Michigan Preview: Check Those Fuel Gauges, and These Three Teams

Joe M.Correspondent IIAugust 15, 2009

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 14:  Brian Vickers driver of the #83 RedBull Toyota stands on the grid after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Michigan 400 at Michigan Internetional Speedway on August 14, 2009 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

So free-agent-to-be Brian Vickers, who still hasn't officially re-signed with Team Red Bull just won his series high, sixth pole for the season and third straight at Michigan. Like I've written in the past, it should take Vickers all of half a lap to lose this prestigous privledge as he's historically horrible on restarts and starts in general.

It doesn't help his luck that the rejuvinated Mark Martin just happens to be starting alongside him on the outside pole. The only thing worse would have been if the monotone corporate sponsor-robot Jimmie Johnson had been there.

But for all the fans that like to play it safe by not cheering for a real driver, but rather a corporate clone like Johnson, you're in luck! The Prettyboy Pitchman is safely snuggled on the second row after qualifiying fourth.

He should be able to make this a fun race for about thirty laps or so, until His Monotony takes over the race lead and turns it into a 400 mile, follow-the-leader snoozefest like he threatened to do the last time at Michigan before he hilariously ran out of gas and finished 22nd.

I swear, if he wins this whole Cup championship again, for a record 4th consecutive time, thereby appropriately pushing aside NASCAR legends Cale Yaroborough and David Pearson both of whom have three consecutive titles, a lot of fans are going to be so turned off at the current system they are either going to demand changes or they will leave the sport forever.

I say appropriately since this NASCAR cares not for tradition but rather for entertainment as Jimmie is no exception. He's part of the problem but more on that in a future column, especially if he begins to dominate as he typically turns it up this time of year just in time for the Chase before winning half the Chase races.

Chase Preview:

With four races to go before the Chase we've currently got seven teams represented:

Hendrick Motorsports: Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, and Jimmie Johnson

Roush Fenway Racing: Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth

Penske Racing: Kurt Busch

Joe Gibbs Racing: Denny Hamlin

Richard Petty Motorsports: Kasey Kahne

Stewart-Haas Racing: Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman

Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing: Juan Pablo Montoya

While the parity may look encouraging, don't be fooled. That Hendrick trio as well as the Roush trio prove there is still work to be done towards this eutopia and Roush, for all its struggles this season, prove they are still consistent enough, even if they are boring, lunch pail drivers with minimal personalities.

Anyone for Matt Kenseth to Hendrick? He'd fit right in with Jimmie and his personality of that of a pillow case.

For those still concerned with Hendrick's positioning or a revival of last year's four team chase snoozer there all twelve drivers were represented by the "Big Four" power teams-Hendrick, Roush, Richard Childress Racing, and Joe Gibbs Racing, this year, of the last four drivers with any real chance of making The Chase, only Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer would come from those power teams. And in Bowyer's case, he'd be the first and only participant from his team this year, evidence of their decline.

The final two drivers with any kind of hope is Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann who currently sits 16th in points at 155 out and and Vickers who is 96 points out. For this reason it is imperitive that both have stellar finishes this weekend and similar strong finishes in the final weeks leading up to Loudon.

Drivers to watch for:

1. Vickers-not only has he positioned himself nicely by winning the pole, but history shows, once he does this, a top 10 finish is almost a lock, especially at these "monster tracks" (2 mi.) as I call them where he typically runs well. a top 10 mixed with uncharacteristic bad luck from Roush drivers Biffle and Kenseth at what is considered their best track due to the team they drive for and their historical success here, would get Vickers right back in it. Here's hoping it happens.

2. Reutimann-didn't help his cause both with last week's 25th place finish on the Watkins Glen road course especially when his direct competiton in Bowyer, Busch, Biffle, Kenseth, and Vickers did signficantly better than him getting top 14's. Now this week he qualifies 31st. Good luck. They are going to need pit strategy and some luck (fuel x-factor anyone?) If not here, then where? Stick a fork in him if he performs similarily bad this week.

3. Biffle and Kenseth Roush. Since this is basically their backyard when it comes to success and Ford's home base expect them to do well. Edwards may well even win it.

How nice is it to see crybaby Kyle on the outside looking in? About as nice as not having to see Carl "series killer" (nationwide) Edwards do any of his trademark backflips. Sorry ESPN, speak for yourself.

A DNF or fuel mileage miscalculation would just about end his season. However, if any driver is capable of winning the neccessary 3/4 races just to make the Chase, outside of Johnson, its him. Beware.

This week I'll be cheering against Roush in addition to the usual Hendrick dominance in hopes that the little guy in the form of Vickers and Reutimann can get back into this thing since we're in Chase chunch time now and that the first step to what this is really all about.

The sport will be better in the long run if y'all can just put your big-team loyalities aside for a week and hope these final few teams are able to sneak into the Chase after a good showing here. The final Chase product is more representative, competative, and exciting as a result since the storylines will be greater with nearly something for everyone.