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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Who’s Hot & Who’s Not in NASCAR: Business as Usual

While Michigan International Speedway presented a thrilling drag race for the win between Brett Moffitt and Johnny Sauter in the Camping World Truck Series’ Corrigan Oil 200 on Saturday, it was business as usual in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Consumers Energy 400 on Sunday, as Kevin Harvick cruised to the victory that rain (and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer) denied him earlier in the summer, taking the checkered flag for a series-leading seventh time this season.

Brad Keselowski was strong again at his home track, finishing second, while Kyle Busch was third as the top-finishing Toyota, and the highest-placing Chevrolet was Austin Dillon in fourth. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Kurt Busch (who may be on the move for next season), Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano.

Harvick won both stages, boosting his stage total in 2018 to 12 stage wins, five more than his closest challenger in this category, Martin Truex Jr. Speaking of Truex, he was involved in an early incident with William Byron and though he did lead 25 laps later on, a failed fuel gamble took him out of the running for the win.

21 of the 40 cars finished on the lead lap, 35 vehicles were still running at the race’s end.

As journalist Jeff Gluck stated on Twitter, when the highlight of the race is Keelan Harvick riding shotgun with his dad, that might not be the greatest race ever. Especially with high school and college football season starting in about two weeks, and the NFL kicking off its regular season about a month from now.

HOT

This was the seventh time this season that all three Team Penske Ford Fusions finished in the top 10, the first time that’s happened since Kentucky. They also did it during this season’s first visit to the Mitten State. Their alliance-based teammate Paul Menard was 16th for the Wood Brothers, his 14th top-20 finish in a roller-coaster season.

NOT

Jimmie Johnson finished two laps down in 28th after running 30th last week at Watkins Glen. The seven-time champion has just seven top-10 finishes in 2018 and a best result of third place at Bristol in the spring. According to Racing Reference his average finishing position this season is 16.5, which is a lot better than I expected – the No. 48 has only led 29 laps with the season nearly two-thirds complete.

HOT

Elliott is amazing at Michigan. In six MENCS career starts at the track, he’s never finished worse than ninth, despite starting on Sunday from a track-worst qualifying effort of 21st and battling an early loose wheel in his 100th career MENCS start. It was his 12th top  10 of 2018 and his fourth straight top 10, which includes his first-ever MENCS win last week at Watkins Glen.

NOT

Ty Dillon was 38th after running over a mysterious lump of debris, which cut an oil line, which in turn sent the No. 13 careening into the wall. It was his third DNF of the year, his fifth finish of 2018 in the 30s, and in the past five races the best he’s run is 23rd at New Hampshire and Watkins Glen. The Germain Racing driver is next-to-last out of the 30 drivers who have run every race this season.

HOT

On the other hand, Ty’s brother Austin Dillon led five laps and scored his first top five since winning the Daytona 500, which should help his momentum heading into the playoffs. Even more encouraging, this is the fifth time in the past six races that a Richard Childress Racing car has finished in the top 10. It was Austin’s fourth top-10 finish of the season.

NOT

Trevor Bayne‘s disastrous 2018 season continues. What NASCAR called an engine problem put the No. 6 in 34th, in the garage 11 laps before the checkered flag. On the plus side, Bayne has the most points of any of the partial-season drivers. On the negative side, his average finish is 25.3, he has four top-20 results all season, and it was his fifth DNF in 15 starts. Not that the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team is doing much better when Matt Kenseth is behind the wheel, either – they’re 29th in the owner standings out of 36 chartered cars.

Paint Scheme of the Week

While Harvick’s two-tone Busch Light/Mobil 1 scheme looked really impressive this week, since he won the race, I figure y’all are sick of looking at it already, and so it won’t win Paint Scheme of the Week. Instead, it’ll go to the Premium Motorsports No. 7 (formerly the No. 55) driven this week by Garrett Smithley.

The red and black worked really well with the checkered-flag stripe, it was a fairly simple, nice-looking car.  Also, Smithley earned the best finish of his Cup career so far with a 32nd-place effort.

Predictions

Thunder Valley, Tenn., and the high banked half-mile of Bristol Motor Speedway are up next for all three national series this week, as the Camping World Truck Series wraps up its regular season in the UNOH 200 Thursday, August 16 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox, the XFINITY Series has the Food City 300 on Friday, August 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and the MENCS has the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race on Saturday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Blaney was in charge in the spring race before lapped traffic crashed right in front of him, he should be strong again. This is also one of the best tracks for potential spoilers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Daniel Suarez. There’s a good chance tempers will flare.

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About Wesley Coburn

Wesley Coburn
Wesley loves well-told stories in whatever format he finds them. Aside from NASCAR, he enjoys reading, country music, OKC Thunder basketball and superhero TV/movies. He has a BA in Liberal Arts/English and currently lives in eastern Oklahoma.

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