FYI WIRZ: NASCAR Teams Look for Momentum and Bragging Rights in Michigan

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FYI WIRZ: NASCAR Teams Look for Momentum and Bragging Rights in Michigan
Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet sits covered and ready for the Daytona 500. Credit: Dwight Drum

Detroit is the traditional home for United States automobile manufacturers and not far from their headquarters is Michigan International Speedway, one fast residence for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The two-mile, D-shaped oval with 18 degree banking in Brooklyn, Michigan has been thrilling NASCAR fans with big speed since June 15, 1969.

On June 16, fans with tickets for one of the 85,000 seats are unlikely to be disappointed because drivers and teams racing for Ford and Chevrolet have the extra incentive to win for their manufacturers in a hometown environment. Toyota drivers and teams are intensely motivated as well, even though their manufacturer headquarters are thousands of miles away across the Pacific Ocean.

Fans not at MIS can view the action on one of the larger tracks on NASCAR’s circuit at 1 p.m. EDT on TNT.

As NASCAR’s long season rolls into summer heat, teams with recent and steady momentum are eager to get to work on the speedy track that was repaved in late 2011.

The leading drivers in NSCS—Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick—shared their thoughts about Michigan.

Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team bring the most momentum into MIS with a 51 point lead that has other drivers and teams looking up.

“The Michigan track surface has had summer and winter on it, and we’ll see how much grip is just in the surface. I would assume we’ll go as fast as we did (last year) if not faster; and with the flatter track, I think the Gen-6 car will outperform the Gen-5. The question really comes down to how much grip is still in the asphalt. I would assume it’s going to be high. On fresh repaves, the grip is always at its highest. I’m not exactly sure how that will play out, but I’m happy that a summer and a winter have been on the track. It will make the racing wider for us, and that’s what we’re all hoping for.”

Carl Edwards and the No. 99 team have struggled along with Ford engineers to adapt to the new Gen-6 car, yet Edwards clings to second place in the points. That may be somewhat of momentum relief, but it’s important to a team to remain in a spot solidly in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“Our Fastenal team is looking forward to Michigan. We get the opportunity to meet at Ford headquarters before we head to the racetrack. With Greg Biffle stepping up last week at Pocono, this race is an opportunity for us to turn our performance up. We have run well here and I love this track. It’s fast and wide and a fun place to race. I’d love to get Jack and Fastenal to victory lane in Michigan.”

Clint Bowyer and the No. 15 team carry momentum from the 2012 season where they were runner-up in the NSCS championship. They haven’t lost any steam and are squarely positioned to be in contention again.

“It’s pretty fast -- it’s really fast. The center corner speed is fast. It doesn’t feel any different down the straightaway or whatever else if your car is handling good. Let me tell you, when you’re fighting loose conditions and the thing snaps sideways on you and you’re running 200 mph, it gets your attention pretty quick. You usually don’t make it very many more laps before you come in and ask for an adjustment.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the fan-favorite No. 88 Chevrolet have matched Jimmie Johnson with nine top-10 finishes in 2013. Johnson’s three wins make a big difference.

“I think you approach it like any other race, but we are going in with a lot more confidence because we ran well there last year. But you’ve got to be patient. I looked through the notes from last year, and we didn’t unload perfect. We had to work to get it right. You don’t go in with confidence that you are going to go there and it will be perfect. You have the confidence to know that we will get it dialed in.”

Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Chevrolet will be parting ways in 2014, but it’s hard to tell by his 2013 results. Harvick has six top-10 finishes and two wins. Not bad for a lame-duck.

“If you’re having a good day, it’s not really hard to tell your guys what you need and everyone is in a good mood. If you’re having a bad day, you can get behind at Michigan really fast. Usually, when you’re hooked up at Michigan, the leaders have clean air and move through traffic pretty well, but if you’re in the middle of the pack, you find yourself getting behind and going a lap down pretty quick. You’re going to end up with a green flag pit stop and a whole bunch of green flag laps. You just have to be going the time the green flag drops and keep yourself in position.”

No matter what position fans will take on race day, in the stands or on the couch, it seems the fast track at MIS won’t disappoint.

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.

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