Kyle Larson became NASCAR’s newest Sprint Cup Series winner on Sunday, passing Chase Elliott on a late-race restart to win the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. With the victory, Larson secured a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs, where he could be a factor. Here are five things we learned in the Irish Hills of Michigan and at Road America in Wisconsin.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesJeff Zelevansky
5. Buescher not a slam dunk
The engine in Chris Buescher’s Front Row Motorsports Ford went bad in the first four laps, and he wound up finishing 35th. That kept Buescher in 30th place in the driver standings, but his lead over 31st-place David Ragan is just seven points. It’s still a very real possibility that Buescher falls out of the top 30 and misses the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, despite his win at Pocono.
4. Hendrick picks up the pace
For the first time in what seems like forever, all four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets were fast. Chase Elliott finished second to Larson, while Jimmie Johnson led 37 laps, which is more than he led in the past 14 races combined. Alex Bowman looked good, too, but had ECU issues, while Kasey Kahne faded at the end. Still, this all represents light at the end of the tunnel for the team.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
3. Don't feel bad for Elliott
It’s not surprising that Chase Elliott was dejected following the race; after all, this was the second time he could have won at Michigan this year and didn’t. Just like in the June race here, Elliott lost the lead for good on a bad late-race restart and finished second. Still, this young man is going to win his fair share of races and then some.
Getty ImagesDylan Buell
2. The Chase take shape
With just two races left until the field is set for the Chase, there will be at least one driver who makes it in on points. If there are no new winners in the next two races and Chris Buescher falls out, there could be as many as four winless drivers who advance to NASCAR’s playoffs. Winless drivers currently Chase eligible are Elliott (+27 points), Austin Dillon (+21 and pictured here) and Jamie McMurray (+15). The first driver on the outside looking in is Ryan Newman, who is 15 points back of McMurray.
Getty ImagesDylan Buell
1. History made
For the first time ever, all three NASCAR Touring Series races had first-time winners: Brett Moffitt (right) won the Camping World Truck Series race at MIS, Michael McDowell (left) claimed the XFINITY Series race at Road America and Larson won the Sprint Cup race. It was a weekend of feel-good stories for all three racers and their respective teams. As surprise outcomes go, these were wonderfully entertaining.