Michigan was hard on those in the Chase; it was a day of misshapes and engines blowing. Michigan is a fast track where lap traffic can be a problem. Horsepower is a must have and driver/team pushed their car to the limits, for some it paid off for some it sent them to the garage. For those at the bottom of the Chase, Michigan really mixed things up.
Ranked 12th – Denny Hamlin (#11)
Change in Standing
A blown engine with six laps to go isn’t the real Denny Hamlin story. The #11 team went with Chassis 220 that had preformed so well at Indy; however they just couldn’t get the car to come together at Michigan. Hamlin had a poor qualifying run earning a start position of 37th. The pit crew struggled to dial in the car all day, Hamlin complained of the car going loose then tight, then loose again. The crew tried many changes including wedge, tire pressure and track-bar adjustments.
The highlight of Michigan for the #11 team was that by the halfway point Hamlin had worked his way up into the top ten. He would spend the major of the race at seventh or eight battling hard with Kenseth. However, if you compare Kenseth to Hamlin there is an edge that Kenseth has that Hamlin seems to be lacking. Hamlin’s team had amazing pitting times gaining him valuable position, but once out there it was clear Hamlin couldn’t get into the top five.
Before last weekend, I said that Hamlin was lack luster and he still is. With that said I agree with his press release what his team needs now is consistency. I don’t see a top five finish in Hamlin’s future, but if is he able to go back to consistent top ten finishes then he could hold his spot in the Chase.
Ranked 11th – Kasey Kahne (#9)
Change in Standing
Michigan just wasn’t kind to the #9 team all weekend. Kahne has won at Michigan so coming into last weekend expectations were high for this team, nonetheless their qualifying run set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Kahne was even surprised at that out come of qualifying, as on his website he stated that with the way the car felt, he expected a better time, unfortunately Kahne’s frustration wouldn’t end there.
The first half of the race Kahne was engulfed by lap traffic. He was able to work his way up into the twenties. His fight for track position was also hampered by slow pitting caused in part by being blocking into his pit box by Montoya. Yet, with all these troubles aside the fight in Kahne shown through when at Lap 113 he began his charge. Shooting down to the inside of Boyer, Kahne took 20th then went on to take 19th. He would stay in between 19th -21stuntil Lap 132, when Kahne radioed in “Its smoken in here really bad” that was the end of the #9.
Kahne has what other drive desperately need, wins. But he has dropped down the last two races, they need to run smart. Therefore, look for the #9 team to be going for just a top ten finishs. Yet, when Kahne makes it to the Chase then look out, I think we will see the Kahne from 2006.
Ranked 10th – Matt Kenseth (#17)
Change in Standing
Kenseth has come alive, Michigan being the second race in a row where he moved up in the standings. After staring 14th, Kenseth quickly moved through the field to be in the top ten as early as Lap 76, all this and while fighting a loose car. The #17 was having the opposite problem the Glen (then too tight), but you may have notices that addressed this issue again at the spring rubber level. In general removing a spring rubber out of the rear right, tightens and left, loosen up the car. The front spring rubber can also be changed pulling out right, loosens and left, tightens the car.
By the halfway mark Kenseth was solidly in the top ten. From Lap 155 to Lap 164 he would battle off Hamlin for 7th. At the restart after the Lap 178 causation Kenseth would move up to 6th. However the hunger and never give up sprit of Kenseth couldn’t have been clear then when on Lap 199, yes 199 Kenseth passed Mark Martin for 5th . Kenseth has truly earned his way into the Chase.
The short track of Bristol could make dreams or crush them. Look to see a turn around from the #9 team, and more of the same from Hamlin. David Ragan showed that he can run with the big boys look for him to have another great race.
Well until next time, happy cheering for the bottom of the bucket!
Sources: NASCAR.com, ESPN, ESPN.com, FedEx.com and KaseyKahne.com.