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NASCAR Michigan Preview

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, June 11, 2009

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NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series journeys to Brooklyn, Michigan the home of the Michigan International Speedway where they will present the Life Lock 400, race 15 of their 2009 schedule this Sunday. In the past fuel mileage has been a factor in this event. The same is true of the weather.

There's also major bragging rights involved with any race at Michigan. The speedway is just a short drive from Detroit: the home of America's big three automakers. That means the VIP sections are going to be filled with executives and auto workers who will be on hand to cheer on their Ford, Chevy or Dodge teams.

Granted it's still too early to predict exactly how the economy will impact the relationship between the automakers and the NASCAR teams, but that fierce sense of all American pride, and who has the fastest car, will never diminish. Needless to say the Toyota teams will also be in full force with plans to upstage the proceedings.

THE RACE BREAKDOWN.

Opened in 1968, the Michigan International Speedway is a two mile D shaped oval with plenty of room for high speed racing and passing.

The long sweeping straightaways are fortified by 18 degrees of banking in all four turns.

The pit road speed for Sunday's race will be 45 MPH.

The track presently seats 137,243 fans.


The Life Lock 400 has 44 entries. That means one of the teams, outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points, will have to go home after qualifying. The entries outside of the top 35, also known as the "go or go home" list includes:


#09 Sterling Marlin. Dodge

#21 Bill Elliott. Ford. Note: Elliot has a past champion's provisional from 1988 available

#13 Max Papis. Toyota

#36 Mike Skinner. Toyota

#37 Tony Raines. Chevrolet

#66 Dave Blaney. Toyota

#71 David Gilliland. Chevrolet.

#82 Scott Speed. Toyota

#87 Joe Nemechek. Toyota


If Friday's qualifying session gets rained out then the field will be set by the owner's points. Mathematically Max Papis and his Germain Racing Toyota team will be the group that gets sent home. This is exactly what happened last June when Kyle Busch was placed on the pole position after qualifying was rained out.

The National Weather Service predicts cloudy skies on Friday for Brooklyn, Michigan. However there's also a 50 percent chance of rain on Thursday and that storm could possibly spill over into Friday afternoon.

The track qualifying record, 194.232 MPH, was set by Ryan Newman in June of 2005.

David Pearson leads the all time list with 10 Michigan poles. Bill Elliott leads the active list with six.

Dale Earnhardt Jr is the defending race champion. It was his first, and still only, win with his new ride with Hendrick Motorsports. Weather and fuel mileage were the factors in this particular race. The event was halted early by extreme rain. Meanwhile, while under the yellow caution flag, Earnhardt was turning his engine off and on while cruising down the straightaways to conserve enough fuel before the race was called.

Carl Edwards won the August event last year at Michigan

David Pearson leads the all time win list with ten. Bill Elliott leads the active list with seven wins.

Cale Yarborough leads the all time list for top five finishes with 21. Bill Elliott leads the active list with 17. Mark Martin is right behind him with 16 top fives.

Bill Elliott also leads the active driver list in top ten finishes at Michigan with 29. Once again Mark Martin is right behind him with 28.

The highest number of yellow caution flags in a Michigan race was ten back in August of 2006.

However this race can be ran without any cautions. That has happened three time. The last time was June of 1999.

The closest margin of victory at this speedway came in 2001 when Jeff Gordon edged Ricky Rudd by 0.085 seconds.

The largest victory margin saw Morgan Shepherd trail race winner Rusty Wallace by 15.71 seconds in 1989.

The Michigan Speedway has been very kind to Ford over the years. They lead the manufacturer's win list with 31.

Expect the command to start the engines to be both loud and enthusiastic from race Grand Marshal Kid Rock. You know he's going to have a good time.

The 43 car field will take the initial green flag from Jim Schwartz, head coach of the NFL's Detroit Lions.

THE VEGAS REPORT

This week we turn to the professionals from "Vegas Insider Dot Com" to see who has the hot numbers for this Sunday's race.

Jimmie Johnson is rated at an unusual 9 to 2 odds this week. That likely due to the fact that the three time Sprint Cup champion has never won at Michigan in 14 starts.

Kyle Busch, to no surprise, leads this week's Las Vegas ranking at 5 to 1 followed by the red hot Tony Stewart who is set at 6 to 1 this week. The trio of Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are rated at 8 to 1.

The Kenseth ranking could turn out to be an interesting wager if superstition still means anything in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. Carhartt will be on the hood of the #17  Roush Fenway Racing Ford as the primary sponsor for the second time this year. The last time Carhartt was on Kenseth's car was back in February, at the Auto Club Speedway in California, when he made impressive work in winning that race.

In other notable Vegas numbers the trio of Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle are rated 10 to 1 for Sunday's race. Kurt Busch is rated at 12 to 1.

Dale Earnhardt Jr is also rated at 12 to 1 despite the fact that he's the defending race winner. It's apparent that "Vegas Insider" doesn't believe the time is right for Earnhardt, and his new crew chief Lance McGrew, to rise from the racing ashes.

But the one set of numbers that's hard to understand is Ryan Newman, the other half of Stewart-Haas Racing, who is rated at 20 to 1. First off, this is one of the hottest teams in the Sprint Cup Series. They overcame disaster at the beginning of the season and now have worked their way to fourth in the championship points standings. Many observers are saying the same thing they said about his teammate/boss Tony Stewart earlier this year: "it's no longer a question of WILL Newman win a race, it's now a question of WHEN is it going to happen?."

Newman's #39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet is sponsored by the U.S. Army. Some very special momentum comes with that sponsorship pertaining to the Michigan race. Sunday is the U.S. Army's 234th birthday. It's also Flag Day. Newman has already said that "it would be very sweet and very special" to win Sunday's race on the Army's very special day.

With the team's current performance, combined with the special momentum on behalf of the Army's birthday milestone, Ryan Newman at 20 to 1 odds could be a really great bet to consider.

Now it's time for the weekly disclaimer where we remind you that these Las Vegas numbers are being presented for entertainment purposes only and NASCAR neither encourages or condones the placing of wagers on their events.

If you do decide to refrain from placing a wager on the Michigan race then you may want to consider donating your gambling dollars to Carl Long Racing. As we all know, this team was levied a record shattering fine of $200,000, during May 16th NASCAR Sprint All Star event, after tech officials discovered that Long's engine was too large by .17 cubic inches. While everyone agreed that an oversize engine is worthy of NASCAR sanctions on a large scale, many also believed that the punishment did not fit the crime in this case.

This husband and wife owned, part time, Sprint Cup operation can't pay the fine and is facing extinction. Sprint Cup driver David Reutimann has led the goodwill charge with a $5,000 donation. There are also reports of donations from fans from all over the country. If every NASCAR Sprint Cup fan sent Carl Long one dollar each then there would be enough money raised to pay the fine, purchase a new engine and get this team back to the race track. All of the latest details can be found at www.carl-long.com.

The Life Lock 400 can be seen this Sunday on the TNT Network at 12:30 pm eastern time. The Speed Channel will re-broadcast the race on Wednesday, June 17th, at 12 noon eastern.

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