With four laps left in Monday's rain-delayed FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Monday, Martin Truex Jr. thought he had second place in the bag.
He and Kurt Busch were trailing eventual winner Joey Logano -- and making progress in a two-car draft. But Erik Jones spun into the infield grass inside Turn 2, setting up an overtime restart. Shortly after the green flag dropped, Busch passed Truex for the runner-up spot.
"I felt like before that we were going to finish second no matter what," Truex, who finished third, told the media after the race. "My mindset there was at least we got a shot at it here. Rack 'em up, have a green-white-checkered and see."
The higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package introduced into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season had the desired effect at Michigan -- producing closer racing throughout the field. At no point did a leader pull out to a sizable advantage.
Certain characteristics of the racing also resembled what fans are accustomed to seeing at superspeedways. Cars were fastest with drafting partners and could sustain major runs. On the other hand, a car that pulled out of line alone was in danger of getting freight-trained.
"Man, you have to be so patient in this racing," Truex said. "It's really hard. Early in the race, I kept getting runs, going underneath guys, getting them in the corner. If you can't clear them, you lose two, three, four spots every time."
DANIEL SUAREZ CHARGES TO FOURTH-PLACE FINISH
An up-and-down day ended on the up side for Stewart-Haas Racing driver Daniel Suarez.
After starting ninth, Suarez fell back in the early going as he fought the handling on his no. 41 Ford. After the second stage, however, Suarez's car came to life. By the time the race went to overtime, he had driven up to the sixth position.
Taking advantage of a strong run in the outside lane, Suarez surged forward after the final restart and gained the fourth spot in the two-lap dash to the finish. The top-five result was Suarez's second of the season and kept him 13th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, solidly in contention for a playoff spot.
"The car was pretty strong the entire weekend and then again today," Suarez said. "We just struggled for whatever reasons on the long runs in the first half of the race.
"We were able to make some adjustments and come back, and I'm proud of my guys. We still have some work to do, but we are slowly heading into the right direction."
CLINT BOWYER'S ROLLER-COASTER SEASON CONTINUES IN IRISH HILLS
Clint Bowyer, on the other hand, continued a pattern he would love to break.
In a feast-or-famine season, Bowyer ran fifth at Kanas in May, only to follow that with a 24th-place result -- three laps down -- in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
A week ago, he finished fifth at Pocono, only to have calamity strike Monday.
Bowyer, the event's defending winner, had a top-five car through much of Stage 2, but on Lap 130, his No. 14 Ford broke loose as he was trying to steer away from Jones and backed into the outside wall.
With his car crippled, Bowyer dropped out of the race in 35th place and feel two spots to 12th in the series standings.
"The 20 (Jones) got loose, and I tried to basically make an evasive move to get under him," Bowyer said. "The 3 (Austin Dillon) was there and got loose under him and then I got into him and ran out of real estate. It was a pretty frustrating day. Pretty frustrating out there."
--By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media