Last Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was dominated by the top two point leaders. For the last seven Cup races, either Kyle Larson or Martin Truex Jr. have been listed as 1 and 2 in the standings, swapping the lead over the seven races.
The points lead Larson and Truex have over the rest of the field is so large they could sit out the next two races and still be in the points lead. The two drivers have taken advantage of the new stage format. Truex has amassed 205 stage points compared to Larson’s 193.
Larson proved he had the fastest car at Michigan by winning his third career pole. On race day, he led a race-high 96 laps en route to his second career victory at Michigan. It was his third career Cup Series win.
Pit strategy, late cautions, and lane choice determined the final outcome. Whenever rain falls on the track between the final practice and the start of the race, NASCAR deems it necessary to have a competition caution. The purpose of the caution is for teams to check tire wear from a “green” racetrack. Multiple teams took two or no tires in order to gain a better position in the field. Either require a four-tire change on competition cautions or eliminate them.
Stage racing seems to have reduced the number of phantom debris cautions but we had another this past weekend. If there is a debris caution, NASCAR has got to show the debris, otherwise it looks like NASCAR is just closing up the field in order to have a more exciting finish.
With just 20 laps to go, the phantom debris caution flew. This may have prevented race leader Kyle Busch from winning the race. With the field closed up on the restart, Larson managed to slip by Busch and keep the lead through two final restarts due to separate incidents.
The outside line seemed to be the most advantageous on restarts and Larson took advantage of that. Truex seemed to be stuck on the inside line and never got the push to help him get the lead. On the last restart, Larson chose the inside lane and got a great push from Ryan Blaney and moved on for the victory.
Michigan only had 37 cars take the green flag. That is the lowest number in decades. Since the enactment of charters, the total number of cars starting races has fallen short of the maximum of 40 more and more.
In 2016, there were four races that had 39 cars start. In 2017, there have only been five races with 40 cars. The continued loss of starters is troubling from the perspective that no new owners are coming into the sport and the old guard owners are just that, old.