How the race was won
Kenseth Matt Kenseth, as is typical at Michigan, was strong all day. He dominated the second half of the race, easily overcoming some alternate pit strategy employed by other drivers, and was able to hold off Jeff Gordon late and drive to victory.
Story of the race
Kenseth's win – which made the fight for the Chase's "No. 1 seed" and the status of NASCAR's top dog much more interesting – and that Gordon didn't have enough time (or laps) to set up Kenseth-Gordon III: Rumble in the Irish Hills.
Give 'em credit
Kenseth. Breaking news: Roush Racing is good at Michigan. Actually, considering how relatively inconsistent (or unlucky) the 17 team had been recently, the first- and second-place finishes in the last two non-road races speak volumes. Jimmie Johnson made a statement with his Brickyard win. Kenseth might have done the same Sunday.
Those who finished second through seventh (Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle – plus Denny Hamlin in ninth). All Chase contenders and/or hopefuls essentially needing a good day. They all got it, and in somewhat varying (and impressive) manners. Still, Kahne continues to sit outside the top 10 and Biffle still needs others to encounter some tough luck.
Reed Sorenson apparently likes Michigan. Or vice versa.
What were they thinking?
Carl Edwards and Wally Brown. Whatever they did to the 99 car on that last pit stop not only cost them a shot at the win or a top-five, but also likely erased any lingering doubt over whether Edwards still could make the Chase (barring a miracle, he can't). Also, Edwards' post-Busch race behavior left a bit to be desired, even though he was right to be a bit peeved after Junior (unintentionally) wrecked him.
Ryan Newman. Exactly why was he blocking Earnhardt Jr., allowing Kenseth to pass the No. 8 car? Normally it's hard for an about-to-be-lapped car to stay out of the way if leaders are racing side-by-side (or close to it), but Michigan is plenty wide enough. A loose Kevin Lepage also nearly wreaked havoc for the leaders.
Better luck next time
Burton Jeff Burton. His latest quest for a win began from the pole but ended in 42nd. More significantly, his Chase prospects, while still good, took a significant hit.
Clint Bowyer. After Burton's early trouble and Kevin Harvick's spin (from which he recovered nicely), Bowyer was championing RCR's cause. And he seemed poised for a top-five, but his No. 07 car didn't agree.
The Brothers Busch. Rough day. Kurt's done, and Kyle's bad luck (or bad decisions, as he admitted he stayed out after his initial woes, only to hit the wall again) is catching up with him.
Earnhardt Jr. Bad pit luck cost him a shot at his second win in as many days. Maybe someone from the No. 99 crew stripped that lug nut …
By the way …
The Brickyard was a bust, but check out Robby Gordon's recent finishes otherwise.
Notice the Dodge commercial with Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield? Oops. Actually, if the Mayfield-Bill Davis Racing deal is done, that sort of keeps Mayfield in the Dodge fold – until 2007, anyway. Mayfield said in the commercial, "Nice move, jack---." Think that really was meant for Kahne?
Back to Mayfield – interesting (and distasteful?) that he used his (reportedly) since-settled lawsuit to essentially out former team owner Ray Evernham's alleged relationship with Erin Crocker. Maybe it was material to Mayfield's complaint, maybe it was just a cheap parting shot.
Grading the race
This one was wild right from the green flag, as the field went four-wide off the start. Cautions interrupted the race too often and led to wacky strategy at times, but that all pretty much evened out when that final yellow flag flew. And despite the cautions, these 400 miles still were run in just a tick under three hours. And when there was green flag action, especially off the restarts, it often (but not always) was pretty entertaining. There could have been a bit more intrigue among the leaders, and that final caution not coming actually might have spiced things up. Still, Michigan can be very hit and miss for NASCAR races. On Sunday, it was a hit. Fontana would be pleased with a "repeat" performance in a couple of weeks. Grade: B+
From the source
Jack Roush: "I think this team [the No. 17] is going to peak at Homestead in November."
Jeff Gordon: "I would have liked to show [Kenseth] and everyone else that I know how to pass him clean."