A tough break for Joey Logano led to a huge opportunity for Paul Menard, as the 33-year-old won his second career Nationwide Series race in the Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
With just five laps remaining, Logano lost the lead following a flat right rear tire and fell off the pace. Menard took over the lead and held off Sam Hornish Jr. for his first win of the season in his lone start of the year in the Nationwide Series.
Menard has not been a regular on the Nationwide circuit like fellow Sprint Cup drivers Kyle Busch and Logano, but he has been shut out of winning in the series for multiple years. NASCAR shared just how long the drought had been for Menard in this tweet:
After the cut tire, Logano ultimately fell off the pace and finished in 16th at Michigan. Following the strong start, he looks like a contender for the win Sunday if he can keep a clean car.
While Hornish wasn't able to overtake Menard for the win at the end, his finish was still a surprising one considering how it started for the veteran. In just his third race of the season in Nationwide, Menard spun out early but survived the remainder of the race and notched his third consecutive top-five result.
Regan Smith didn't take his second win of the year at Michigan, but the JR Motorsports driver did maintain his points lead with a seventh-place finish. Smith was beaten out by teammate Chase Elliott, who finished sixth, with team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. taking third.
With the Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250 in the rearview mirror, here's a look at the finishing order, current standings and recap from the race in Michigan.
|2||Sam Hornish Jr.||3|
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||0|
*Full results can be found on NASCAR.com.
From the start of the race, youth was shining through in the Nationwide Series. While multiple Sprint Cup full-timers like Kyle Busch and Earnhardt made the start, it was a much younger premier series driver who took control.
Kyle Larson established himself at the front of the pack early on, leading for much of the first 50 laps in the race. Elliott found his way to the front as well alongside Larson and Ty Dillon, with all three leading multiple laps at the beginning.
The Nationwide Series' official Twitter account noted the youth takeover at the start of the race:
Lap 29: #NASCAR's future on display here at Michigan. Average age of the top 4: 21.3.— NASCAR Nationwide (@NASCAR_NNS) June 14, 2014
While the younger drivers were building momentum, one veteran was fighting through issues. Earnhardt was able to finish the race strong, but he had to deal with adversity near the midway point.
Just one week after winning the Sprint Cup race at Pocono, Earnhardt felt a vibration at Michigan that caused his No. 88 car to drive loose around the track. Junior spoke about the issue on Lap 65, per JR Motorsports:
"Real bad vibration all around the track, but its not getting any worse. Loose trying to turn in to the corner." -DEJ. Running p8 at lap 65— JR Motorsports (@JRMotorsports) June 14, 2014
"Just can't drive it into the corner, I'm wreckin' (real loose)" -DEJ— JR Motorsports (@JRMotorsports) June 14, 2014
Along with Earnhardt, an up-and-coming driver was dealt a huge blow later in the race.
Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, was running well on the day when Dylan Kwasniewski got into the back of his car. Kwasniewski and Bayne turned sideways and slammed hard into the wall, with Kwasniewski's car losing the entire rear in the collision.
Geoffrey Miller of Yahoo provided a look at the wreck for Kwasniewski:
That crash is third DNF in 13 Nationwide starts this season for Dylan Kwasniewski. Five lead lap finishes. Tough sledding for the rookie.— Geoffrey Miller (@GeoffreyMiller) June 14, 2014
"I just have to stop making these mistakes." Pretty stand-up interview from Dylan K.— Geoffrey Miller (@GeoffreyMiller) June 14, 2014
Following the huge win for Menard, the Nationwide circuit now heads to Road America for the Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville. With Smith holding on to the lead, drivers like Elliott Sadler and Chase Elliott will look to chase him down yet again.
Heading into the first road course race of the season, this might be a race where veteran drivers dominate the field. Following a great race for many of the top contenders, Saturday will be yet another exhilarating race for the Nationwide Series.
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