2012 NASCAR Quicken Loans 400
Michigan International Speedway – Brooklyn, Michigan
2 mile D Shaped Oval – 18 degree banking turns, 12 frontstretch
Sunday, June 17, 2012, 12:00 PM Eastern, TV: TNT
Defending Champion: Denny Hamlin
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Like all tracks Michigan had to be repaved at some point. It happened this offseason, and as is always the case the new surface races completely different. In fact NASCAR officials were so concerned after practice Friday, that they had all teams change out their stock of left side tires in order to prevent blistering that plagued the Indianapolis race in 2008. That Indy race resulted in competition cautions every 12 laps because the tires were blowing out constantly. The new tires are harder and were used in Charlotte in 2006 and 2007. They also make the cars more difficult to handle. All teams were given only an hour to adjust to the new tires on Friday night after being on the track for 9 hours. Most teams would have preferred more practice time before qualifying on Saturday afternoon but had maxed out their hours for the weekend. All teams are facing the same detriments so no one can complain about it being unfair.
Here is a look at the contenders and favorites with their odds to win courtesy of Bookmaker. Here is the starting grid for the race. Marcos Ambrose won the pole and Kevin Harvick will complete the front row starting second.
Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
After a slow start to the season, Johnson has risen to 5th in the Race to the Chase standings, 30 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. He has 3 top 5 finishes in his last 4 starts this season including wins at Darlington and Dover. He overcame two speeding in the pits penalties to finish fourth at Pocono last week. Overall, Johnson has 7 top 5’s and 10 top 10 finishes in 14 races. Outside of a 35th place finish at Talladega, he has finished 12th or better in 12 of the last 13 races. Surprisingly, Johnson has never won at Michigan in 20 career starts. He does have 8 top tens including 3 top fives at the track. He was runner up in the August race here last year. He could end his Michigan drought this week, but he hasn’t had much luck at the track in his career.He qualified 10th this week.
Tony Stewart (7/1)
Stewart is 8th in the Chase standings, 75 points behind Kenseth. After two wins at Las Vegas and California in the first 5 races, Smoke has cooled down a little. He has 3 top 5’s and a top 10 in 9 races since then. Those are his only top 10 finishes of the season. He also overcame a speeding penalty to finish 3rd at Pocono last week. He qualified 8th at Michigan this week. In 26 career starts at Michigan Steawrt only has one win way back in 2000. Stewart does have 18 top 10’s including 10 top 5’s at the track. He has top 10’s in his last 5 starts at Michigan. Stewart should contend at the end barring an accident or engine problems.
Kyle Busch (8/1)
It’s pretty hard to believe that the younger Busch brother is more mature than his older brother Kurt, but that seems to be the case. Don’t get me wrong, Kyle does some stupid and immature things as well like last season when he was suspended at Texas during the Chase for purposely wrecking another driver during a meaningless truck race. However, his older brother Kurt lost his ride on the lucrative Penske Motorsports team and was suspended for last week’s race. Both were due to confrontations with reporters. Kyle is 12th in points, 103 points behind. He currently holds one of the 2 wild card spots for the Chase. He has a win at Richmond along with 4 other top 5’s and 2 other top 10’s. Busch has struggled to 29th and 30th place finishes at Dover and Pocono, that broke a string of 4 straight top 5’s. Kyle will start 34th at Michigan. In 14 career Michigan races, Busch has 5 top 10’s, and 3 top 5’s including a win in the August race last year. He has the talent to win every race, but sometimes struggles with his temper and emotions. He is my pick to win the Quicken Loans 400 despite the poor starting position.
Greg Biffle (8/1)
Biffle is 3rd in the Chase standings 16 points behind Roush Fenway teammate Kenseth. He has a win at Texas along with 6 other top 5’s and a top ten in 14 starts this season. Until last week’s 24th place finish at Pocono, Biffle hadn’t finished lower than 18th in any race this season. He qualified 3rd at Michigan this week. Biffle has 2 wins at the track in 2004 and 2005 in 18 career starts. Overall, he has 10 top 10’s including 7 top 5’s at the track. He had a 20th and a 15th place finishes at Michigan last season.
Kevin Harvick (8/1)
Harvick is 6th in points 53 points out of the lead. He doesn’t have a win but does have 3 top 5’s and 7 top 10’s this season. He hasn’t finished lower than 25th in any race this season. Harvick finished 14th at Pocono last week. Harvick will start on the front row in the #2 position at Michigan. In 22 starts at Michigan Harvick has one win in the August race in 2010, along with 2 other top 5’s and 4 other top 10’s. The win was his only top 10 here in the last 6, but he finished no lower than 22nd in that stretch.
Matt Kenseth (9/1)
Kenseth took over the points lead last week and leads Dale Earnhardt, Jr by 10 points in the standings. Kenseth hasn’t finished lower than 22nd in any race. He has a win in the Daytona 500, along with 7 top 5’s and 10 top 10’s overall. He has finished 11th or better in 9 straight races, including a 7th at Pocono last week. Kenseth qualified 6th this week at Michigan. In 25 career starts at the track, Kenseth has 16 top 10’s, 11 top 5’s, and 2 wins in 2002 and 2006. He was the runner up in the June race last year. Besides an accident in 2007, he has finished 20th or better in every start at Michigan.
Kasey Kahne (10/1)
Kahne is 16th in points, 143 behind. A 29th place finish at Pocono last week broke a string of 7 straight top 10’s, including a win at Charlotte. Those were his only top 10’s of the season in 14 races, and they included 2 other top 5 finishes. Kahne qualified 4th at Michigan for the Qucken Loans 400. In 16 career starts here, Kahne has 7 top 10’s including 6 top 5’s, and a win in 2006. He has been the runner up at Michigan 3 times, including once in 2010.
Denny Hamlin (10/1)
Hamlin is 4th in points, 19 behind. Hamlin has wins at Phoenix and Kansas this season along with 7 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s in 14 races. He hasn’t finished lower than 23rd in any race this season. Hamlin has 3 top 5’s in his last 4 races, including a 5th at Pocono. Hamlin qualified 11th at Michigan. In 12 career starts at Michigan, Hamlin has 7 top 10’s, including 5 top 5’s and 2 wins. He has won the June Michigan race two years in a row, part of a string of 4 top 3’s in 5 starts at the track. He should contend here if he can adjust to the new racing surface.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (12/1)
It has been 4 years ago this week since Earnhardt Jr last won a NASCAR race in this race on this very track. Ironically, Tiger Woods won his last golf major that same weekend at the US Open. With Woods in semi-contention at the US Open this weekend, wouldn’t it be something if both ended their droughts 4 years later on Father’s Day, since both have famously strong willed fathers who have passed away? Earnhardt has been achingly close to winning this season. He is second in points only 10 points behind Kenseth. Earnhardt has 11 top 10’s including 5 top 5’s. He hasn’t finished lower than 17th in any race. He came in 8th at Pocono last week. Earnhardt qualified 17th at Michigan. In 25 career starts at the track, Earnhardt has 8 top 10’s, 4 top 5’s and the lone win in 2008.
Other top contenders include Carl Edwards (18/1), Mark Martin (18/1), Jeff Gordon (20/1), Martin Truex, Jr. (20/1), Brad Keselowski (21/1), Ryan Newman, Marcos Ambrose, and Joey Logano (all 30/1). Here is a complete list of the betting odds courtesy of Bookmaker.
Keep in mind that with a new racing surface, that some people who have done well on the old track might struggle on the new one, and drivers who struggled in the past might be better on the new surface.
It should be an exciting race and I hope everyone enjoys their Father’s Day.
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