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Post-Race Reactions: Fast Five 225
Kevin Harvick, Nelson Piquet Jr., Parker Kligerman and James Buescher comment on their solid runs at Chicagoland Speedway.
Elliott foiled on final restart, takes second at Michigan
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Unable to park his No. 24 in Victory Lane for the first time in his young career, Chase Elliott stood on pit road Sunday at Michigan International Speedway visibly disappointed as he was comforted by the man who won three premier series championships in the very same Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon . "We just talked about the race a little bit," the dejected Elliott said of his conversation with Gordon. "And some of the things we battled and just looking at the positives, I guess, and trying to get down the road." The Pure Michigan 400 was a familiar scene at the 2-mile track for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Candidate, who walked away with a dominant car but earned a less-than-satisfying runner-up finish. During the June stop at MIS, Elliott led for 35 circuits but finished second, behind Joey Logano . Elliott battled 1-2 at the second Michigan stop with eventual race winner Kyle Larson , even leading 31 of 200 laps, but watched the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet take the lead following a Lap 191 restart; Larson never let go. "Once that guy (Larson) got out front, it was really hard to pass," Elliott said of the restart. "My guys did such a good job today of making the most of pit road. That was the only place you could make a large sum of ground in a short period of time. They did exactly what I asked them to do. I said, 'You guys are going to have to bail me out here, I messed up.' (And) they did. They got us the lead just like I asked and I gave it away again." Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 team, saw other issues during the day's final restart. "(It's) just a huge factor getting into Turn 1," Gustafson explained while decompressing with the team, sans Elliott, in the garage area. "It's the push, obviously. The guys in (the) second row were pushing really hard and the 2 (of third-place finisher, Brad Keselowski ) and 42 (of Larson) did a little better than the 24 and the 21 (of Ryan Blaney , fourth)." The 20-year-old clocked in his seventh top- five finish and his first since the season's first race at the Irish Hills, breaking a stretch of nine consecutive results outside not only the top five , but the top 10. Elliott now sits 11th in standings -- six points ahead of Austin Dillon -- and 14th on 16-spot Chase Grid, the highest for anyone in the 2016 rookie class. The Sprint Cup Series field heads to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and Elliott only wishes for one thing. "Hopefully another fast car (which) is all you can ask for," he said. "Just trying to hunker down and keep everybody's head up." And Gustaftson promises, "We're gonna do everything we can to do that."
Hamlin tops chart, spins in final Michigan practice
RELATED: Full practice results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Denny Hamlin set the pace in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday at Michigan International Speedway , but damaged his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota in a spin midway through the session. Hamlin, who qualified third in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, clocked a lap of 197.878 mph in Saturday's final practice. The session, originally scheduled for 50 minutes, was halted with approximately 27 minutes left because of lightning in the area of the 2-mile track. Hamlin told NBCSN that the car got loose "out of the blue" as he navigated Turn 4. He avoided contact with the wall, but did slight damage when the nose of his car dug into the grass bordering the frontstretch. Hamlin indicated the team did not expect to deploy the reserve car. RELATED: All the cars at Michigan as they'll line up Rookie Chase Elliott was second-fastest at 197.786 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. He was followed by two Hendrick teammates on the leaderboard -- third-fastest Jimmie Johnson (197.694 mph) and fourth-best Kasey Kahne (197.455 mph). Michigan native Brad Keselowski completed the top five in the final prep for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Team Penske teammate Joey Logano , who secured the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was seventh-fastest. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, was 10th-fastest at 196.969 mph. Stewart atop Saturday's early practice Tony Stewart topped the speed chart in Saturday's morning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Michigan International Speedway ahead of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Stewart circled the 2-mile track in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with a fast time of 202.122 mph to pace the 55-minute practice session. "Smoke" has one win in the Irish Hills in 33 starts there. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, 201.427 mph) and Chase Elliott (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 201.196 mph) came in second and third, respectively. Both drivers are in search of their first win in the sport's top series. Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, 201.089 mph) and Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, 200.932 mph) completed the top five . Alex Bowman , who will pilot the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend, placed eighth in practice. All told, 12 drivers crossed the 200 mph mark on their laps Saturday morning. Polesitter Joey Logano placed 16th in the session. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kahne seeks win while in familiar Chase bubble spot
RELATED: Standings heading into Sunday BROOKLYN, Mich. -- It's an unfortunate yet familiar position for Kasey Kahne , driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports . Unfortunate because with only three races remaining before the 16-team field is set for this year's NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup , Kahne finds himself winless on the season and 17th in points. Familiar because the 36-year-old has been here before. Kahne slid into the Chase field in 2014, the inaugural season of the format awarding positions to full-time competitors that managed at least one victory through the season's first 26 races, with a late victory at Atlanta, just one stop from the cutoff event. Three races remain before this year's field is set, beginning with Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 here at Michigan International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Then it's on to Darlington and Richmond to determine the remainder of this year's Chase field before the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway . Two years ago, the final three-race run consisted of stops at Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. "I don't think that was anything like this year; I think this is a lot different," Kahne said Saturday at Michigan. "That was a great night for us and we were right there all night, got in the right position on restarts … we were fast all night. I think restarts were big for us. I could run really fast for 15 laps. It's been a while since we've been like that." Indeed. The Atlanta win was Kahne's 17th but it was also his last. He enters Sunday's race shadowed by a 70-race winless streak. In the meantime, Kahne's Hendrick teammates have won 14 times since his Atlanta victory. "For us, I think it's been so many areas, so many little things that add up to being four-tenths (of a second) off per lap often," he said. "I don't think it's from a lack of effort because the effort is there. But it's maybe working in the right areas or trying to understand things that will make it easier for me to drive for my driving style. That's been a huge part of the last couple of years. "It doesn't matter what other guys are doing, (it's) 'what will help Kasey? What will help him with his car because he drives a little different?' I feel like this weekend we've kind of done our thing and it seems to be working pretty well so car." Ten Sprint Cup drivers have one or more wins this season and sit inside the top 16, virtually assuring themselves of a slot in the Chase. Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher also have one win each, and while further back in points, their status likely leaves only four Chase positions up for grabs. Seventeen others are still mathematically alive, should they earn a win in one of the next three races. If no different winners emerge, points will be used to determine the remaining spots. Kahne trails the holder of the last spot in the Chase Grid, Ryan Newman by 39 points, with Trevor Bayne and Kyle Larson sandwiched between the two and chasing one of the final playoff spots as well. Austin Dillon , Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray and Newman are just on the right side of the Chase bubble as of now. Hendrick drivers qualified second (Johnson), fifth (Elliott), sixth ( Alex Bowman driving in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr .) and 11th (Kahne) at Michigan. It is the seventh time this season Kahne will start from the No. 11 spot on the 40-car grid. "We run 13th to 18th every week; we qualify there and we race there," Kahne said. "That's just the speed we have. And then we do the same thing the next week. It's nice to do something a little different this week and to have speed to show it's helping." Kahne, 10th in Saturday's morning practice and fourth in the weather-shortened final session, has qualified for the Chase five times, the last coming in '14.
Heavy crash sidelines Bell, Gallagher early at Michigan
RELATED: Results " Standings BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Spencer Gallagher said he didn't know how fast he was going when his No. 23 Chevrolet collided with the No. 4 Toyota of Christopher Bell . "I don't want to know," a shaken Gallagher said after exiting the care center Saturday, the Careers for Veterans 200 under caution and workers clearing debris from the hard two-truck crash. Bell, his No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota running second, had charged inside of leader Cole Custer (JR Motorsports) in Turn 3 on Lap 75 of the 100-lap NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. But the back end of the vehicle tried to pass the front end -- spinning up the track and into the path of the oncoming entry of Gallagher. The impact was frightening. So much so that Gallagher, after exiting his truck, quickly made his way back to Bell's damaged vehicle. "That was a vicious hit for me so I had to see that he was fine," Gallagher, battling for fourth at the time, said. "Everyone is jockeying so hard for position and it's so easy to pull another guy around, not even trying to, just racing hard. … "Poor Christopher got sucked around on the bottom there; I tried to get up and away from him as quickly as I could and couldn't get it done in time. After I came to rest, I didn't know where I hit him but I didn't think I got him in any kind of a good place. I got out and took off running to him because I was afraid for the safety of a fellow competitor. "I was just hoping so much in my heart he was all right. It put the fear of God in me, seeing how that unfolded. Apologies to the safety officials for having to chase after my dumb ass but I needed to see with my own eyes that he was OK." The race, delayed by rain, was won by Brett Moffitt with a last-lap pass. Bell, who was also was not injured, was credited with a 24th-place finish; Gallagher was scored in 25th. "Just really bummed for everybody who works on this (truck)," Bell said afterward, "because we had a really fast Tundra today. I felt like I did a really good job all race just kind of biding my time. "I knew I had a fast truck and was just trying to take care of it. I got the opportunity there late in the race … maybe should have waited a little bit but had the opportunity. I tried to take it and it didn't work out." Bell fell to seventh in points but with a win at St. Louis earlier this season, is basically assured of a spot in this year's inaugural Chase for the series. "Kind of frustrated with myself there," he said. "Still had a lot of race to go. … Maybe it was a little too early to go for it." Gallagher dropped two spots to 14th. Officials called Gallagher to the hauler after the race for exiting his truck and approaching another vehicle. "They're going to want to talk to me," he said. "I understand it's against … policy but in that moment I was concerned about Christopher. … There were plenty of safety officials around me, there were no active race cars around so I took off running; I needed to see him with my own eyes."
Kyle Larson's win was worth the wait
RELATED: Chase bubble update " Results BROOKLYN, Mich. -- He lost the race off pit road, and in his mind, victory had slipped from his grasp once again. So often. So many close calls. "I thought that was the race right there," Kyle Larson admitted. But this time he said it from Victory Lane. Where Sunday at Michigan International Speedway fate chose to frown on someone else. Confetti flew, fans cheered and fellow competitors stopped by to offer congratulations. Kyle Busch , one of the first to pit road, was waiting for Larson when the young driver finally pulled in for the celebration. Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski also dropped in. So, too, did Jamie McMurray , Larson's teammate. Larson, driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, is 24. And he's now a first-time winner in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, capturing the Pure Michigan 400 in his 99th career start. The win secured one of the final playoff spots for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Championship dreams were rekindled for a driver and team that had ridden on the razor's edge almost since his arrival in NASCAR. There have been fuel-mileage plays that didn't pan out, late charges that ended with bent sheet metal and crushed hopes. But not this time. "No question the kid has talent; the kid can drive," Ganassi said. "We just have to put a weekend together." Ganassi knows. He's won in six different series in which his various teams compete. If it has wheels and goes fast , Ganassi has likely fielded a winner. Sunday's outcome was still in question when the late-race battle between Larson and Chase Elliott began to unfold. When the two drivers -- both young, eager and winless -- hit pit road for green-flag stops on Lap 158, Larson was the race leader. When they exited just seconds later, Elliott, after all others had stopped for service, was out front. Larson charged, trimming the deficit to Elliott in half. Lapped traffic erased the gains. And then the caution flag, this one for debris, appeared for a final time. While crew chief Chad Johnston said he thought the team's final stop "was a little bit slow," he refused to change the team's game plan. "It's hard to talk yourself into staying out two more laps or three more laps when you know those guys are gaining ... track position with each lap, but the worst thing you can do is let them force your hand and then run it out of fuel at the end," Johnston said. "So we stood our ground and pitted when we needed to pit, just lost a lot of ground through lapped traffic. ... "We needed that last restart, and Kyle did everything he needed to do to have the lead off (Turn 2)." Second at Fontana and Loudon and Kansas two years ago; second at Dover this year. Larson's been third, fourth and fifth several times as well. Often enough that some have questioned how badly he wanted to win, but they've never questioned his talent. "There have been a couple where I could have done things differently to get the win," Larson, flanked by son Owen and Johnston, said afterward. "For a few months you guys keep asking, 'What if?' ... Now I've won so we don't have to talk about that anymore." Winning races isn't new for the Elk Grove, California, native. Winning quickly hadn't been either. Until he got to NASCAR's top level. Even then, he showed flashes of potential, but potential didn't outrun everyone. "This feels different for me because it's taken me a lot longer than in any of the other stuff to get a win," Larson said. "It took me a couple of months to win my first sprint car race ... a few months to win when I got into USAC. I guess it took me a few years to win an Outlaw race, but I'd still been winning sprint car races. "But this, after the way my rookie season started, coming close a few times, not getting it done, you can visualize the win that early in your career. It's going to happen. It's going to happen. But it just never happened. "This one's different just because of how long we had to wait and how much harder I've had to work for it. It's special because all the hard work's paid off." Ganassi brought Larson up to Sprint Cup when he was only 20. Too soon, some said. He'll be gone elsewhere, others speculated, where he can be with a winning team. "That wasn't the case at all," Ganassi said, recalling how he once asked his young driver about other teams expressing interest. "I'll never forget his answer," Ganassi said. "He said, 'They all had a shot at me the first time around and they passed.' " They'll celebrate throwbacks next weekend at Darlington Raceway when the Bojangles' Southern 500 weekend gets underway. On Sunday at Michigan they were throwing it forward. There's a new Sprint Cup winner in town. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Snapshot: Pure Michigan 400
Click here to check out fast facts, key story lines for Michigan
The Rundown: Michigan driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway : 1. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Twice, Larson had to overcome problems on pit road. Twice, Larson beat Chase Elliott on restarts from the front row. The second one, with 10 laps to go, was the difference. Larson gets his first Sprint Cup win in his 99th start and his ticket punched to the Chase. Well done. Grade: A 2. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Restarts, restarts, restarts. Elliott lost the first race at Michigan because of poor restarts and it happened again Sunday. And just like in June, Elliott finished second. Grade : A- 3. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . The native of Michigan posted his sixth straight top 10 at his home track but to his chagrin remained winless in the Irish Hills. Grade: A 4. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney needs a win to make the Chase, and he drove like it Sunday, posting his first top 10 in 10 races. Grade: A 5. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick led 33 laps, and his 3.56 averaging running position topped the field. Grade: A 6. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson was a factor -- and the leader -- until his green-flag pit stop on Lap 109. But his gas man had trouble refueling the No. 48, and from that point forward Johnson was playing catchup. His 37 laps led were second to Kyle Larson ’s 41. Grade: A- 7. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards now has two wins, seven top fives and 15 top 10s in 2016. That’s what he had all of last season. Grade: A 8. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray finished eighth for the third consecutive week. He holds the last spot in the Chase standings by 15 points over Ryan Newman with two races to go before the field is set. Grade: A 9. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin’s sixth straight top-10 finish is the longest active streak. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . All of the polesitter’s strength came at the start of the race. A slow final pit stop left him 17th on the last restart. Grade: A- 11. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle had a nice finish, but he was never a factor. Only Kyle Busch ’s 26 laps in the top 15 were fewer than Biffle’s 44 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 12. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Borrowing a page from Greg Biffle … Busch was not a factor, either, and only his brother’s 24.84 average running position was worse than his 17.34 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 13. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . In the first 12 races of the season, Kenseth led 398 laps. In the next 12, 79 laps, including eight Sunday, his first laps led since his victory last month at New Hampshire. Grade: B 14. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne is going to need a win -- or a miracle -- to make the Chase field. He trails Jamie McMurray by 52 points for the final Chase-eligible spot after finishing outside the top 10 for the eighth straight race. Grade: B 15. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger finished in the top 15 in four consecutive races for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. Grade: B 16. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon is 15th in the Chase standings with a 21-point cushion over Ryan Newman in 17th. Grade: B 17. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman should consider himself fortunate to be only 15 points out of 16th with two races to go for the Chase field is set -- he hasn’t had a top-10 finish in his past five races. Grade: B- 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Regular readers of The Rundown know we have been enthralled by Menard’s propensity to finish 18th. He racked up his sixth of the season Sunday. Grade: C 19. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch's troubles at Michigan continued when he got loose in Turn 4 on the 26th lap and went for a spin. His average finish in his past seven starts at Michigan is 32.0 with one finish on the lead lap -- and it wasn't Sunday. Grade: C 20. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex's shot at winning or having a top finish ended on Lap 66 when the jack man lowered the car before the left rear tire was changed. The damaged left-rear quarter panel was an issue the rest of the day. Grade: C- 21. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The driver with a win and five top fives in a seven-race stretch has finished 30th and 21st in his past two races. Is the mojo gone? Grade: C 22. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears finished outside the top 10 at Michigan for the 13th consecutive race. Grade: C 23. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This marks the first time in Patrick's four full-time Sprint Cup seasons she has not finished in the top 20 in at least one of the two Michigan races. She finished 21st in June. Grade: C 24. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne went into last week's race at Bristol eight points out of the final Chase spot. He leaves Michigan 58 points back. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Michigan is one of two tracks on which Almirola has made at least 10 starts and has yet to post a top 10. (The other is Pocono.) Grade: C- 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his best finish at Michigan since a career-best 13th in August of 2011. Grade: C 27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Since scoring a career-best 15th at Michigan in August 2014, Stenhouse's finishes at the 2-mile track are 25th, 26th, 29th and 27th. Grade: C- 28. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Sunday’s race was something to build on: In his first race at Michigan in June, Scott left with a 36th-place finish and a DNF (crash). Grade: C 29. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Because of Ragan's proximity to Chris Buescher in the standings, he will continue to be one of the most-watched drivers through Richmond. On Sunday, Ragan took a nibble out of Buescher's points lead and is now seven points behind Buescher for 30th in the standings. Grade: C 30. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman started sixth and was running in the top five when the car’s ignition failed. A day of promise ended right there, and Dale Earnhardt Jr .’s replacement finished five laps back. Grade: D 31. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell won Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Road America , but his string of top-20 Sprint Cup finishes ended at a season-best two. Grade: D 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto battled brake issues all day. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . A blown tire brought out the fourth and final caution, and Annett finished five laps back. Grade: D 34. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt produced his worst finish in six starts at Michigan. Grade: D 35. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . With so much at stake, the No. 34 team could not afford the engine woes that dumped Buescher to 35th -- he finished 20th at Michigan in June -- but at least he didn’t finish last. Those extra five points might make the difference between making the Chase and major disappointment. Another positive takeaway: David Ragan could muster only a 29th-place finish. Grade: F 36. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished seven laps off the pace. Grade: D 37. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt had an accident in practice and was in a backup car. He finished eight laps back. Grade: D 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise's finish was his worst at Michigan since a 39th-place run in August 2013. Grade: F 39. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Suspension woes limited Cassill to 174 laps and left him with his first DNF of the season. Grade: F 40. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer said before the race he had his best car of the year. Yikes! Vibrations sent the No. 15 behind the wall, but Bowyer avoided a DNF, although he did finish 40 laps off the pace. Grade: F
Engine issue hinders Bowman, No. 88 early
RELATED: Michigan results The Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet team encountered early trouble Sunday at Michigan International Speedway , going to the garage with engine issues that would ruin any chance at victory. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend as he recovers from concussion-related symptoms, radioed his crew just short of the 50-lap mark of the Pure Michigan 400 to report a sour engine. Bowman -- who started sixth in the 40-car field -- steadily lost ground, eventually falling off the lead lap on the 54th of 200 laps. Bowman made the hard turn toward the garage for repairs, returning to the race five laps down. Crew chief Greg Ives told Bowman that the malady was "just a wire," and the car returned to a competitive pace despite the deficit. Bowman finished 30th, five laps down. Bowman -- a NASCAR XFINITY Series regular for JR Motorsports -- made his second fill-in start for Earnhardt, who has missed the last six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Jeff Gordon , an Earnhardt substitute for four races this season, will return to the wheel of the No. 88 for this weekend's Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) at Darlington Raceway . Gordon, a four-time premier series champ who emerged from retirement to fill in, is a seven-time winner at the historic 1.366-mile track. The Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 will carry a "Gray Ghost" throwback paint scheme at Darlington in a tribute to NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Buddy Baker.
Last-lap pass leads Moffitt to victory at Michigan
RELATED: Full race results " Standings BROOKLYN, Mich. -- In five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, Brett Moffitt had never led a lap. But in Saturday's Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway , Moffitt picked the perfect time to take the point for the first time. Powering around Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters and five -time series winner William Byron off the second corner of the final lap at the two-mile track, Moffitt held off Peters by .098 seconds to win a NASCAR national series race for the first time. Moffitt's victory, however, left Shane Huffman, Peters' crew chief, slapping his seat on the pit box in frustration. Peters, who led a race-high 42 laps, could have locked himself into the inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase with a victory. Running a limited schedule this season, Moffitt is ineligible for the championship this year. But Moffitt made no apologies for taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself when Byron pushed Peters into Turn 3 on the white-flag lap, cut to the inside and slowed both trucks down. Moffitt cruised around the outside off Turn 2 on the final lap and kept Peters behind him. "I'm here to win," Moffitt said. "I said it earlier and I'll say it again. I'm not going to wreck him (Peters) for it. I'm going to race him clean because I know he needs to get in the Chase, but this team needs to win and these guys deserve to win. "That's what we come to do, and our partners at Toyota want to do the same, and we got it." Daniel Hemric passed Byron on the last lap to come home third, with Byron following in fourth and Cameron Hayley in fifth. The good news for both Peters and Hemric was the wide margin both drivers opened over their closest pursuers in the race to make the Chase. Though winless this year, Hemric and Peters lead Cameron Hayley by 55 and 47 points, respectively, in the battle for the last two Chase spots. If no new winner surfaces in the final two regular-season races, both Hemric and Peters are highly likely to qualify on points. "It's a good day for Red Horse Racing," Peters said. "Congrats to Brett Moffitt . One-two finish. I wish we were 'one,' but all in all, the company brings the trophy back. The 9 (Byron) locked onto our bumper there in Turn 2 and pushed us really hard down into Turn 3. "We had to do all we had to do to stay in front. ... Tough to swallow right there, but it felt good to run the way we did all day." Both Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick entered the race needing to win to make the Chase. Reddick's Ford bounced off the side of Johhny Sauter's Chevrolet on Lap 70 and sustained heavy damage during contact with the Turn 3 wall. Custer, however, had the lead for a restart on Lap 84, only to lose control and spin into the Turn 4 wall, grazing the left rear of Moffitt's No. 11 Toyota in the process. "We didn't have the raw speed of the guys up front, but it drove pretty well, and it was hard to keep those guys off of me," Custer said. "The 11 (Moffitt) stopped pushing me -- which it's his right to do that. "We were kind of losing the 17 (Peters) there. He (Moffitt) went to the outside and I started getting tight. Once he got on my door, I got loose and over-corrected it. I just hate it for my guys that brought a great truck." Like Hayley, Custer and Reddick will have two more chances to force their way into the Chase by winning one of the final two regular-season races.