Threat of Rain a Recipe for Exciting Nationwide Finish at Michigan

As rain loomed over Michigan International Speedway, every driver scrambled for position, and every crew chief formulated a strategy in an effort to beat Mother Nature.  Several teams elected not to pit in an effort to gain track position hoping to be at the front of the pack in case a red flag fell on the field.   A timely caution gave No. 7 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet driver, Regan Smith the track position he needed to grab his first victory at Michigan International Speedway.

Winning the 22nd Annual Alliance Truck Parts 250 is Smith’s second victory this season after winning the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway, and is his third victory in 116 NASCAR Nationwide Series races.  JR Racing driver, Smith, has finished in the top-10 in eleven consecutive races.  He now leads Sam Hornish Jr. by 58 points in the Nationwide Series points standings.

No. 32 Cessna Chevrolet driver, Kyle Larson, posted his first top-10 finish and matched his career-best finish at Michigan International Speedway by finishing in second behind Smith.  This marks his eighth top-10 finish in 2013.

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Driver of the No. 33 Menards/Rheem Chevrolet, Paul Menard, posted his seventh top-10 finish in eight races at Michigan International Speedway by finishing third in Saturday’s race.  Primarily competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Saturday’s race marked Menard’s first NASCAR Nationwide Series start this season.

Another Sprint Cup Series regular,  Kyle Busch, finished the race in fourth position.  When crew chief of the Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Adam Stevens, was asked if it was a difficult race to call knowing that rain was in the area, he responded, “The radar showed the rain here pretty much all day.  It wasn’t hitting the ground.  I’m glad we got to run the full distance—it took a while to make some progress, but we did and we got the car better.  We just weren’t going to make it any better on pit road.  I really felt like if we could have had a good restart on the last restart that we were in the catbird seat, but the last two restarts just didn’t go our way.  I felt like we had the balances good and we were going to get it, but we were just missing something with overall speed—kind of missing it in qualifying and missed it today in the race too.  All in all, we finished and we don’t have a scratch on it so we’ll take it.”  This marks Busch’s eleventh top-10 finish in fourteen NASCAR Nationwide Series starts this season.

The rain around the Michigan International Speedway did not cooperate with the No. 77 Bandit Chippers Toyota of Parker Kligerman.  Kligerman’s crew chief, Eric Phillips, molded his team’s race strategy on the high possibility of rain causing the race to be red flagged.  Kligerman did not pit when he had the opportunity gambling on the fact that the rain would come before they ran out of fuel.  It was a gamble that did not pay off.   The No. 77 team finished in 25th when they were forced to pit under green.  When asked if he was praying for rain while leading, Kligerman commented, “Yeah, we played it perfectly for that situation and I’m not down on Eric (Phillips, crew chief) or anyone about that.  I was fully for it, but it sucks when you run top-five all day.  This Bandit Chippers Camry right in front of a Bandit Chippers home crowd and a car that could win on speed alone and –we drove away from the field there—and it just didn’t go our way.  There was debris everywhere the last 20 laps.  Of course, no one threw a caution, so we ran out of fuel and finished wherever we finished.  Disappointing day result-wise, but a lot of positives in terms of the speed we had in our Camry and we’ll get them next time.”

At a track where fuel strategy races are common, today’s chess match with Mother Nature put an interesting twist on things that left some teams frustrated  as Regan Smith declared check mate at the end of the day.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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