NASCAR Race Weekend Central
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The Big 6: Questions Answered After the FireKeepers Casino 400

Who…should you be talking about after the race?

Kevin Harvick had the strongest car all race long and shot around Brad Keselowski in overtime to win his third race out of the past four at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 8. After several restarts due to incidents, Harvick finally was passed late in the race by Kyle Busch. However, Harvick got up to Busch’s left-rear bumper and nearly made contact, taking the air off of Busch’s car. Busch dropped like a rock, while Harvick maintained control over the race.

Even though several others took the lead throughout the event, including Chase Elliott on lap 139, cautions made way for the new choose rule to come into effect. While the leaders took the preferred top lane, someone further back would choose the bottom, which allowed them to restart next to the leader. As a result, Elliott would give up the lead to Harvick on the next restart on lap 147.

Someone who also tried to take advantage of the choose rule was Bubba Wallace, who made some nifty moves on that restart to get back inside the top 10. He chose the bottom lane behind Denny Hamlin and tried to take the lead by splitting the middle between Hamlin and Harvick. It didn’t work, though, and he dropped a few spots before the caution came back out. Still, Wallace was able to hold on for a solid ninth-place finish, his career-best fourth top-10 finish of the season.

What…was the hidden gem in the race?

This didn’t happen during the race, but Jimmie Johnson had another item named after him. Two months after Homestead-Miami Speedway honored Johnson with its Southermost Tunnel, Michigan renamed their nature trail after the seven-time champion.

The trail is used as a family campground, as well as Adrian College which hosts youth camps during the offseason.

“Fitness is high priority to me and to have this trail in my name means a lot,” Johnson said in a team release. “Fans for generations to come will be able to enjoy ‘Pure Michigan’ and experience the racetrack at the same time. I have always loved the area, fishing close by with my girls and cycling on Saturdays during race weekends. I am very thankful to the folks at Michigan for this thoughtful honor.”

So what other things could be named after the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports veteran? Nascarcasm shares some ideas below.

Where…were the other key players at the end?

Joey Logano began the race on the pole but lost the lead to Hamlin after the competition caution. The No. 22 Team Penske pilot also received contact from Kyle Busch that sent Logano sideways. He dropped back to 18th by the end of the opening stage, and it appeared he would end the race outside the top 10. However, Logano and Ryan Blaney pitted with about 30 laps left, putting them on new tires. Thanks to a few more cautions, Logano was able to enter the top 10 on lap 153 and rebounded to eighth place at the end.

Meanwhile, his teammate Keselowski also had an up and down day, but he stayed mostly in the top 10 after the first 25 laps. The choose rule helped him to lineup inside late in the race, and his car was fast enough to hold steady. After the final caution came out for Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman, Keselowski was the first to take the inside line. He then battled with Harvick but couldn’t quite pass him, settling for second, his third such finish at his home racetrack.

Lastly, the reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch grabbed the lead within the last 20 laps. Though he had a fast car, Harvick’s Ford was faster. The No. 4 took the air off of Busch’s rear, which left Busch out to dry. Still, Busch was fast enough to cross the finish line fifth.

When…was the moment of truth?

You could say the moment of truth was after the competition caution, as Harvick’s car was so strong, he easily passed several cars for the lead. However, I would say the biggest moment of truth was when Ryan Preece and Tyler Reddick tangled on lap 143. Elliott had the lead in his hands and left Harvick behind when that happened. He was then on the wrong side of the choose rule, and couldn’t get past those in front of him to retake the lead.

Why…should you be paying attention this week?

Since the top-20 finishers will invert to start tomorrow’s race, Chris Buescher and Clint Bowyer will start on the front row. Bowyer is especially noteworthy, as he won at MIS two years ago, albeit in a rain-shortened race. He led the final eight laps of that event to win over his Stewart-Haas Racing cohort. Now, Harvick was certainly the strongest today, so it will be interesting to see how his car handles in traffic since he’ll start 20th.

How…did the choose rule affect Saturday’s race?

The choose marker, which was pushed further up past the start/finish line from last night’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck race, greatly came into play. Some spotters told their drivers how many chose the preferred lane ahead of them, which allowed the driver to restart closer to the front. Others who took the lead late in the race (like Elliott) saw the choose marker bite them on the next restart. Still, it brought a new and exciting portion to the race that was pretty much dominated by Harvick. It even allowed for someone like Wallace to attempt to use the bottom to potentially take the lead. In the end, though, the strongest car still won the race.

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