Joe Gibbs Racing sweeps both races at Michigan this season!
Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team put together an impressive performance today at Michigan International Speedway, charging their way to the front of the field to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400. Meanwhile Joey Logano brought the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota across the line in 21st and a hard hit into the wall left Denny Hamlin with a 35th-place finish for the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota.
The No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota started in the 17th position and Busch had to battle tight handling conditions on his Camry through the early portion of the race. With each pit stop the No. 18 showed improvement on the car and it didn’t take long for Busch to prove that his Interstate Batteries Camry was fully charged and among the best on the track. Busch would claim his first lead of the day on lap 100 and spent the rest of the day racing among the leaders. Although pit strategies would sometimes shuffle the field, Busch would quickly pilot his No. 18 Camry back toward the front of the field and would reclaim the lead for what proved to be a final time on lap 187. Busch would go on to build a comfortable lead, but a late caution would create for some tense moments for the 18 team forcing a restart and a green-white-checker finish. Busch would get a good restart however and pulled away from Jimmie Johnson to win his fourth race this season – the most by any driver in 2011. The victory allows Busch to become the first driver to clinch a spot in this year’s Chase and also enters him into the Sprint Summer Showdown where a win in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend would earn him, a charity of his choice, and a lucky fan $1 million dollars.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 23rd position and battled loose handling conditions through the early going. With each pit stop crew chief Greg Zipadelli would call for The Home Depot crew to make the needed improvements to help Logano turn through each of the corners of the two-mile track. As the race progressed Logano would get stronger and begin to race his way toward the top ten. The Home Depot crew was waiting on the wall for what was hoped to be a final green flag pit stop on lap 168 when a poorly timed caution flag came out. Logano had not quite yet made it to pit road forcing him to drive through and stop under the caution with the rest of the field two laps later. Being forced to make two trips down pit road would cost Logano a great deal of track position and he would have to restart back outside the top 20. He would race his way back into the top-15 once again when a late caution allowed him to come back down pit road for two fresh tires on the right side of his No. 20 Camry. Logano would restart for a green-white-checker finish in 17th, but aggressive driving by the No. 31 car sent him up the track toward the wall and resulted in the loss of several positions. Logano would go on to finish 21st.
Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the fourth position after a solid qualifying effort on Friday afternoon. Hamlin battled mostly tight handling conditions through the early going as he settled in to race just inside the top ten. With each stop down pit road crew chief Mike Ford called for adjustments to the No. 11 Camry to try and find the right combination that would allow Hamlin to turn well in the corners and race his way back toward the front. Hamlin came down pit road just past the midpoint of the race and the decision was made to go with just a two-tire change in hopes of improving his track position. While the FedEx Camry was able to restart back inside the top ten the two-tire change didn’t help the handle of the car as Hamlin once again began to fall back and hard contact with the wall with about 80 laps remaining would cause damage to the right front of his No. 11. Hamlin would be forced to bring the car down pit road for repairs and would fall a lap off the pace. A few laps later Ford had Hamlin bring the car to the garage to ensure he could finish the remainder of the race without further incident. By the time he returned to the track he had lost an additional dozen laps and would ultimately be forced to settle for a 35th-place finish.
Jimmie Johnson was second behind Busch, while Brad Keselowski finished third, Mark Martin fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. There were five cautions for a total of 21 laps and 20 lead changes among 10 different drivers over the course of the 203-lap race, which was extended three laps for a green-white-checker finish.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will return to Bristol, TN for one of the most anticipated races of the season – the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Coverage of the race will start on Saturday, August 27 at 7 PM ET on ESPN (race starts at 7:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90 and MRN Radio.