Brooklyn, Mich. – No one wanted to get the 100th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series race at Michigan International Speedway completed Sunday more than Cole Pearn.
Pearn, the highly successful crew chief for the No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota driven by Martin Truex Jr., had plans to travel to Toronto Monday to watch the Raptors try to close out the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson also wanted to get the race in because he had plans to leave on a family trip to Greece on Sunday night, with the series having a rare weekend off this coming week.
But Pearn’s and Johnson’s plans had to change after rain Sunday postponed the FireKeepers Casino 400 race to Monday at 5 p.m. MIS gates will open at 3 p.m.
“I’m planning on going tomorrow night so I really, really want to (get it in),” Pearn said before the race. “I thought even if it got rained out it would be OK, but then I heard it would be at (5 p.m. Monday) and I thought somebody was messing with me.”
FS1, which will televise the race, already had Women’s World Cup matches being shown at noon and 3 p.m. Rain is expected in Brooklyn but the skies should be clear when the green flag drops.
Pearn, who grew up in London, Ontario, attended Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Toronto May 30 before traveling to Pocono the following day to prepare for race weekend.
Truex won the NASCAR Cup series championship two years ago with Pearn making the calls when they were at Furniture Row Racing, finishing second in the championship last year, then moving on to Joe Gibbs Racing. Truex has won three races this season.
First for MIS
Leonard Wood of the legendary Wood Brothers Racing recalls the first NASCAR race at MIS.
His driver, Cale Yarborough, won an intense battle with LeeRoy Yarbrough on June 15, 1969. On the last lap, the drivers made contact on multiple occasions and Yarbrough spun and crashed as Yarborough took the checkered flag.
‘Well, we won it,” the 84-year-old Wood said Sunday about that first NASCAR race at MIS. “It was a thrill to win the first one here. I can remember he figured out a way to get in this first turn. You overdrive it and you push up. Well, you’re going to lose time so he figured out where to back off and it ended up with him and LeeRoy Yarbrough with Junior Johnson’s car dueling on the last lap and he became a winner.”
Cale Yarborough went on to win eight races at MIS, including three with Junior Johnson, topping the charts with most laps led (1,308). David Pearson won nine NASCAR Cup races at MIS, eight coming with the Wood Brothers.
Still, Wood said one race stands out at MIS.
“I remember when Dale Jarrett beat Davey Allison,” he said of the August 1991 race. “They went down the backstretch side-by-side and went through (turns) three and four leaning on each other and Dale beat him by a foot.”
Roush-Fenway drivers have won 13 NASCAR Cup races at MIS, two more than the Wood Brothers.
'A great run'
NASCAR fans know Richard Childress as a Hall of Fame owner, winning six Cup series championships with the late Dale Earnhardt.
But, Childress actually competed at MIS as a driver before starting his long, successful association with Earnhardt. He competed in 17 races at MIS with a career-best sixth-place finish in 1974.
“I ran every race doing something here, raced here until 1981 until I retired (as a driver), but I haven’t missed a race at Michigan,” said the 73-year-old Childress.
When asked what race stood out, Childress said: “Yesterday with Tyler (Reddick in Saturday’s Xfinity race). And some of the runs with Dale and Kevin (Harvick). We’ve had a great run here, won with both Dale and Kevin so it’s been fun.”
Earnhardt won the June 1987 race from the pole and won again in the June race of 1990. Harvick won for RCR in the August race of 2010.
FireKeepers Casino 400
When: Monday, 5 p.m.
Where: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn