-shortened race at Pocono in August 2016 while driving for Front Row Motorsports. He took the win by employing that strategy after running well back in the pack before weather intervened.

‘Brad Daugherty’s a friend of mine, but Brad, I 100% disagree with you here,” Dale Jarrett said.

‘If you win a race by fuel mileage because you’ve done things and gone about things differently – you weren’t the fastest car – that doesn’t make any difference. I’m sorry, you’ve won the race on a different strategy.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America: Stewart-Haas Racing makes team history at Michigan

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With Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing once again made team history.

Clint Bowyer led a 1-2-3 finish for the team, as Kevin Harvick finished second and Kurt Busch placed third.

It’s the first time SHR has swept the top three positions. It’s a feat that has been accomplished 18 times now, but not since Roush Fenway Racing did it in 2008 at Dover.

On NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman and Dale Jarrett discussed the team’s achievement.

“They’ve been there, they’ve put themselves in position, this organization has done their work and they’re giving their drivers cars they can race hard with every single week,” Jarrett said. “As a driver, that’s what you want every single week is that opportunity.”

Said Kligerman: “You’re just seeing the culmination of a lot of work over the offseason. We saw when they switched over to Ford it was a bit of a slow transition, but this team has worked really hard in their processes behind the scenes. … All of that is coming to fruition.”

Watch the above video for more.

Kyle Busch leads non-Ford drivers at Michigan in fourth

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Kyle Busch was the only driver not piloting a Ford to finish in the top eight Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

Thanks to rain cutting the race short by 67 laps, Busch ran out of time have a say in the outcome of the FireKeepers Casino 400.

But with a fourth-place finish, Busch earned his best finish at the 2-mile track since five years ago (when  he also placed fourth).

The result came after he and two of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates had to start from the rear due to issues with their splitters in prerace inspection. Busch had qualified third.

“The blue ovals were just tough today,” Busch said of the Fords. “They go down the straightaway really, really fast. We have a hard time keeping up with them there, but our car through the corner was really awesome. The M&M’s Camry was really good there after yesterday’s practice. I thought we had something for them and if it was going to be a little bit hotter and sunnier today, I felt like we were going to be really good. That just wasn’t the conditions for today, so chilly and cool and lots of grip and that was better for all those guys, but we gave it a hard fought fight and come home with what we could there.”

Busch, who leads the point standings through 15 races, wasn’t able to reach the top 10 in Stage 1 but placed fourth in Stage 2.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver thought he had the car to finish third until his brother Kurt Busch “blew my doors off” on the final short run before rain arrived.

Busch’s finish was his 10th top five this season.

“(Crew chief) Adam Stevens and myself and our team and our organization, we did our job, so all we can do is keep trying and keep getting better, keep trying to bring home a good fight,” Busch said. “It doesn’t matter how sharp your knife is. You ain’t going to beat a gun fight.”

‘Gutsy call’ delivers Paul Menard first top five with Wood Brothers Racing

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On a day where it dominated the top 10 with seven cars in the top eight, Ford’s “company car” pulled off its best result of the season.

When the rain put an end to Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway after 133 of 200 laps, Paul Menard and Wood Brothers Racing found themselves in fifth, earning their first top five together.

It’s Menard first top-five finish since last July’s race at Daytona. It’s his first top five on a non-restrictor plate track since March 2015 at Auto Club Speedway, the sister track of Michigan.

“We had a good car today and all weekend,” said Menard who qualified 15th. “We didn’t qualify as good as we would have hoped and went from the back and got put to the back twice.”

The first setback came on Lap 27 when Menard was caught speeding on pit road during the competition caution.

As he came back through the field, Menard had a close call on Lap 66 when he was “door slammed” by Daniel Suarez as they exited Turn 4. The contact sent Suarez sliding through the infield grass.

Back in the pack again, Menard’s crew chief, Greg Erwin, made the “gutsy call” to keep Menard out of the pits on old tires following Kyle Larson‘s spin on Lap 86.

That allowed Menard to restart first on Lap 92 before Kevin Harvick took the lead. Menard finished Stage 2 in fifth setting up the last short sprint before the rains came.

“I am really proud of my guys,” Menard said. “We made a gutsy call to stay out on no tires with a bunch of laps on it. Gutsy call. We had the car to hold on though, so it worked out.”

Five of Menard’s 20 career top fives have come at Michigan.

Results, stats for Cup race at Michigan

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Rain delivered Clint Bowyer his second Cup win of the season Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

Bowyer led a 1-2-3 sweep by Stewart-Haas Racing as he beat Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

It’s the first 1-2-3 finish for SHR, which has been a three-car team since 2013.

Kyle Busch and Paul Menard rounded out the top five.

Fords took seven of the the top eight.

Click here for results.