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Brooklyn, Mich. — Livonia businessman Jack Roush honored Larry Hicks with special decals on his Roush-Fenway cars driven by Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Sunday’s running of the Consumers Energy 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

Larry Hicks saved Roush’s life back in 2002 when the small plane Roush was flying on his 60th birthday hit a power line near a residential area in south Alabama and went down in a lake outside Troy, Alabama.

Hicks, a former United States Marine who was recovering from a bout of cancer, saw the plane go down, jumped in a boat and rescued Roush who was unconscious and submerged in water.

Hicks and Roush became friends after the mishap, with Hicks inviting him to go turkey hunting in Alabama and Roush inviting Hicks to be his guest at Talladega races.

Hicks, 69, passed away from cancer last weekend and Roush wanted to honor him with a decal reading, “1950-2019 Sergeant Major Larry Hicks Thanks Larry."

“Larry saw me crash, came out in a little boat, got me out of the water and resuscitated me and gave me all these extra days," Roush said. "He told me he saw a lot of people that looked like me in Vietnam and that they were all dead. I was ashen, and he stood me against the part of the plane that was out of the water, propped me on my chest, probably broke a rib, and color came back to my face. I had a collapsed lung, but I had enough service out of the right lung, so I was able to stay alive.”

Hicks didn’t have a clue who Roush was, but they soon became lifelong friends.

“Larry and I had became good friends,” said Roush, who said he was taking a look at a gated community near the lake before hitting the wire and was lucky he wasn’t decapitated. “I introduced him to stock car racing. He made a comment initially that he didn’t know who was in the airplane when it crashed. They told him who I was, and it still didn’t mean anything to him. He was not familiar with racing. He was an outdoorsman, a sportsman, a hunter, and he taught me to turkey hunt.

“I think he had a battle of a third cancer (recently). He told me, he said back then, ‘If you’d have crashed a week earlier I couldn’t have got you. I was just getting the strength enough to do it.’ I felt like I was lucky enough by having him come out and save me as if I bought three lottery tickets on three adjoining states three days in a row and have all three come in (and be winners).”

Newman entered the race tied with seven-time Jimmie Johnson for the 16th and final spot for the playoffs.

And while Johnson crashed early and was never a factor, finishing 34th, Newman stayed out of trouble and finished 12th.

Newman jumped over both Clint Bowyer, who finished 37th, and Johnson to grab a 10-point lead over Bowyer, who sits 16th in the standings.

There will be three more races before the 16-car field is set for the Sept. 15 playoff opener at Las Vegas.

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Stenhouse, who needs a win to make the playoff field, finished 28th.

“Ryan and Ricky make a nice combination,” Roush said. “Ryan likes his cars a little on the tighter side, Ricky likes his on the looser side, and the engineers keep trying to reconcile one setup by looking at the other. We don’t have it worked out perfect in terms of what they both need, but we’re working on it and we’re getting better every race.”

Roush was asked if he liked how NASCAR put a new rules package in play this season where the cars have less horsepower and more drag and downforce.

“I do,” Roush said. “We started off initially, the first couple of times we ran mile-and-a-half tracks, we were good with it, and then it seems like everybody else learned faster than we did on how to make it better.

“That 550 horsepower, high downforce package eliminates the problem you got when you don’t have enough downforce, so the drivers think they don’t have enough downforce. We’ve consistently errored more recently by having too much downforce.”

Roush has enjoyed a long relationship with Ford. He was asked about the new Mustang for this season.

“I love it,” Roush said. “The car converts fairly easily to speedway racing for low drag, and it has good balance characteristics if you can figure out what the race track needs. It’s very adjustable so the new Mustang has been great. Doug Yates is doing a really nice job with the engines, too. The engines certainly look like they have plenty of power.”

Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s race for Stewart-Haas Racing with a Ford Mustang, his second win of the season. Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski (three), a Rochester Hills native, and Joey Logano (two), the defending series champion, have won five times in the Mustang.

Larson closes in

Kyle Larson had a big day Sunday, finishing third in his No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro for Chip Ganassi Racing to put himself in a good spot for the playoff run.

Larson’s teammate, Kurt Busch, has a win at Kentucky and is already locked into the playoffs.

Larson sits 13th in points with a 71-point lead over Daniel Suarez, who is 17th in the standings.

“We had a really good car and could pass people,” Larson said.

NASCAR added a new element by putting the PJ1 — an abrasive compound to the track to increase traction — into play for the first time at MIS. The PJ1 was located on the outside of the track.

And Larson enjoyed competing on the outside.

“I felt like it came in good at the end,” Larson said. “I was able to pass a lot of people up there and carried a lot of speed. I feel that’s where I was making most of my time. It was one of my fastest laps of the race there toward the end, where I could get up and keep it wide open.

“It seems like every track we’ve had PJ1 or where they’re putting stuff down the racing has been better, so the tracks and NASCAR should be proud of that.”

Suarez on bubble

Suarez finished fifth in his No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing and is now within six points of the final playoff spot.

“I’m very proud of my team and the No. 4 team (Harvick) as well for the victory,” Suarez said. “It was very wild, more aggressive than what I was expecting. The restarts were aggressive, pushing around, tight drafting, three- or four-wide, just pretty aggressive, but part of the fun.

“We actually have one of my favorite race tracks coming up (next week at Bristol). I can’t wait for next week. I think it will be even worse (aggressive driving). It’s a super fun place, super demanding and we’re looking forward to it.”

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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