I cannot recall a race ever running a Monday night, but it happened with the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The race was originally scheduled to run on Sunday afternoon until rain forced NASCAR to postpone the race to Monday evening due to Fox Sports’ broadcast of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Due to cool temperatures outside and on the track surface, many fans and media members expected the race to be as thrilling and as closely contested as the Kansas and Charlotte night races. Unfortunately, while the race was closely contested in terms of distances between the leader and the rest of the field, nobody was able to pass the leader during the race and once Joey Logano was able to get back in the lead thanks to having the fastest car and pit strategy, he was able to hold the lead with the clean air advantage.
Restarts are always fun to watch due to NASCAR making the great rule to have them all start double-wide, which began back in 2009, but they should not be the most exciting parts of races. Michigan saw a couple of cautions in the opening laps of the final stage with crashes involving playoff hopefuls, Clint Bowyer and Austin Dillon. On the first laps after these restarts, we would see some wild restarts that involved three-wide racing and drivers making contact, most notably between Logano and Kyle Larson. The problem with this rules package on a track this wide is that there is only one lane to pass and that was in the middle of corners. The banking is so different between the top and bottom and it does not allow anyone to make a move and everyone just creates the single-file “train” to maintain track position. If you chose to make it double-file and go for a pass, you were most likely going to lose multiple positions depending on how close the gaps were between the cars on the train.
Notable performances of the race include Austin Dillon, who won the second stage before getting into the wall in the final stage. Daniel Suárez had a big fourth-place finish. Daniel Hemric would be my pick for the driver of the day as he was in the top ten for a majority of the race and would complete a 12th-place finish. Logano led approximately 75 percent of the race and we should not be sugar coating this race. It was underwhelming. Close racing does not indicate great racing. If you cannot pass the leader and air is the determining factor of your position, what is the point? Kyle Busch, the best driver in the sport, was stuck outside the top 10 until the final laps. When the best drivers are held back from separating their talents from everyone else, that is when everyone gets frustrated. This package only works perfectly at night, on a 1.5-mile track with cool temperatures. In two weeks, NASCAR returns to the old configuration at Sonoma. Finally, the first road course of the season and we will not have to worry about the aero package.