2017 Michigan: Chevrolet NASCAR Monster Energy Race Recap
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Cars 3 Target Chevrolet SS, captured his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series (MENCS) victory of the season by winning the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). It was Larson’s third MENCS career victory in 127 races, his second win and fourth top-10 finish in eight races at the 2-mile track. He led 96 of the 200-lap/400-mile contest and regained the lead in the current point standings.
Chase Elliott powered his No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet SS to the runner-up position to give Team Chevy the top-two finishing spots. Elliott finished second in both MIS stops on the tour in 2016. This was his ninth top-10 finish thus far in the 2017 season.
Larson’s Chip Ganassi teammate, Jamie McMurray, brought his No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS across the stripe in fifth place, giving Chevrolet three of the top 5 finishers overall.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevy SS and Jimmie Johnson, who drives the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy SS, finished ninth and 10th, respectively.
Rounding out the top five finishing positions, Joey Logano (Ford) was third, and Denny Hamlin (Toyota) was fourth.
Additionally, Larson’s win was the 25th for Chevrolet at its home track. Team Chevy’s World Headquarters is located approximately 80 miles west of MIS in Detroit, Michigan.
Due to the close proximity of MIS to two of the three participating manufacturers’ home bases, the track introduced the Michigan Heritage Trophy in the fall of 2013. This award was created to recognize the winning manufacturer at each MIS race. Since the inception of the award, Chevrolet has taken the Michigan Heritage Trophy back to headquarters five times, more than any other brand.
The next stop on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tour will be at Sonoma Raceway in northern California on Sunday, June 25.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS:
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 CARS 3 TARGET CHEVROLET SS AND CHAD JOHNSTON, CREW CHIEF, RACE WINNERS:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Cars 3 Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. We also have crew chief Chad Johnston.
Kyle, first of all, kachow! Secondly, you had a great car, particularly on restarts. It paid off for you at the end.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, we had a pretty good short‑run car, I thought. Then there late in the race, we just were able to line up in the right lanes. We restarted eighth, I think, with, I don't know, 40 some laps to go. Able to get to fourth with four tires, I think. Was better than Chase at that point. Got to third. Then chased down Ryan Blaney pretty quickly. Got by him just before that caution came out.
Then Ryan gave me a heck of a push on the bottom lane there to shove me out in front of Kyle, which was huge. Kyle is so good at restarts. I was looking in my mirror, I could see that Chase wasn't to his back bumper. I was hoping we could build some momentum, Ryan and I, to get the run we needed to basically play chicken getting into three.
We were able to hold it wide open longer than Kyle, squeeze in front of him. Then they started crashing. I knew the top lane would be the best place to restart. I liked who I saw in my mirror. I can't remember really who it was, I think the 22 the last time.
The Penske cars take off so good on restarts, like I said, I was happy that Joey was behind me. He gave me another good push to get down and side draft Denny and get by him.
Chad and everybody at our Chip Ganassi Racing shop does such an amazing job with our racecars. We've been close to winning so many other races, finished second six different times, would be nice to have 30 more bonus points. We'll keep chipping away at it.
THE MODERATOR: Chad, congratulations on the win. This is now your second consecutive win here at Michigan International Speedway, your third consecutive win on a two‑mile track. What makes this team and this young driver next to you so strong on a track like Michigan?
CHAD JOHNSTON: I feel like our mile‑and‑a‑half program has been pretty good since the early part of last year, around Charlotte or Dover time. I think we make our cars better every time we come.
I think it suits Kyle fairly well. He's really good about moving around and finding grip, doing the things he needs to do to get the car to do what he wants it to do.
I feel we have a pretty good handle on where our balance needs to be. We're building really fast cars at the shop. You unload with speed, it makes the weekend go a lot faster. Got to tune it to the comfort of him, whatever conditions we have on the track.
You know, most of that goes back to the shop. You don't make a car fast when it comes here; you build cars fast at the shop. That's what we've been doing.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor up for questions.
Q. Kyle, your three wins have come on the two‑mile variety. Is there anything special that you enjoy about these two‑mile tracks?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, our racecars are fast at them. Michigan and Fontana are, you know, very, very similar in shape and size. But the racing surface is way different. Fontana's rough and bumpy. It's a worn‑out surface. You have to take care of your tires, move around, find different lanes that work. Here at Michigan, your tires don't wear out nearly as bad. Your line doesn't move around a ton. Really fast, lot of grip.
They're both fun, because we seem to have good racecars, especially when we come here. Seems like since my rookie season, we've always had fast cars here at Michigan.
Q. What do you do going forward with the points lead heading into Fontana?
KYLE LARSON: Sonoma?
I'm excited about Sonoma. I grew up about an hour and a half from there, in Elk Grove, California. It's my home race. I was supposed to race tonight in a sprint car. It got canceled in Ohio. I'm going to race tomorrow and Tuesday in a sprint car, then fly out to Sonoma on Wednesday, is the plan right now unless they rescheduled.
Going to go out there, spend a couple days on vacation, do a little wine tasting, probably go hang out at Rico's property one day. Just relax and have a good time.
Sonoma is always one of the most fun events to go to because it's so different, such a nice area. You get to do something different, turn right, downshift, all that, which is always fun.
Q. You know you have a great car, you're on the pole. On a day like today, do you feel if you don't win, would it have been any more disappointing?
KYLE LARSON: No, I mean, the 78 was by far the class of the field, I thought. I know I led a lot of laps. Seemed like whenever he wanted to get the lead, he hit a nitro button and would cruise up to the lead, then check out. He was the class of the field.
I thought the 18 was next best. The 20 was better than I was on the long run. I thought we were probably a third‑ or fourth‑place car. To come out a winner, it makes it that much more exciting, I guess.
I guess it would be disappointing if I finished outside the top 10 or something. For not having the dominant car, to do everything right to get a win today, was special.
Q. You talked yesterday about how you have such a fast racecar, this season seems like your so much better. What do you mean by that? Is there better collaboration between you and Jamie McMurray's team? Alba Colon mentioned how important you are in terms of the brand movement for Chevrolet. How much does it mean to you to hear that from someone like her?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, Chad I guess would be the guy to answer that question on why he thinks we're a lot faster. He's at the shop at 7 a.m. or earlier every day working. I think all the hundreds of people that work there kind of came together and put all their ideas into one, just built on everything.
We had a great off‑season. Since I've been in Cup, we haven't had a good off‑season. We always start the year off worse than where we ended it. This year was opposite. We ended last year pretty good, but we started this year even better. I think it's everybody working together really hard, getting along good. We have a fun team, a fun race shop.
As far as the brand movement for Chevy, I mean, yeah, I love racing Chevrolets. I hope to be in a Chevrolet for the rest of my life.
Q. Several late restarts and cautions. What was the mindset during that?
KYLE LARSON: You always kind of have in the back of your mind all the races you lost on restarts. I also got my first win here on a late restart. I was pretty confident going into it, especially lined up on the front row with Chase again. I know we were both going to have a better restart than we had last year, neither of us spin our tires.
Neither of us spun our tires, had good restarts. I was able to get good pushes, get the side draft going at the right time to pull my momentum into the corner.
Q. Kyle, what does it feel like to grab that lead on the restart? Does your heart rate peg? Is it calm?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I got clear to the lead. Every time I get to the lead, there's always cautions. I wasn't really that nervous. I figured there would be a caution as soon as I got the lead the first time.
Then the last restart there when I got clear to the lead, I had some butterflies. I was just trying to be smooth, hit my marks, not make mistakes, not let Chase get close to me.
This place is pretty hard to pass when you get out front on a restart, so I wasn't too concerned.
Q. Kyle, after the Dover race, you said you were going to work on your restarts. That was the strength today. What did you do, if anything, between then and now to work on the restarts?
KYLE LARSON: Well, restarting here at Michigan is so different than restarting at Dover. I definitely watched the replay. We looked at Jimmie's driver day versus mine from the final restart at Dover, learned a little bit from that stuff.
Honestly, I knew what I did wrong as soon as we took the green at Dover. But, yeah, here at Michigan, it's different. You have a long straightaway. The front stretch at Dover is pretty bumpy, so it's hard to get grip. It's not hard to get grip here at Michigan. It's kind of just a drag race.
Q. A lot of people are going to point to the restart where you took the lead from Kyle as a decisive moment in the race. It also seemed as if the previous restart where you started on the fifth row was almost equally as important. Did you feel that also?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, for sure. I don't know if I started 8th or 10th. We were able to get to fifth off of two, clear Erik Jones pretty quickly. That lined us up fourth. We were a lot better than Chase at that point. When I got clear of him, way better than Ryan, because he was on two tires.
They were letting me know that Kyle ‑‑ they didn't think Kyle would be good on fuel. I was actually hoping for it to stay green. Then, you know, we got the cautions, got the restarts that we needed.
Q. It seemed like all day the outside was the preferred line on the restart. Were you surprised you were able to get around Kyle on the inside? What made the outside so good?
KYLE LARSON: I think the outside is good 'cause the guy behind you pretty much stays in line, where on the bottom they have the option of kind of pulling out and trying to hang you three‑wide or whatever.
When I restarted on the bottom, my spotter told me that Blaney said he's going to push us as good as he could. He had a heck of a restart and shoved me softly all the way to turn one. I didn't spin my tires at all. I didn't get squirrelly at all. I was able to get the run I needed.
Q. Kyle, what does this win mean for you in terms of the emergence of the young racers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, for the youth movement for the sport?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I keep saying that NASCAR is in a great, great spot. Even with Dale Jr. retiring this year, I think it's a huge opportunity for our sport. Dale Jr. has probably three‑quarters of our fan base. You might lose a few thousand of his fans that might disappear. The rest of them are going to pick new drivers. I think new rivalries are going to be built. It's going to bring some excitement back to the racetrack.
I'm happy that I seem to be head of that youth movement right now. With Ryan Blaney getting the win last week, you look at Chase finishing second, Joey is a veteran, but he's only a couple years older than I am, then Stenhouse, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Suarez, so many drivers in great equipment right now that are running up front. It's just a great time for NASCAR.
I think everybody is kind of nervous about where it's going to be, but I think a lot of us, our fan bases are going to grow as well as NASCAR's fan base.
Q. Are you aware of where you are in points, the winner of the regular season gets five extra Playoff points compared to everybody else, in relation to Truex?
KYLE LARSON: I pay attention to how far back I am of Martin or how far ahead of him I am. We had a rough Coke 600 and lost a lot of points. We've been able to gain some back and take over the points lead. That's a big goal of mine, to be the points leader at the end of the regular season.
Martin has been so fast all year long. He's dominating it seems like every race. He's already racked up a lot of bonus points. I need to do all I can to get some back on him, help our Playoffs out.
You've seen me racing hard at the end of those stages, and that's because every point is going to matter for when it comes down to Richmond or whatever race it is.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on yet another win. Good luck next week in Sonoma.
KYLE LARSON: Thank you.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 NAPA CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND
THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and get started with today's post-race media availability at Michigan International Speedway. We're joined by today's race runner‑up, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Chase, wild race out there. Could you walk us through that final restart and your overall feeling about today's finish.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I'm really proud of our NAPA team. We really struggled Friday and Saturday, felt like we overachieved today from what we thought we were going to have kind of coming into the race.
Those are the kind of things that you have to have, whether you have a really fast car or a mediocre car. Our pit stops were just incredible on pit road, which is a huge help. I mean, I can't express how nice that was to come in and gain two or three spots. It was unreal.
Hope we can keep some of that moving forward. Gave ourselves a chance at the end. Really at the end of the day that's all you can ask for. Gave up a spot to the 42 on the green flag run before those handful of cautions. You hate giving up those spots. I raced him as hard as I could to try to keep him behind me. I knew there were too many laps to go to run green till the end. That spot could be the potential spot that keeps you in position.
I tried to keep him behind me. Our car kind of fired off a little bit snug, just had to wait a little while to get freed up. He took advantage of that and went on to win.
Happy for him. Had a fast car, did a good job, executed his race well.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Chase.
Q. Larson won the pole, had been fast all weekend. Did he have a better car at the end? Were you going to need him to make a mistake in order to win the race?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Once we singled out in line, it's difficult to pass in a short period of time. Sure, I think he would have had to have made a bobble for me to get to him. He had probably about a second on me. I wasn't close enough to get to him or make a move.
In that position, he was going to have to bobble for me to get close enough to do anything with it.
Q. Chase, it seems like you have an idea of how to get around this track. You and Kyle are battling back and forth. How encouraged are you about this performance? Do you feel your cars are getting closer to getting that first win to make the Playoffs?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I hope so. I really felt like we ran better last year in the two races than what we ran today. I think we executed the race better today than what we did last year on pit road, with restarts, the way things played out.
If you had to choose one or the other, I would rather overachieve with a car, finish a little better than what we deserved, than the other way around. So I was proud of that.
Obviously would much rather win the race, but we gave ourselves a couple opportunities at the end, restarting up front, which was nice. Had a couple decent ones. Just didn't work out in our favor.
Q. Chase, did you like seeing those late‑race restarts or not so much?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think depends on who you are. For me, it was opportunity. For Larson, it was a bummer, I'm sure, to see that. I've been in both situations. I've been in other situations last year a couple times.
Sure, hate seeing 'em when you're out front. If you're the guys that are second, third, fourth, you're hungry. Not going to catch him without one.
I saw it as an opportunity. Today I liked it. But if I was out front, I probably wouldn't.
Q. There at the end are you aware Larson has a finish, I don't have a win, Logano doesn't have a win that counts? Are you aware of the Playoff implications of where you are on the track at that time?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No. I mean, I guess you could get caught up in it. You can think about it, worry about it all you want. I mean, really, the people who run good, the people that put themselves in position are going to win, period. That's the way it is. That's the deal. You might as well just go ahead and count on the guys that consistently run well. You can pretty much count on them winning.
Wherever that shakes out, it's going to shake you out. I think if you run well enough every week, you're probably going to get a sticker before too long.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us today. Good luck next weekend in Sonoma.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Thanks.
ALBA COLON, CHEVROLET PROGRAM MANAGER, MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES, ACCEPTED THE MICHIGAN HERITAGE MANUFACTURER TROPHY FOR CHEVROLET:
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Alba Colon, Chevrolet's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series program manager, representing today the winning manufacturer and the winner of the Michigan Heritage Trophy.
Alba, what is it like to be able to take that back to the headquarters and show that off for a month or so?
ALBA COLON: Of course, first of all, thank you. Thank you to all the media for the time you give us today.
It is a big deal. It's a big deal to win in your backyard, and to have the bragging rights. We did that last August. We gave the trophy back I think it was on Thursday. I was suffering because that trophy is on my desk. Needed to give it back.
All the teams knew it was important to go back and get it back for all of us, and for all of them, for all of the hard work we do. So, this baby is coming back home tonight with me. Looking forward to that.
More than anything, it is what the trophy represents for Chevrolet. At the end of the day, what is important about this trophy is that the three OEMs with the track get an opportunity to provide a check to a charity that we all choose later in the year. We have give some money back to a charity mainly in the Detroit area. That's what is more important than anything else.
THE MODERATOR: That's outstanding. What else is outstanding, you have a great young driver in Kyle Larson who won his third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race today. How important is it to have that kind of talent coming through the ranks of Chevrolet to show you have a bright future?
ALBA COLON: Absolutely. Kyle has done an amazing job, not only him, but when you see also how Chase Elliott did today, how close was that win. It's amazing to see how our young talent is coming up. We are proud of all of them. We have more people. You saw yesterday William Byron finishing second, very close to first. But we have been very dedicated. We are concentrating on bringing the young talent up to their careers, but also to represent Chevrolet.
I think our two guys that finish first and second did an amazing, an amazing job. We will keep working on that to make sure it's still happening.
Again, it's exciting for NASCAR, too. They represent a lot of young talent that we have outside today. More people are coming to see how they are doing. Very proud of that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.
Q. You mentioned the other OEMs. Is it a friendly rivalry?
ALBA COLON: Absolutely, absolutely. At the end of the day, we work many things together. That started when we were working on the Gen‑6 vehicle, when the three OEMs started to work a lot together to make a project happen. We're still working on many projects.
We help each other on some things that's going to advance the OEMs and advance NASCAR and so on. As soon as that green flag drops on Sunday, we are there just pretty much to win, to win the race.
But, yes, we recognize that some things, especially in the charity side, we all got together with the track, when this trophy came along the first time, and we said it is the right thing to do, especially for the state of Michigan and the things that represent a lot for us.
Q. Alba, you're very excited to have a young talent like Kyle Larson. Talk about when he brings to the table for you as far as manufacturing in terms of the win on Sunday, buy on Monday mentality?
ALBA COLON: Absolutely. First of all, I always been talking about how passionate people is, how they identify in the sport, not only with the brands, with the OEMs, but also with the drivers. I think that Kyle Larson has brought different people here to this sport. For us, it's really great.
He's a great ambassador of our brand with what he drives. He comments a lot about us. Not only that, not only what he's doing for us as a company, for a manufacturer, helping us on many things, but what he's doing for NASCAR.
We understand that are cycles in the sport. We have seen with some of the drivers retiring, we need to help to bring that young talent.
Kyle was one of those first ones that came to be with us, to attract more young talent. Great relationship with him at the track, outside of the track. So, to have him winning and to have him doing so well, I think that he's leading the points after this race, it is fantastic.
We have to continue working with all our drivers, but of course helping to bring that young talent and bring those new race fans, mainly those new race fans to the sport. These young drivers are doing that. When you see other people like the last win, other wins before, all of that helps the sport to go forward.
Q. How important is it to have Larson and Ganassi run better this year, especially losing Stewart‑Haas?
ALBA COLON: Very important, absolutely. Stewart‑Haas, they were one of our key teams. It was sad to see them go. We are very honest about that. All the teams got together and realized, you know what, the game has changed. We have to work different, we have to work more together, we have to do things different.
To see how Chip Ganassi Racing has a step up in the game has been fantastic. But I would say on things you don't get to see the dynamic of those particular key partners have changed completely. They understand, you know, that we have to work together and to have Chevrolet to be up front and, of course, one of our teams, as many of our teams at the front.
The dynamic changed a lot when Stewart‑Haas left. Chip Ganassi has step up a lot. Like Hendrick has done, some of our other teams. It has been a pleasure to see how they're doing this year.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations again on winning this Michigan Heritage Trophy and good luck on defending it when we come back.
ALBA COLON: Thank you very much. We hope to see you all here in August, gracias.
ADDITIONAL TEAM CHEVY DRIVER POST RACE QUOTES:
AJ ALLMENDINGER, NO. 47 KROGER CLICKLIST CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 18TH
“Made the most of it for sure. The guys did a good job to get the car built and out on the race track. Actually, the car wasn’t too bad. We were just fighting a little bit too loose in the corners. I would get in clean air and the car wasn’t too bad. We were severely hurting down the straightaways. So, it was tough to pass cars. As a group, we were all racing each other. It’s not like any of us had a lot of speed. I thought we maximized the day to get a top 20 out of it. I thought maybe I could get a top 15 on the restart, but the pit crew did a good job and Ernie (Cope and all the guys just making calls to maximize. That is what we had to do. Got a lot of work to do, but for sure to get something out of the weekend.”
TY DILLON, NO. 13 TWISTED TEA CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 20TH
"This Germain Racing team really gave it everything today. The guys battled on pit road. When we started off the race, the Twisted Tea Chevy was really loose, but Bootie and the guys came up with some adjustments that really helped get us in great shape. Once we hit on the right changes, the car just kept getting better. On the very last green flag, the car didn't fire off the best, but, we were able to hang in there. This was a team effort today. It was a battle, and I'm really proud of the fight this No. 13 team put in."