The 26-race regular NASCAR Sprint Cup season has only four more races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup 10-race playoff, but leaders are already chasing five-time NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson. The top four point leaders—Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr.—may clinch a spot in the Chase at Michigan this weekend.
The two-mile tri-oval track with 18-degree banking at Michigan International Speedway is known for multiple grooves and speed. Fans not in the Midwest without tickets can take in the Pure Michigan 400 on Aug. 19 at 12 p.m. on ESPN.
For several drivers with single wins, the next four races will determine their Chase fate. This race could be spectacular for one driver who may take the checkered flag and then own two wins going into Richmond.
With fourteen different drivers winning in the past 22 events, the point battle is tight and may be crazy tight after the next 200 fast laps at MIS if a fifteenth driver is first after the last foot of track.
Probably the top five in NSCS standings right now have the least to worry about, but all would welcome another win to their record. They may have the luxury to gamble right now, but all that will change in four races.
Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski shared their thoughts before putting fresh team tires to Midwest turf.
It may seem like perennial champion Jimmie Johnson is on another path to a championship. Only time and the next 14 competed events will tell.
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
“The way we’ve been running on the ovals, and also with our performance at Michigan in June,” Johnson said. “I really feel like I can win there and make that list one shorter for the tracks we haven’t won on. I really feel this is our best chance ever.”
Greg Biffle yearns to add to his NNS and NCWTS championships. Biffle has won three times at Homestead in NSCS, and if he can add to that history, he may be a threat to get the crown.
Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)
“We had a really good test at Michigan after Indy and based on how we ran there earlier this year I’m definitely excited about going to Michigan,” Biffle said. “Michigan is home to Roush Industries and Ford, so it’s always fun to race there. We’ll try and get our 3M Ford back in victory lane.”
Matt Kenseth has positioned himself as lame duck driver by negotiating an unannounced contract with a NSCS team other than his long-time team, Roush Fenway Racing. Kenseth’s personality and drive haven’t waned.
Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford)
“Michigan is one of my favorite tracks during the season and I always look forward to going there since it’s in the Midwest,” Kenseth said. “Racing at Michigan is always a big weekend for us since it’s the headquarters for Roush Industries and Ford Motor Company, so we’ll look to have another strong run."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. slipped from the top spot this week, but he returns to the spot of his historic win at Michigan and may clinch a spot as well.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
“The track has always been fun for me,” Earnhardt said. “You can’t ask for any better situation than when cars go through the corner and everybody is sort of using a different line. That’s what you want. I think over time the surface will age, and we’ll get back to widening up the surface quite a bit. It has the characteristics as far as the way the corners are banked and the way the corners are laid out to widen back out again and be the great racetrack it’s always been. So I really enjoy it. Even had I not won any races there, it’s just a really fun track.”
Brad Keselowski is having a stellar year with three wins and 12 total top-10 finishes and could be favored to be in the championship circle.
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Dodge)
“I’m confident that we will have the necessary speed to contend for the win this weekend,” Keselowski said. “A Cup Series win at Michigan would be a big deal for me and my family.”
More racing details are available at www.mispeedway.com .
Many in the MIS crowd are employed by the local automobile industry, making a win for a driver, team and a manufacturer significant. Detroit bragging rights are on the line with Jimmie Johnson and team, the preferred target of horsepower.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.