NASCAR rolled into the hardest-hit state economically—and the manufacturers' backyard.
Toyota claimed the front row for the race lineup, but it was Chevrolet that took the checkered flag.
Check out which athlete are the winners and which are the losers at Michigan.
Mark Martin did what Mark Martin has always done.That is hold back just how good they really are. In this case it was all about conserving fuel. Martin ran a smart race all day long. He methodically picked off car after car after starting deep in the field in 32nd.
Martin had to deal with a failing battery, lack of driver amenities in the car.
Martin, who knows how to conserve, stayed back and watched as everyone in front of him raced hard against each other. Martin just waited until one or both of the leaders made a mistake.
Martin waited just to the final lap, when both Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel, to take the lead. Martin has always been the type of driver who doesn’t show you what he has until it counts and Sunday was no different.
With three wins in 2009 already for Martin, retirement is not in his vocabulary.
A week ago, Jeff Gordon finished in the top five at Pocono based on fuel mileage. They weren’t very good and they lucked their way into that finish.
Fast forward to Sunday.
Having to start at the rear because of an engine change, Gordon worked his way up to the top 15 by the second round of green-flag stops.
The DuPont Chevrolet was moving forward, but they were loose all day long. Gordon and company continued to battle, saving fuel on the final run. A great finish to a weekend that didn’t start out so well.
They lost the point lead two weeks ago at Dover, but today they cut into the points lead with another strong run.
I think the giant has awoken.
Carl Edwards is winless in 2009 after early struggles, but he is showing signs of life. In the last three weeks, Edwards has finished no worse than seventh, and that includes a fourth place finish Sunday.
Edwards, who started way back in 29th, didn’t look good early as his team battled the changing track conditions. Throughout the afternoon, this team worked on the car and found themselves within the top 10 before half way.
Edwards battled lap after lap, picking off cars, and did lead one lap during pit stops, but Edwards was unable to get any higher than fourth on the final run. Still, it’s a welcome finish for a team and driver facing many questions about why they haven’t won.
Edwards is heading in the right direction, and that’s to the front.
Jamie McMurray is presumably the odd man out at the end of 2009, when NASCAR forces Jack Roush to cut his five-racer team down to four. Sunday, McMurray was one of the best Roush cars out there all day long.
McMurray started 31st and he moved forward quickly. With solid pit stops and working traffic perfectly, he worked his way to an 11th place finish. It was a great run for a guy who is always answering questions about his future.
McMurray needs to have some strong runs and good finishes in the next few months. He is not only riding for a chance to make the Chase, he is riding for a spot in Roush’s organization.
McMurrary just needs to put up and at some point everyone else will shut up.
Bill Elliott—what a run. He started 15th and finished 16th and on the lead lap. Elliott's team runs a part time schedule and they come to the track with their best equipment every time. They qualify and run a smart race.
They never made it to the front today, but they ran on the lead lap and were competitive all day long. Elliott, who is a fan favorite at the track, ran a smart and veteran race. He Never overdrove the car today and was able to stay on top of the car all day long.
Part time racing for Elliott is paying off, bringing better cars to the track every time they come.
I can’t really say he is a loser, he led the most laps and was up front all day long, but it's how you finish that matters the most.
Johnson finished 22nd.
Johnson had the best car all day long, taking the lead from Kyle Busch on lap nine and never looking back. At one point, his lead was over seven seconds and he was on cruise control. The race was his to lose and it once again came down to fuel mileage.
He ran out of fuel on the white flag and scrambled to the pits to get a splash of fuel to cross the finish line while still on the lead lap.
Leading the most laps and being the best car doesn’t always mean you win; Johnson can ask Kyle Busch about that.
Kyle Busch is struggling, and in the series he cannot afford to struggle in. Busch claimed the outside pole but quickly moved backward. He struggled with his car's handling all day long and failed to lead a lap. He went on to finish 13th.
When Busch wins, he dominates, but when he doesn’t win, he is runs poorly. You have to wonder if running all three series is affecting him on Sundays, if not then there is something wrong.
Busch is flat out dominating the other two series, but in the Cup series in 2009 Busch's inconsistency may not be good enough.
After a hot two months of climbing the standings, Newman cooled off this weekend. They never did have the car right for Newman, struggling with handling all day long. Newman went on to finish 23rd; the first car one lap down.
It was a disappointing run for this team, which had recently been one of the hottest teams. Now they are heading to a track that is one of Newman’s better tracks.
Newman should be able to get right back on track this weekend.
Newman was running the Army birthday scheme, this may be one birthday he wants to forget.
Matt Kenseth was an early favorite coming into Sunday, with his owner Jack Roush owning this track in wins. Kenseth was hesitant to claim victory before the race. He had been complaining about lack of speed all weekend long.
That showed up on the track during the race. Kenseth started 16th but finished 20th , barely on the lead lap. An unscheduled pit stop ended the team's day and they were forced to battle back, finishing 20th. This wasn't the finish they wanted or need right now, just hanging on in the top 12.
Kenseth knows how to make a team feel good, just complain about the car in tv interviews; that should do it.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed some signs of improvement. They never made it to the front, but they had a decent car and were competitive all day long. A good finish of 14th is exactly what this team needed and gives them some momentum.
Elliot Sadler had one of his best runs all year long. They stayed on top of the racetrack and were able to adjust the car as needed. A 12th place finish is a good run for this team.
David Ragan has been 2009's biggest disappointment. After just missing the Chase in 2008, Ragan's expectations were high in 2009 and he hasn't lived up to any of it. On Sunday, he needed a good run just to get them out of the danger zone in the top 35 in owner’s points. They finished 15th, a good strong run that was needed.
Michigan came down to what it usually comes down to—fuel mileage. Drivers expected it, fans waited for it. Still, there was a lot of green flag racing and once again the leader pulled away.
But with these cars, and until teams can pick apart the cars, this is what you will get when you have clean air.
Chevrolets flexed their muscles this weekend, beating out Ford, Toyota, and Dodge to victory lane. With manufacturer support uncertain; NASCAR has always been viewed as a running car commercial.
With Sunday’s race coming down to fuel mileage, all four manufacturers got to show just how fuel efficient they are.
An interesting fact—in the last 10 point paying races, eight of them have been won by a Hendrick Motorsports driver or equipment. Now that’s dominating.
If you are going to win the championship or be a factor in 2009, you are going to have to beat HMS.
See you in Sonoma, our first road course race of the year.