Kyle Larson’s second victory of the season in Sunday’s FireKeeper Casino 400 gave him the points lead in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series. It also gave him a fine Father’s Day present as he celebrated in Victory Lane with his 2-year-old son, Owen. Here are five takeaways from Michigan International Speedway:
Larson’s inside move
Larson was strongest on a few late restarts, holding off the likes of runner-up Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. But perhaps his most impressive one came on Lap 186. Kyle Busch led the previous 35 laps until Larson, in the inside lane which had mostly been slower all day, got past Busch. In Victory Lane, Larson thanked Ryan Blaney for giving him a push on that restart.
Truex staging title bid
Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth but led the first two stages and earned the second-most points on the day with 51 (Larson earned 57) thanks to those 20 stage bonus points. More important, he also earned two more playoff points. Thanks to his 10 stage wins this season (no other driver has more than four) and his two victories, Truex has 20 bonus points which will carry over for the first three segments of NASCAR’s playoffs. Only three-time race winner Jimmie Johnson (15) and Larson (13) have joined Truex in double figures. These stage wins could be critical late in the season; if, for instance, Truex does not win any of the first three playoff races to automatically advance to the next round, those bonus points could help carry him into the second round.
Elliott second again
Once again, Elliott saw the checkered flag second, continuing a trend for him at Michigan. Sunday was Elliott’s third runner-up finish in NASCAR’s top series and all have come at the 2-mile track in Brooklyn, Mich. The 21-year-old is still awaiting his first series victory but doesn’t sound worried about making the playoffs (he’s fifth in points). “I mean, really, the people who run good, the people who put themselves in position are going to win, period,” Elliott said.
Hamlin back up front
Hamlin had a shot on a late restart, lining up next to Larson at the front, but wound up finishing fourth. It was just the third top-5 finish this season for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver. He’s ninth in points, so he’d still make the 16-car playoffs comfortably at this rate, but he still seeks his first win this season to make that playoff bid secure.
Built to last
Every manufacturer wants to have a good showing in the Motor City (OK, Brooklyn is about an hour from Detroit, but close enough). The three manufacturers in NASCAR’s top series had something to crow about Sunday as not a single car dropped out of the 400-mile race for a mechanical failure. Fans nearly saw the rarest of rarities: A race where every car finished. But with 10 laps to go, Daniel Suarez got spun and slid into Danica Patrick, who skidded into the inside wall. She was 37th and last, the only car not to see the checkered flag.