Thursday, Oct 21
Going nearly eight months without visiting Victory Lane, Joey Logano led 139 laps en route to a dominating performance on Sunday in Michigan.

With eight restarts on the afternoon, Logano controlled all but one, when he got passed by Chase Elliott. That was the only stint of the race in which the No. 22 Ford was not out front for a significant amount of laps, other than green flag pit stops.

Winning from the pole at Michigan is something that Logano has done in the past. In 2013, he started out front, finishing out front, in what was his first victory with Team Penske. The triumph came in Ford's backyard, as their headquarters are in the Detroit area and Adsel Ford II was in attendance for the victory. 

"Everyone did a good job at understanding what this package was going to do and put together a great racecar for me," Logano said of his victory. "It was a lot of fun racing with Chase [Elliott] there at the end and [Kyle] Larson. They had the restarts figured out down on the bottom pushing each other. We've been knocking on the door of a victory all season, but it's nice to get that win and lock ourselves into the Chase."

This is Team Penske's 99th career victory in the Sprint Cup Series and the third victory of 2016 for the organization. 

The 400-mile event was a bit unusual compared to Michigan standards. NASCAR brought a new aerodynamic package, hopeful of using this package in 2017. Most of the drivers throughout the field liked it, as like most races this season, it put the racing back in the drivers hands. 

Elliott recorded a career-best second-place finish at Michigan. The No. 24 car was out front for 35 circuits, after leading 51 laps last week in Pocono.

Logano got around Elliott on a restart with around 50 laps to go. He slid out of the groove and fell back to fourth. On the resuming restart, he pulled his Chevrolet back up to second, where he would remain the rest of the race. 

"You can't do dumb stuff to win these races," Elliott said post-race. "It was completely my fault. The guys gave me a fantastic car today. That one was on me."

Kyle Larson remained in the top five for the majority of the event in Michigan. Coming home third is the No. 42 team's second top-three finish in the past four races and now sits 19th in the championship standings, 23 points outside of the Chase cutoff.

"I'm not sure that there was anything I could have done there," Larson said of finishing third. "I was pretty tight there for two or three laps, sometimes for a full run. Staying out front the whole time was a big key. The Target Chevrolet was definitely a third or fourth-place car."

Brad Keselowski finished fourth at his hometown track and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five after starting in 29th. 

Carl Edwards finished sixth, while Tony Stewart came home seventh, after spending much of the day inside the top five. Austin Dillon rebounded after a possible left rear tire failure passed halfway to finish eighth. Jamie McMurray was ninth and Kurt Busch completed the top 10. 

Many of the big name drivers, including Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch all faced difficulties on Sunday.

On Lap 54, the No. 18 car was on fire. On the next restart, Chris Buescher got loose and up into Earnhardt who smacked the outside wall, finishing 39th. Hamlin brought out the final caution with under 10 laps to go when he cut down a left rear tire and spun to the inside wall. 

The Cup Series is off next week, but will resume in two weeks at the first road course of the season, Sonoma. The younger Busch is the defending winner at that event, which was his first of five victories in 2015.
For the second time in his Sprint Cup Series career, Joey Logano will start from the pole at the Michigan International Speedway. The last time he did so was in 2013, he went on to lead 51 laps to secure his first victory with Team Penske. 

On Friday, Logano swept all three rounds of qualifying. The No. 22 car pole-winning speed was 199.557 mph, almost two-tenths of a second faster than second-place. 

"It just feels really good because the last couple weeks we've come in second in the final round," Logano said of his fast lap. "We've been qualifying really well with this No. 22 car, we just haven't had the pole. It's nice to finally pull through and get a pole with this new package. It really goes to show how good Team Penske is at preparing cars from the shop and really not knowing what they're coming to and we have great adjustability and a fast car." 

Logano started first at Martinsville in April when he was lapped in the opening segment of the race.

Martin Truex, Jr. turned the second fastest lap at 199.016 mph. Struggling in qualifying last week in Pocono, the Furniture Row Racing team made sure they put down a hot lap for Michigan. 

In his best start of 2016, Tony Stewart will start third. At 198.950 mph, it's his best start since Watkins Glen last season. 

Denny Hamlin will start from fourth at 198.774 mph with rookie Ryan Blaney rounding out the top five at 198.588 mph. The No. 21 car needed two attempts to even get out of round one, but rebounded to pick up his first top-five starting spot of 2016. 

Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott make up the top 10. 

Pocono pole-sitter, Brad Keselowski will start from 15th at his home racetrack. The defending winner of this event, Kurt Busch, will start in the next row at 17th. 

After having the fourth quickest time in the opening practice, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualified 27th on Friday. It's his ninth time this season that the No. 88 car had started the race from outside the top 20. 

Kevin Harvick was on the track twice when the session was paused is Round One, putting three cycles on his tires by the time he complete a timed lap. The first stoppage was for Jamie McMurray leaking a piece of debris. David Ragan brought out the second caution when he spun in Turn 3 and hit the outside wall. 

"The common sense was pretty low there on when to throw the caution," Harvick said of being out on track twice when the yellow flag flew during his qualifying run. "I think we were the only racecar on the racetrack and debris came up out of the groove. It is what it is. There's not much you can do about that. 

The No. 4 Chevrolet will begin the 400-mile event from 29th. 

There are two practice sessions on Saturday, the first beginning at 9:00 a.m. and Happy Hour starting shortly after noon.
Last year in Pocono, Kurt Busch was unable to stretch his fuel mileage to get a victory, but on Monday, he led the final 32 laps off a restart en route to his first victory of 2016.

On Wednesday, it was announced that long-time crew crew chief Tony Gibson would be suspended one race due to a lug nut violation during the Coca-Cola 600. Team engineer Johnny Klausmeier stepped in and had the right pit strategy to go to the end on gas, while others ran out.

"It's an amazing feeling when you drive into Victory Lane on any weekend at any track," Busch said post-race. "It makes you think of all the hard work that everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing does on this car. To be in position is what it's all about. Johnny Klausmeier gave me the ball and said 'hey you're two laps short, go get it for us.' Each week we've been in a position so far and we hadn't quite sealed the deal and we're going to enjoy this win." 

At the beginning of the last stint of the race, Busch was told that he was two laps short on gas, which is five miles around the "Tricky Triangle." Working with an intern crew chief, it's a pass-fail estimation because the team is working with a calculator.

Next week would have marked exactly one year since Busch's last win at Michigan. Coming into Pocono he sat second in the point standings with a series-high 11 top-10 finishes. 

After leading four laps earlier in the event, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was passed on the last restart and could never regain the track position that he had lost. Crew chief Greg Ives ensured him that the No. 88 car would make it to the end on fuel and the No. 41 car could not. 

"I didn't do what I needed to do on that last restart," Earnhardt said post-race. "The No. 41 car got a run on us and he shouldn't have. I think if I could have got in front of him, I would have been able to hold on to that position. The No. 41 car got a great run on us and we couldn't get him back. I knew even though we were matching him on some laps that I wasn't going to get any closer than I was." 

This marks the fourth time that Earnhardt has finished second in 2016, which leads the series. It's the first time that he has had a top-10 finish since Bristol in mid-April.

Starting from pole, Brad Keselowski led just one lap and had to overcome two pit road penalties on Lap 21 and Lap 22 for an unimproved body modification. In the closing laps he was able to go from sixth-place  up to third, to record his fifth top-five finish of the season. 

"The last four or five weeks we've had really strong runs," Keselowski said. "It seems like a bunch of seconds and thirds. Not quite the finish we want, but it was a good effort from our team."

Leading a career-high and race-high 51 laps, Chase Elliott came home fourth on Monday. The middle stage of the race is where the No. 24 car shined, at one point having five former Sprint Cup champions behind him in the running order. Though he was disappointed with a fourth-place finish he was able to record his fifth top-five finish of the season. 

Joey Logano led the opening 17 laps of the event, but the team had to overcome an incident with Ryan Newman and patch the left rear corner of the racecar. Like his Team Penske teammate, Keselowski, he was able to rebound through adversity to pick up his fourth top-five finish of 2016. 

Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top 10. 

Defending race winner, Martin Truex, Jr. finished 19th, while overcoming adversity throughout the weekend. He was scheduled to be the leader after a Lap 122 caution, getting off the pit road first, but cut a tire. 

Kyle Busch came up short of his first first career win at Pocono, finishing in 31st. Ryan Newman got into the rear of his car, sending him into the outside wall on Lap 109. The No. 18 car was 10 laps off the pace. 

Just passed halfway Tony Stewart got loose and crashed into his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Danica Patrick. The duo of teammates finished 32nd and 34th after Stewart ran in the top 10 the first half of the race.

Tony Stewart has less than 13 races to win a race and be inside the top-30 in points to have a chance at running for the championship in his final season. There is a phrase that goes around the NASCAR community that “Tony Stewart heats up in the summer!” Is that the case? The answer is no. That has not been the case throughout the illustrious career of Stewart. Throughout his career, the summer months from June to September have given Stewart some momentum going into the final stretch of the season.  

In 1999, Stewart’s rookie season, he had a win at Richmond in the month of September. In 2000, he had six wins overall, and three wins in the summer at Loudon, Dover, and Michigan. In 2001, Stewart had won at Sonoma and Bristol in the summer months. In 2002, which was a championship year for Smoke, he had one win at Sonoma during the summer. 2003 saw Stewart hit victory lane once at Pocono. In 2004, Stewart won at Chicago and Watkins Glen during the summer months. In 2005, a championship year for Stewart, he won an all-time five times during the summer months at Sonoma, Daytona, Loudon, Indianapolis, and Watkins Glen. In 2006, victory lane came once at Daytona in the summer. 2007 saw Stewart in victory lane at Chicago, Indianapolis, and Watkins Glen. Stewart hit victory lane in 2009 at Pocono, Daytona, and Watkins Glen. He hit victory lane once in 2010 at Atlanta. 2011 was a championship year for Stewart, however, all five of his season victories came during the Chase, but two of those victories came in September in Loudon and Chicago. In 2012, the only victory came at Daytona.

 

2008, 2013, because of a leg injury from racing on dirt, 2014, because of the Kevin Ward Jr. incident, and 2015 all saw Stewart go winless. 

 

Stewart is currently winless in 2016. There is no doubt that he will be able to make the top-30 in points, but the real question is “Can he win a race?” Stewart is currently 35th in the points standings. Can Stewart find the magic from Lady Luck in the summer to win a race and lock himself into the Chase over the next 13 races?

Team Penske brought the horsepower to Pocono, sweeping all three round of Sprint Cup Series qualifying and will start alongside each other on the front row. 

After Joey Logano was quickest in the first two rounds of qualifying, his teammate Brad Keselowski took the final round en route to his first pole of 2016 and first pole at Pocono Raceway. His previous best qualifying results at the "Tricky Triangle" were a pair of third-place efforts in 2014. 

It was a speed of 181.726 mph that claimed the top spot. Logano ran a speed of 181.400 mph, nearly a tenth of a second off the pole-winning time. 

"It was a really solid effort for Team Penske," Keselowski said. "To get 1-2 is hard to do, but we had great speed today. I wasn't really sure what to expect with the rain and all of the other variables that were thrown at us with no practice."

The last seven times that Keselowski has started on pole, he has finished in the top 10 each time with two victories. 

After Logano, it was August winner Matt Kenseth who placed third at 181.316 mph. Kevin Harvick had the fourth best time at 181.192 mph and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five at 180.759 mph.

"I didn't do a very good job today," Harvick said of his fourth-place effort. "The car was a lot faster than the driver today. The guys did a job preparing a good job, but I wasn't in a good rhythm and didn't do a good job in any of the rounds to get everything out of the car that I needed to." 

Tony Stewart will start sixth in his best qualifying effort since Michigan last August when he began that 400-mile race fifth. 

Jimmie Johnson will start seventh, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. eighth, Kurt Busch ninth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10. 

Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th with Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney alongside in 14th. 

The defending race winner, Martin Truex, Jr. posted the 17th quickest time in qualifying. The No. 78 team feels that they missed the setup completely and thought the track was going to be something different. It took them two tries to get through the first round, which put more laps on their tires, hurting the speed in Round Two. 

"We just totally missed it off the trailer, which is unusual for our team," Truex said. "We were way off our first run in practice and had so many different ideas about what it might have been. It felt so bad that it felt like the tires were wrong or we had a bad set."

Final practice is set to begin at 11:30 on Saturday weather depending. It will be the only time that the teams will be able to practice on race trim because no driver completed more than seven laps in the opening practice on Friday.
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