MENCS Takes On High Speed Michigan from a NASCAR Fan’s View


Rusty Norman

If there’s one thing that can be said for the Firekeepers Casino 400 at the Michigan International Speedway it would be this… “the speeds are high, especially at the end of the front straight.” Yeah, they are extremely high. Try upwards of 217 to 219 mph. That’s really fast for any track that you have to take a left turn at. Fortunately the track was made for speed and the turns only require a little reduction in speed before accelerating for the next straight. Of course we all know that qualifying speeds and racing speeds are different, but still, they will be high.

One thing that really hasn’t changed all that much week to week is how fast the Fords are. Of course I have to add, especially those Stewart/Haas Fords. Once again this weekend they have shown themselves to be fast pretty much off the haulers. Kurt Bush took the pole with an average speed in excess of 200 mph. No matter how you look at it, that’s fast and does give an idea of just how the racing will be on Sunday afternoon. The Penske Fords also showed a lot of speed and Brad Keselowski sits on the front row next to Bush.

One obvious thing that stands out to this fan’s view is that there are seven Fords in the top ten qualifying positions and three Toyotas. Of course one of those Toyotas is the #18 of Kyle Bush from JGR. He qualified third and the JGR teams of Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin qualified eighth and tenth. Somehow all of this sounds very familiar and has for most of the season.

In usual fashion, the Chevys don’t begin showing up in the top qualifiers until after the top ten. That may or may not bode well for them as the race runs through its paces on Sunday afternoon. Even Kyle Larson seemed to struggle a bit in qualifying though he is going for four in a row at Michigan International Speedway. He is one of the favorites to win on Sunday if for no other reason than he has won three in a row in the last MENCS visits to this track. Even though he appeared to struggle a bit in the first practice session and the qualifying session, he did manage to register the second fastest lap during the rain shortened final practice session. He could still take that fourth in a row at MIS on Sunday.

Another Chevy that could make a showing on Sunday afternoon is Larson’s teammate, Jamie McMurray. He has performed well in the past at Michigan. Jamie doesn’t get near the same attention as his teammate but he is a great driver and, in this fan’s opinion, is about due to win again soon. It may not be in this Firekeepers Casino 400 but I think it could be sooner than later.

While we’re talking about the Chevys, now would probably be a good time to give this fan’s opinion of what it’s going to take for a Chevy to be in Victory Lane at Michigan or someplace else, soon.

I’ve mentioned more than once or twice how much of a Chevy fan I am and a lot of that has to do with the fact I used to race Chevys when I an active racer. Admittedly it has been hard to watch them struggle week in and week out to even make it into the top ten. Other than Kyle Larson, there just haven’t been that many bright spots for the Chevys in this 2018 MENCS season. From my view, Austin Dillon’s win at Daytona back in February was a fluke – (although I’m sure some will disagree with that.) We won’t go into how he won but, though the Chevys did make a showing at the Daytona 500, they didn’t make that good of a showing and they haven’t really done much since.

It appears they have been hurting for horsepower most of the season and, at least from this fan’s view and watching them every week, the drivers just don’t seem to be that happy with the “feel” of their cars. Aside from the appearance of the lack of horsepower, they just don’t seem to be able to be consistent in their lap times and that could be a reflection of being uncomfortable with the stability of their cars. That fact alone could explain why the Chevy drivers can’t seem to advance beyond a certain point in the races. They might be able to go faster “IF” they had more confidence in how their cars feel balance-wise rather than wondering if they are going to stay under them. I’m sure they will get there but it is pretty obvious they just haven’t yet.

If, by some particular circumstances working in their favor and a Chevy does end up winning, I still don’t expect it to be with regularity, at least not yet. From this fan’s view, they still have a ways to go but they will get there eventually. In my opinion, I think it is going to be a race dominated by the Fords but I just haven’t decided whether it will be the Penske Fords or those from SHR. My gut tells me it could be win number six for Kevin Harvick but… well… you know.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 9, 2018 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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