By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Several weeks ago, NASCAR history was made when Truck Series rookie William Byron, Xfinity Series rookie Erik Jones, and Sprint Cup Series rookie Chris Buescher swept the weekend in their respective series. It was the first time that rookie drivers had ever swept a three-race weekend in NASCAR National Series history. This weekend, three more drivers added their names to the record books for the first time.
Brett Moffitt scored his first career victory in the Camping World Truck Series at Michigan International Speedway (MIS), Michael McDowell scored his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series at Road Amerca, and Kyle Larson drove into victory lane for the first time in his Sprint Cup Series career.
This weekend marked the first time that a three-race weekend in the NASCAR National Series was swept by first-time winners.
Moffitt has been driving on a race-by-race basis in the Red Horse Racing No.11 Toyota Tundra, filling in for Matt Tifft who had brain surgery. Moffitt’s won the Career for Veterans 200 at MIS in a daring last lap, three wide pass on the outside of Byron and teammate Timothy Peters. Moffitt’s win came in his 45th career NASCAR national series start, and just his sixth career Truck Series race.
A relieved Moffitt explained after the race, “I’m here to win. I said it earlier and I’ll say it again. I’m not going to wreck him (Peters) for it. I’m going to race him clean because I know he needs to get in the Chase, but this team needs to win and these guys deserve to win. That’s what we come to do, and our partners at Toyota want to do the same, and we got it.”
McDowell’s only scheduled Xfinity Series race was this weekend’s Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville. McDowell drove the No. 2 Rheem Chervolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing. McDowell led the most laps in the Xfinity race, holding off a late race challenge from his teammate Brendan Gaughan.
This was McDowell’s first win in the Xfinity Series in 94 starts. It was also McDowell’s first win across NASCAR’s three national series in which McDowell has 298 starts.
An emotional McDowell explained what the race meant to him after the race.
“It means a tremendous amount to me. I’ve been so close here at Road America. To finally finish it off was huge.”
For Larson, he rolled into the Pure Michigan 400 needing to make something happen to secure a berth in the 2016 Chase. Larson did just that. In the later portions of the race, both Larson and Chase Elliott were the class of the field. Larson led the most laps of the race, in the lead for 41 circuits.
Larson’s victory came with some late drama. On the final round of green flag pit stops, Larson came in just ahead of Elliott. Elliott beat Larson off of pit road. As the green flag pit cycle continued, both Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski also passed Larson. Larson was able to move past Keselowski for third before a caution waved for debris with just under 15 laps to go.
Harvick elected to pull onto pit road, as did most of the field. Elliott, Larson, Keselowski, and Ryan Blaney all stayed on track. On the final restart, both Elliott and Larson spun their tires. Larson recovered quickly and secured the lead as Elliott fell behind Keselowski.
Larson continued to pull away as Elliott and Keselowski battled for the second position. By the time Elliott finally clear Keselowski, Larson had nearly a second advantage. Elliott was unable to make up the difference, and Larson cruised in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS to victory lane.
This is Larson’s first victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 99 career series starts. Larson’s victory also broke a 99 race winless streak for his Chip Ganassi Racing team. Larson also became the 27th driver to have at least one victory in each of NASCAR’s three national series.
An emotional Larson dedicated his victory to his late friend and fellow competitor, Bryan Clauson.
“I was teared-up that whole last few laps because I could just feel it. It was finally going to be it. This one is for the Clauson family. We really miss Bryan. We love you guys. We’re going to miss him. We parked it for him, so that’s really cool.
“We had a lot of work to do for that first third of the race, and got it done. Thanks to Target. Thanks to everyone on this team. Chad (Johnson, crew chief) and the pit crew and everybody. We messed up that last stop by we made it back.”
An ecstatic Chip Ganassi also expressed how happy he was with his driver, Larson’s victory.
“Well, he hung in there with our team. We were building. We’ve been building over the years. He came on board and did a great job. The team rallied around him. I can’t say enough about the kid and the job he’s done over the last few years and it’s been a nice gradual coming-up through the pack. And I couldn’t be more happy with Kyle right now.”