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Joe Gibbs Racing came away from Michigan with another victory for the 2011 season, but it wasn’t Kyle Bush leaving with the trophy… It was Denny Hamlin and he finally managed to win a race without some of the late lap difficulties he has experienced over recent weeks.
As expected, the race was coming down to fuel mileage when the late caution flag came out and removed the possibility of running out of fuel from the equation. After that it was all about who came out of the pits first, maintaining track position and being fast for the last six laps. (From this fan’s view, the one that got out front first was likely to stay there once they got up to speed.)
Because of a great pit stop for two tires and fuel by the #11 FedEx JGR team, Denny Hamlin came out first and got out front in the clean air on the restart after Matt Kenseth spun his tires coming to the green. Hamlin never reliquished the lead after that although Kenseth did do everything he could to try and win right down to coming out of the last turn sideways.
Now it’s just my opinion, but I have two things in particular to say about the end of the race and either way it went, it was going to be interesting. Whether it came down to fuel mileage, or down to what happened (that late race caution), there was no way of knowing how the race was going to end. We would suppose it would come down to fuel mileage at this track because Michigan seems to always have long green flag runs usually to the end of the race. With the late race caution coming out when it did and changing the strategy all round, the double file restart came into play and track position became the deciding factor. Had the caution not come out so late in the race, I personally think the ending would have been less dramatic, although I do think Matt Kenseth would have finished ahead of Denny Hamlin.
Hendrick Motorsports had another disappointing weekend with Jimmie Johnson finishing twenty seventh, Dale Jr finished twenty first (after being forced into the wall by team-mate Mark Martin.) Jeff Gordon finished seventeenth even though he was running in the top ten when the final caution came out and the pit stops started. Mark Martin was the only Hendrick team to finish in the top ten and he was ninth. Dale Jr was visibly upset with Martin running him up the track into the wall and said so in post race interviews. (From this fan’s view, he had every right to be, but I am sure they will work it out before the next race.)
It appears Kurt Bush has got the qualifying down after starting on the pole for the third week in a row, but he hasn’t been able to turn those qualifying efforts in to wins as yet. He finished eleventh and had moments it looked like he was going to finish much further back. In fact, both of the Penske Dodges had bad days and both were probably happy to get away from the Michigan track after their disappointing runs.
The Fords of Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards both finished in the top ten with Kenseth in second and Edwards in fifth. Greg Biffle and David Ragan finished fifteenth and twentieth and both were hoping to finish much better.
By the way, Kyle Bush finished third for JGR and just never seemed to be able to get out front when it counted. The Stewart Haas teams finsihed sixth and seventh and the the only strong finishers for RCR were Paul Menard and Clint Boyer who finished fourth and eighth respectively. Not bad, but still not what they were hoping for either.
Just speaking as a fan, Michigan is not one of my favorite tracks although I do like it. Oh sure, it has speed and more than one groove to race in, but it is hard to pass on. From my view, it is only interesting at the start, when they restart after cautions and when the laps are winding down and all of us wonder who will be able to make it on fuel. Well, that is unless a caution comes out late and takes away the drama of the fuel situations like it did this last weekend. Hey, I’m not complaining… I’m just saying…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 22, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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