Saturday, June 18, 2011
Sprint Cup 2011: Race 15 -- Michigan, Auto Country!
Folks can tell its hard time in Michigan when they’re using a Ford Focus as the pace car for today’s Nationwide Series race. Let’s see if it’s still the car tomorrow for the Cup race!
The Sprint Cup Tour makes its first of two stops in Michigan tomorrow. Time was that in the shadows of the center of the auto industry, the race between the automakers was a huge matter of pride between the Fords, the GM’s, and the MOPAR’s, but is that as true today? First, while Ford, GM and Chrysler still have some presence in Michigan, none of the cars currently in the field are built in Michigan. In fact the ones built closest to Detroit are probably from the Japanese automaker, Toyota. Second, Charlotte, North Carolina is truly the hub of NASCAR where race cars are built by the super teams of Hendricks, Roush, Gibbs, and Childress. The engines might have their origins from a major automaker, but aside from that, the decals are slapped on the cars to make them Fords, Chevrolets, Dodges, or Toyotas, but that’s it.
They say Michigan is a “fuel mileage” track. What does that mean? Essentially, pit strategy and a driver who knows how to massage the accelerator to be in a position to win late in the race provides the formula for winning. So clearly certain teams with established pit crews are going to be the good “fuel mileage” teams, correct? Most likely. So do you look at who the good “fuel mileage” teams are or who’s hot right now?
Good question. If that “hot hand” has a history of top 5’s at Michigan, then that team should be in the hunt for a win. If that team has been clueless at Michigan, unless they learned something from previous races, go with the ones who have the proven history.
Looking at the qualifiers for tomorrow’s race, toss them aside as likely winners. Starting out atop the field doesn’t mean much at a wide open track like Michigan where with 400 miles there will be plenty of pit stops.
1- Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge
2- David Reutimann, #00, Toyota
3- Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford
4- Brian Vickers, #83, Toyota
5- Regan Smith, #76, Chevrolet
6- Tony Stewart, #14, Chevrolet
7- Greg Biffle, #16, Ford
8- Kasey Kahne, #4, Toyota
9- Paul Menard, #27, Chevrolet
10- Denny Hamlin, #11, Toyota
11- Martin Truex Jr., #56 Toyota
12- Landon Cassill, #61, Chevrolet
13- Ryan Newman, #39, Chevrolet
14- Jamie McMurray, #1, Chevrolet
15- Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88, Chevrolet
Other top drivers starting positions:
Carl Edwards, #99, Ford – 23rd; Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet – 21st; Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota, 24th. It’s good to see Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Baines back in the line-up for the “legendary” Wood Brothers.
Shamefully, there were up to eight “stop and park” slugs entered in the race. Thankfully, two of them are going home, but a sponsored ride has been shut out again, albeit one that is marginally sponsored, the #37 Ford driven by Tony Raines. The once-in-awhile family operation with Brian Keselowski goes home. Likewise, one of the biggest leaches, Mike “it’s not my fault” Skinner is out too. However, the trash heap clutters up the field with Joe “Hope He Wrecks” Nemechek in 29th, David Stremme in 32nd, J.J. Yeley in 34th, Robby Gordon (regardless of whether he races or not – once a slug in a season – always a slug) in 36th; Michael McDowell 38th, and Scott Riggs in 43rd. It’s time for fans to crank it up on shaming this ridiculous practice of compromising the integrity of the sport. During driver introductions and as the slugs trail off the field, load, fanatic booing is required. This garbage is not sticking up for the little guy. The little guy still competes. The ghost of Alan Kulwicki should haunt them all.
Tomorrow’s weather calls for a mix of sun and clouds with a chance of a thunderstorm, temperatures in the high 70’s – how’s that for playing tricks with the setup crew!