BROOKLYN, Mich. - Joey Logano finished third, best among Ford entries in what turned out to be a wild last 48 laps at Michigan International Speedway Sunday afternoon. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wound up the only other Ford inside the top-10, finishing eighth as Kyle Larson (Chevy) won from the pole.
Chase Elliott (Chevy), who also finished second to Larson at MIS last August, finished second again. Logano, Denny Hamlin (Toyota) and Jamie McMurray (Chevy) rounded out the top five.
Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota) dominated the first two stages of the race, winning both to give him a series-high 10 stage wins on the season. No other Monster Energy Cup driver has more than the four.
With Truex easily out front, the battle was for the rest of the top-10 for much of the day. Clint Bowyer would prove to be the best Fusion early, running as high as second and inside the top-five consistently. Joining him up front were teammate Kevin Harvick and last weeks winner Ryan Blaney. All three cars saw themselves in the second position at some point through the first 175 laps.
When caution came out with 48 laps to go, Kyle Busch (Toyota) led a group of gamblers who took two tires while most of the rest of the field took four. As Busch took the lead, that is when Ryan Blaney pounced, on fresher tires.
With 21 laps remaining, the caution came out again, this time for debris, changing everything.
On the restart and on fresher tires, Larson made quick work of Busch and was beginning to stretch out his lead when Bowyer hit the outside wall to bring out yet another caution just two laps later — setting up another restart. Bowyer would finish 26th.
Disaster struck for Blaney with 10 laps to go when he made contact with Harvick, cutting a tire and causing damage. The 21 then was hit with a pit road penalty and eventual 25th place finish.
But Logano and Stenhouse would use the combination of strategy and hard charging driving over the final two restarts to their advantage, saving a pair of top-10 finishes for Ford coming home third and eighth. Bubba Wallace came home 19th, his best Cup finish to date.
The Monster Energy Series goes road course racing for the first time in 2017 when it heads to the 2.52-mile winding course at Sonoma Raceway. The race will air at 3 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
MONSTER ENERGY CUP RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st -- Kyle Larson
2nd -- Chase Elliott
3rd -- Joey Logano
4th -- Denny Hamlin
5th -- Jamie McMurray
6th -- Martin Truex Jr.
7th -- Kyle Busch
8th -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
9th -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10th -- Jimmie Johnson
REMAINING FORD FINISHING RESULTS
3rd -- Joey Logano
8th -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
12th -- Kurt Busch
14th -- Kevin Harvick
16th -- Brad Keselowski
17th -- Trevor Bayne
19th -- Darrell Wallace Jr.
25th -- Ryan Blaney
26th -- Clint Bowyer
28th -- Matt DiBenedetto
29th -- David Ragan
32nd -- Landon Cassill
37th -- Danica Patrick
JOEY LOGANO (No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion) -- Finished 3rd
“Yeah, you have no idea how good this feels. It’s been a struggle the last month-and-a-half and it’s nice to come here to Michigan, maybe our best race track and be able to overcome a lot. I’m not sure we had a third-place car today but the team executed like they needed to get the Shell-Pennzoil Ford into the top-three. Proud of the effort. I wish I could have the last restart back. I think I could have gotten to second. I wasn’t able to stay attached to the 42. I had a good start but the whole bottom lane was able to stack up really good and push ahead and then Denny (Hamlin) slid up in front of us; just racing there. Turning the momentum a bit and bringing home a solid top-five and change things.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. (No. 17 Fifth Third Ford Fusion) -- Finished 8th
“We had a pit road penalty there for speeding late in the race and so we had some good restart with the Fifth Third Ford. It was a lot better than we were in practice. I guess that is the goal, to get it the best for the race, and that is what the guys did. We worked hard all day. It was a good day on pit road. We have a good baseline to come back with in August here at Michigan.”
KEVIN HARVICK (No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion) -- Finished 14th
“We were just too tight. Tight all day long and we could not get it loosened up enough to be able to challenge. It is too bad really. Just too tight.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion) -- Finished 16th
“I don’t know. We just weren’t really where we needed to be. We had a few bright spots but we couldn’t get it there at the end.”
DARRELL WALLACE Jr. (No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion) -- Finished 19th
“It was a lot better than last week for sure. I just didn’t get all of it on restarts and what I thought was aggressive, going back to the Xfinity side I am one of the aggressive ones, but you have to be 10-times more aggressive here at least. It is a learning curve. It was a solid run all day. I knew we would run a lot better than where we started, it was just a matter of getting around those guys, getting track position and clean air. The restarts were wild at the end. We should have ended top-15 but I didn’t have my guard up enough. Top-20 is good. I am pumped up a lot about that. I didn’t speed on pit road and I am proud of that. It was all good.”
RYAN BLANEY (No. 21 Omnicraft Ford Fusion) -- Finished 25th
YOU USED STRATEGY TO GET POSITION, WAS IT REALISTIC TO GET THE LEAD? "It would have been tough. I think on short runs we could run second. We held second for a while then four tires ate us up. We couldn’t restart on the bottom. That didn’t bode well for us. I went into one and got super loose. I hate that it took a couple cars out off two. 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.”
“It was so hard to pass out there. The fastest cars couldn’t get to the front if they weren’t already there. We thought that was the right move, and the way it finished at the end we were up there with old tires. I think we needed to make that adjustment to be able to win the race.”
“I thought we did a good job of making adjustments to get us a little better. We got into spots but it just didn’t work out.”
JOEY LOGANO POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
WALK US THROUGH THE END OF THE RACE FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, HOW YOU REALLY CAME AWAY WITH A GOOD FINISH. “Feels great. You have no idea how good this feels. Feels like a win, just to stop the bleeding. No secret, last month, month and a half, has been a struggle for us with just a lot of things going wrong during the races. This was an uneventful race for us. Todd was able to make some good calls there. A lot of times Todd makes calls and it confuses me. I go, Why did you do that? I never actually say it, I keep my mouth shut because I know it works out at the end. It did again. Was able to put me in position to drive the heck out of the thing. Finally got a restart on the outside. I actually got three in a row finally at the end. Every other restart was on the bottom. I was just getting eaten up. Had a good restart, pass a whole bunch of cars, get a restart, pass a couple more, get a restart, it was a good thing for us. Eventually put ourselves in position to almost win the race. I thought when we were fourth there that we might win this thing. Had a good start. Was able to get momentum on Larson. Actually got to his back bumper. Just couldn't stay attached for some reason, for whatever it is. We got to figure that out. Couldn't stay attached in the bottom lane. Three cars pretty close. They just pushed ahead, then kind of put us back to third coming up at the corner when Denny slid up a little bit. Overall, like I said, proud of everybody. This is what the 22 team knows how to do. This is what we've done hundreds of times. It's nice to be able to just put together something and out‑finish our car.”
USUALLY YOU SAY 'SUCKED' AFTER A SECOND‑ OR THIRD‑PLACE FINISH. HOW RARE IS THIS THAT YOU'RE HAPPY IN THIS POSITION? “How rare is it that I'm happy? What, am I miserable all the time? Geez. Typically I'm a happy person, I just don't like getting beat.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU DIDN'T GET BEAT TODAY OR DID YOU MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CAR? “We made the most possible out of our car. The only way we were going to do better is something crazy happening in front of me and sneak by to get the lead. That was the only way I was going to do it. We had a 10th‑place car. We finished third with it. Proud of that. We had a rough month and a half. We stopped the bleeding today. I'm proud of that, as well. You know, you're right, it's not a win. But all things considered, over the last month or so, it feels really nice just to stop the bleeding.”
WITH FRESHER TIRES THERE AT THE END, DID YOU THINK YOU HAD A PRETTY DECENT SHOT ON THE RESTART WITH FIVE TO GO? “When I was sitting there 20th, no, I didn't think I had a shot at all obviously (laughter). After a couple good restarts, then restarting fourth, yeah, I got a real good shot at winning this thing if I could get a good start. I was able to get a good start, I just couldn't stay attached and push Kyle out there. We ended up losing too much track position basically. I fell back to fifth or so, was able to get enough momentum to get back to third. Overall, you know, didn't stay attached as good as I needed to.”
HOW DID YOU KEEP YOUR MORALE UP AFTER RUNNING INTO VARIOUS BAD LUCK? KNOWING THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO STOP THE BLEEDING, DID YOU FIGURE YOU HAD TO CHANGE SOME OF THE ROUTINES OR STICK TO THE GAME PLAN THAT'S BEEN WORKING? “We haven't changed anything. It's easy to say, Man, you got to change something, right? The fact of the matter is this is a winning race team, what is there to change? We just had some bad luck. We got to figure out the package a little better. We still got work to do. But we did make our car better throughout the race. The last run before we put tires on, the last one, we were actually pretty good. We were able to race with the 4, our teammate, Brad. Just didn't have track position then, but we made our car better. That made me feel good. We were competitive at least. We just had to get up there. Then with the strategy and restarts, we were able to get there. Yeah, we still got work to do. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. We had tires, all that, and I still couldn't keep up the last run. We still got work to do to catch those guys. But we made a solid step the last couple weeks.”
YOU SAID ON FRIDAY YOU HAD ABOUT 15 AREAS YOU WERE LOOKING AT, LIKE A HE PROCESS OF ELIMINATION. COULD YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NARROWED THAT LIST DOWN WITH THIS GOOD FINISH? “Yeah, I think so. There's always problems that you're going to identify, as you should, as any competitor or person, you should identify your weaknesses. I think we're always going to do that. But I think we're slowly but surely fixing things, understanding our car better, understanding what I need to do to go fast, what to ask for out of my car, all that stuff. We're slowly making progress. This next couple weeks, obviously you got Sonoma and Daytona, kind of is not the typical racing we always do, so it's going to change that up a little bit. We got a couple weeks to digest what just happened here and try to build something better for when we come back to a mile‑and‑a‑half type racetrack.”
DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE OUT THE FUNK HEADING INTO SONOMA AND DAYTONA, TWO UNPREDICTABLE RACETRACKS? “Yeah, I mean, are we out of the funk? Yeah, I think so. I'd like to think that, at least. Like I said, we still got to make our cars faster. Heading into Sonoma, Daytona, like you said, two different racetracks. Both of them we've been successful at. Haven't won at Sonoma, but we came close last year. Daytona, we've proven to be good speedway racers. We're just going to keep going and start gaining some points back we lost.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED AT THE SPEED YOU HAD WHEN YOU UNLOADED ON FRIDAY DURING PRACTICE, OR DID YOU FEEL THIS WAS A PLACE YOU COULD GET BACK ON TRACK? “I'm not surprised, just relieved. That's the biggest thing, you know. We had decent speed last week, too. We were running fifth when we had a flat tire. We don't have the speed to recover as well as we need to. We can't race in traffic as well as we need to. That's our biggest weakness right now. We just got to be able to work on that stuff a little bit. We've made progress. We're getting better, but we still got a ways to go.”
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU LEARNED THERE IN THE FINAL STAGES OF THIS RACE THAT YOU THINK YOU CAN BRING TO THE AUGUST RACE TO GAIN SOME STAGE POINTS? “Yeah, we scored a couple stage points today, not many. We didn't do very good in that department. We scored a finish, which was good There were some things, yeah, we learned a lot of things about our setup. We made some changes in this race that was the wrong way, then we went back and went the other way with it. That's when we picked up speed. There were some for sure items that we identified that were better. If we can start the race like that, I think we'd be a lot more competitive.”
THE TIRE DRAGGING THAT THEY DID HERE EARLIER, DO YOU THINK THAT WAS A PLUS FOR THE TRACK? DID IT MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE, NOT MUCH DIFFERENCE? “I don't know where they tire dragged. I think they did it in the groove, so no. They did it in the wrong spot, in my opinion.”