Sprint Cup at Michigan from a NASCAR Fans View

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Rusty NormanEverybody already knows one thing about Michigan International Speedway and that would be how fast a track it is. Another things is how wide the racing groove is and how much of it will be used by the drivers on Sunday afternoon. One thing that can’t be measured by speed and room alone is how each one of the drivers will handle the rising stress levels of the competition as the race for the Chase winds down to its conclusion over the next four weeks. I won’t say some are reaching the point of desperation, but I will say some know it is now or never for them if they want to make the Chase for 2011.

There is nothing quite like stating the obvious, is there? I mean, we as NASCAR fans are well aware there are several drivers on the edge that either need a win or two over the next few weeks or have to continue to finish at or near the front to maintain, or improve, their positions in the point race. Some are in the top ten and some are in eleventh to twenty-fifth, but it is coming down to the wire for all of them. It is pretty obvious they are well aware of it, too.

Tony Stewart doesn’t look worried in his interviews, but from this fan’s view, it sure seems like he would like to pick up at least one win in the next couple of weeks. If nothing else it would solidify his standing in the top ten. I just can’t believe he is very happy with his eighteenth starting position, but then, he is in pretty good company. Jimmie Johnson is starting nineteenth right beside him and Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Bush are starting right ahead of him. At Michigan, it is much better to start nearer to the front, (but then, by now I’m sure you know how I feel about qualifying times. I put a lot more stock in how well they run in the last practice than in qualifying.) Unfortunately, Stewart didn’t fare that much better in the last practice either; he only moved up to fifteenth fastest.

I don’t know about you, but Michigan is a hard race track for me to pick a winner at early. It is not only fast, but it is somewhat of an endurance track, too. As the race progresses, it becomes more and more obvious which ones have the best chance to win, but all of the teams are susceptible to a thing called fuel mileage and whether or not their engines hold together. If it is like usual on Sunday afternoon, it is very likely if one car gets out front in clean air they could open up a bit of a distance between themselves and the rest of the field. Also, (if it is sort of like usual), there will probably be long green flag runs and the only hope some may have to close the gaps will be caution flags flying.

If we only look at the first practice and qualifying, there is no doubt the Roush Fords looked very fast. History at the Michigan track tells us it is definitely a track where the Fords win often. They always show up strong and generally end up taking home the trophy.

I’m not so sure it will be the case this week though. If you remember, back in June, Denny Hamlin won and he is one of those drivers that is outside the top ten, but has a win. Everyone knows, if it can go wrong, it has gone wrong for him and his #11 FedEx Toyota this year. Now, I know you’re thinking I’m going to pick him for the win, but I don’t think that’s quite the way it’s going to pan out. In fact, even though his teammate, Kyle Bush was second fastest in the final practice, I’m not really picking a Toyota to win either, but I think I’m getting just slightly ahead of myself.

You see, I think the Chevys just may surprise everyone this weekend. Do I think it will be a Childress Chevy or one of the Hendrick or Stewart/Haas teams. Well, you see, now you’ve made it difficult. I haven’t really completely decided yet, but I will say this. The way they improved, in particular the Hendrick guys speed-wise in the second practice, I think the Chevys have a good chance at upsetting the Ford guys in Sunday’s race.

Sure, I know the Fords are fast, but the Chevy teams are determined to make things happen and that is precisely why I think they can, and likely will, win the Pure Michigan 400. Do I really think it will happen? Yeah, but that doesn’t make it definite nor mean it will. It just means I think it can.

The only things I can think of that will definitely happen are that the race will come down to strategy and fuel mileage. The ones that have the best of both will do the best in this one…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 20, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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