No more turning left and right, no more hard braking to enter a corner, and no more wheel-hopping for NASCAR. Last week was the last road course race of the season for the Sprint Cup Series.
This week, it is all about speed and power. With the automakers looking on, NASCAR heads to Brooklyn, Michigan. On tap this weekend, the Michigan International Speedway.
A popular stop for many drivers, this track's wide racing groove has provided some incredible side-by-side competition over the years. The draft has also provided a chance for many drivers to make the slingshot pass in many areas.
More than anything else, this track often comes down to fuel mileage. Both races last year had fuel be the deciding factor. Unfortunately, this race's defending champion will not be able to compete. Last year, Brian Vickers gave Red Bull Racing its first win in Cup competition.
This year, he's recovering from blood clots.
That doesn't mean there's no shortage of contenders. The last time NASCAR came here, it was Denny Hamlin getting the checkered flag, his fifth of the season. He has not won since then, but do not count him out.
Roush-Fenway Racing will be strong this weekend, as many call this the "House that Jack Built." Three of the four RFR drivers have won at this track, and two of them are riding long, winless streaks. Look for Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth to try and break their dry spells.
One other driver to watch will be Jeff Gordon. Two of the last three weeks have been rough on his team, as both Indianapolis and Watkins Glen were very sub-par performances.
This week, Gordon and wife Ingrid welcomed their new baby, Leo Benjamin, to the family. So, he has another reason to win on Sunday.
Last week, our Creatures had strong picks, with a couple coming close to victory. There are only four races remaining before the standings get shuffled up and the rules of choosing change a bit. With time running out, victories are becoming critical. Here's who our writers believe will take the checkered flag in the Carfax 400 at Michigan.
Misan Akuya: Tony Stewart
Stick with Smoke. Despite not getting the win at Watkins Glen and finishing a "dismal" seventh by his standards, that was Tony Stewart's ninth top ten in the past ten races and is a legit threat for the championship.
Stewart's record at MIS is stout with a win in 2000, ten top fives, 15 top tens, an average finish of 12th (fifth best among all active drivers), and 170 laps led.
The last two races we have seen Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya get into victory lane for the
first time this season. Will it be finally Smoke's turn?
Kyle Brandt: Carl Edwards
James Broomhead: Jimmie Johnson
Sometimes it's just time to pick Vanilla. Michigan should see the field return to normal order after the shake up provided by Watkins Glen, and nobody is higher up in the "normal order" of things than Jimmie Johnson. Many could win at Michigan, and that includes the Roush boys who are showing glimmers of past form, but Jimmie winning just seems to come easier sometimes.
Kelly Crandall: Kurt Busch
I did a toss-up between Busch and Greg Biffle this week. They both have momentum and both are headed to a track that they're past winners at.
But, after a second place last weekend in Watkins Glen and a third place at Michigan earlier this year, Busch gets the nod.
Billy Fellin: Jeff Gordon
Gordon has to get a win at some point, right? He's finished in the top 10 in the last three Michigan races. Can't think of a better way to celebrate his new baby boy than with a victory.
Gimme the 24 on Sunday.
Christopher Leone: Carl Edwards
He has the best average finish of all active drivers at Michigan, an astounding 6.6. He’s also seen some more kick in his Roush-Fenway Racing cars the past couple of weekends.
Kara Martin: Jeff Gordon
Just win Jeff Gordon...please win! That is all.
Dustin Parks: Carl Edwards
In recent weeks, the entire Roush-Fenway team has been making big gains on their season. At Pocono, Greg Biffle finally got the drought for Ford to end with his victory, but even before that the entire Roush organization was running stronger.
Currently, Edwards is in a winless drought of his own. His last victory came in 2008 at the season finale at Homestead. When he went winless through 2006, it was this track that put him back in the winner's circle the following season.
He averages a 6.6-finish at Michigan and has two wins here. If he wants to end his streak, this is the place to get the job done.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
Gordon has said that this one of his favorite tracks to come to and the numbers are pretty reflective of that. Gordon has two wins, five poles, 18 top-five's, 23 top-10's and has led 900 laps in 35 career starts.
Gordon will finally breakthrough on Sunday and will get to celebrate a win coming of a huge week where he and his wife welcomed their second child, Leo.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jeff Gordon
Sooner or later Gordon will get back to victory lane, and this is as good a week as any. With two wins, 18 top-five, and 23 top-10 finishes at this two mile D-shaped track, Gordon should be one of this weekend's favorites to break his winless streak.
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
He's due for a win and he had a decent run here - especially in June and last year with his fourth place finishes and runner-ups in his past three races. So you know that the No. 24 Chevy is going to be tough...and especially if he wants to gain some bonus points for the Chase, why not a trip to Victory Lane?
Alan Wade: Carl Edwards
Ford has definitely been on a resurgence of late with the Roushkateers leading the charge the last few weeks. Michigan is a track that Carl has excelled at, with only two finishes outside the top ten in 12 starts. I look for some good racing and hopefully a back flip will be seen after the finish!
Kara Martin (3,118) Tony Stewart finished seventh (2)
Billy Fellin (3,066) Tony Stewart finished seventh (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2,971) Tony Stewart finished seventh (2)
Christopher Leone (2,964) Tony Stewart finished seventh (3)
James Broomhead (2,883) Marcos Ambrose finished third (2)
Dustin Parks (2,868) Tony Stewart finished seventh (2)
Rob Tiongson (2,848) Tony Stewart finished seventh (0)
Kelly Crandall (2,826) Marcos Ambrose finished third (2)
Misan Akuya (2,773) Tony Stewart finished seventh (1)
Patti Rodisch (2,553) Kyle Busch finished eighth (0)
Alan Wade (1,264) Tony Stewart finished seventh (1)
Kyle Brandt (567) Tony Stewart finished seventh (1)
This race could come down to who really isn't the fastest, but more who can control the throttle. Speed takes away from fuel mileage, and that could mean that some drivers could run dry before the checkered flag.
One way or another, an automaker is going to be happy at the end of 400 miles. Will it be a blue oval, a bow tie, a ram or an import celebrating?
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