Martin Truex Jr. had the dominant car at Michigan International Speedway. However, it was strategy that helped Chris Buescher win his second race in a row in the 2023 NASCAR season.
Rain delayed the start of the FireKeepers Casino 400 Sunday (8/6). When the race got under way, it seemed obvious that this was going to be a race that Martin Truex Jr. was going to be a major factor in. Martin took the lead of the race on lap 17 and kept it through the next 30 laps. It gave him the win in stage one.
There was plenty of racing through the field and even up front. Eight different drivers held the lead of the race at some point Sunday. Martin was able to get back to the lead when rain began to fall. The NASCAR officials had to make the decision to postpone the rest of the race until Monday (8/7).
Things didn’t appear to change much when the race re-started Monday. There was more side-by-side racing throughout the field including up front. A total of 16 drivers exchanged the lead 25 times during the race on both Sunday and Monday. Martin again appeared to be the dominant car as he could turn down and pass people on the inside at will it seemed.
As stage two was winding down, drivers and teams had two choices. Pit to set up a run for the finish of the race on one more stop or stay out for stage points. Martin decided to pit. However, the speed of his car surprisingly allowed him to race back through the field to win stage two. This is where a strategy decision ultimately played a role in the outcome of the race.
With a rocket ship like Martin’s, the decision was made to pit at the end of stage two to top off on fuel to shorten the pit time later. Chris Buescher (and some others) stuck with the plan of remaining on track and stopping just one more time before the end of the race. Martin was mired back in traffic working his way through the field. Chris was out front and was able to stretch his lead over Martin out.
When Chris finally stopped in the pits, his lead over Martin allowed him to return to the track still ahead of Martin. When the rest of the field completed their pit stops Chris was again in the lead and Martin was running him down.
Martin was able to get to his back bumper, but was unable to pass Chris. Chris played defense through the final laps taking Martin’s line away and preventing him from returning to the lead. Chris was able to claim his first win at Michigan International Speedway in the Cup Series. It was his second 2023 win in a row after winning a week earlier at Richmond Raceway. It is the fourth career Cup Series win for Chris.
Martin Truex Jr. took home the second-place finish. Denny Hamlin finished in third-place. See the complete FireKeepers Casino 400 race results here.
With three races remaining in the regular season the top three in the point standings remain the same following the race in Michigan. Martin Truex Jr. is at the top. Denny Hamlin holds second with William Byron in third. The driver that wins the Regular Season Championship based on points will get a bonus of 15 Playoff Points. Those points will remain with the driver throughout the Playoffs. See the complete NASCAR Cup Series point standings here.
The next stop for the NASCAR Cup Series is Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course for the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard Sunday, August 13th.
(Feature photo credit: YouTube)
By: Buck Stevens