The NASCAR Sprint Cup heads to the backyard of the automotive industry this weekend, and we will take an early look at the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400. The Michgan International Speedway is a two mile tri-oval that will take everything out of the drivers and their cars.
On a demanding track like this, the crews are as important as the drivers, if not more. Everything needs to be perfect in the setup of the cars, and the teams will have to find the right balance between horse power and fuel mileage. While the crews want a lot of horse power on one of the fastest tracks in the business, they also can’t underestimate the importance of fuel mileage at MIS.
Drivers are not limited to one groove at MIS. They can use the width of the racetrack in Michigan, and that should make for an interesting race. We will see a lot of passing, most likely all the way through the race. Drivers will go five wide on restarts to find the best lane.
Starting position doesn’t seem to be as big of a factor at MIS as it is on other tracks. In the last 11 races on the track, only four winners started from the first two rows. The same number of winners have come from the back of the field, and finished first after starting in 24th or worse.
Ford has dominated Michigan in the past providing the winning car in 22 of the last 40 Sprint Cup Races dating back to 1990. This includes races under the organization’s former names Winston Cup Series and NEXTEL Cup Series.
Toyota (Brian Vickers) and Chevrolet (Mark Martin) won the two races last year, and Ford is looking to restore the order at Roush Fenway Racing’s “home track”. Roush has been struggling a little as of late. Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards have found themselves outside the top 10 in the last two races, and they are trying to bounce back Sunday.
Not only Ford is trying to stand out at MIS because of the magnitude of the auto industry in Michigan. Kurt Busch said that while the race at Michigan is too early to be considered part of the chase, every single driver is looking to impress and represent their manufacturers.
Sunday’s race marks the first time that the spoiler will be used on cars at Michigan, and it will be interesting to see what effects it will have on the race. On a fast track like this, the draft will come into play and the bigger spoilers will allow drivers to use it to pass.
Denny Hamlin comes off a win at the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono. The 29-year-old is looking to continue his success, but he has yet to win in Michigan. He has, however, two top 5 finishes to show for at MIS.
Jimmie Johnson goes in as the 7/2 favorite. He has had several great runs at the Michigan International Speedway and seems to always have a great car. He has come just short of winning the race a couple of times, and this year might be the year for him to change his luck around. The crew will need to provide him with a great car again and they can’t take a gamble on the fuel mileage.
Kyle Busch (5/1) and Jeff Gordon (7/1) are other top choices at Bodog. Carl Edwards (20/1) offers good value if you believe Roush can bounce back and win in Michigan. However, Edwards admitted last week that the Fords don’t have the horse power they need right now. And at a track like the MIS, horse power is crucial.
I think Johnson can come through and finally score a win at the Michigan International Speedway.