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NASCAR Michigan Preview

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, August 13, 2009

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Mark Martin already has one win at Michigan this year
The elite of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be in the Irish hills of Michigan this Sunday for the running of the Carfax 400 at the Michigan International Raceway.

This race is about major bragging rights. America's big three auto makers are located just down the freeway from the race track and their representatives will be in full force this weekend to cheer on their brand of automobile. Traditionally Ford has dominated racing at Michigan in the past but you can bet that General Motors and Chrysler affiliated teams will be looking to snap that streak. Also count on the Toyota teams who will try to crash the automakers party by pulling off their first ever win at this track.

PRE RACE NOTES OF INTEREST.

Don't expect the official debut of Ford's new engine this weekend in Michigan despite rumors to the contrary. The new engine, designed by Roush-Yates Engineering, boasts a much improved cooling system which means the teams will not have to use anywhere near the amount of air ducting needed in the past. In turn, less air ducting is expected to provide more down force on the nose of the car.

At first it was believed that the Wood Brothers Ford, with driver Bill Elliot, was going to debut the new engine this Sunday but this has flatly been denied by Brian Wolfe, Ford's Director of North American Motorsports.

Wolfe said earlier this week that the new engine is going to be debuted during the upcoming ten race series that comprises the Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship. Wolfe also said to expect to see the new engine being used for the first time by Ford teams not in the 12 line up for the Chase. It's expected that drivers David Ragan and Jaime McMurray, from Roush Fenway Racing, or Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard, from Yates Racing, will be the likely candidates to put the new power plant to the test under racing conditions. Wolfe was adamant that Ford teams involved in the Chase would not be taking the risk of using a new engine with a championship on the line unless they received some extraordinary test results. Those potential Chase drivers from Ford are Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth.

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The rumors that says Richard Petty Motorsports-RPM may be leaving Dodge for Toyota next year hit an interesting new aspect. RPM officials are saying that talks with Dodge are ongoing in hopes of resolving financial issues with the beleaguered automaker. However, at the same time, they have admitted that they have been talking to Toyota officials as well.

But the really interesting aspect to this story occurred in recent days when it was revealed that the team ordered some publicity photos taken of their driver Kasey Kahne who was standing in front of the #9 Budweiser Toyota Camry. RPM said the photos were taken as a back up in case the team does make a manufacturer switch.

In other RPM news, the anticipated swap of crew chiefs and crew members between the teams driven by A J Allmendinger and Reed Sorenson will become official this Sunday at Michigan. Mike Shiplett and his crew will move to Allmendinger's team while Sammy Johns will call the shot for Sorenson.

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Brad Keselowski will be attempting to earn a starting berth in Sunday's Michigan race in the #25 Go Daddy.Com Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. This latest NASCAR Sprint Cup start is very important to the young driver because his home town, Rochester Hills where he began his racing career, is less than 100 miles away from the speedway. In seven previous Cup starts Keselowski has one win, one top five finish and three top tens. Tony Eury Jr will crew chief Sunday's effort and has chosen to use the same Hendrick Chevrolet that Keselowski drove to a seventh place finish at Darlington last May.

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One of the big Sprint Cup story lines that will be watched closely during the Michigan weekend is the status of Jeff Gordon's chronic back pain that has been ongoing since last year. That medical situation was escalated last Monday following the hard crash Gordon had at the Watkins Glen race.

Gordon admits that his back was extremely stiff earlier this week but felt he would be ready for Sunday's race. Gordon pointed out that the large Michigan track, with its multiple racing lines and sweeping turns, would not impact his back that much. It's the physical demands of the Bristol race, the following Sunday, where left hand turns come quickly that has him concerned.

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Red Bull Racing has finally made a manufacturer decision and has elected to remain with Toyota and their TRD engine program for 2010. In past weeks it was widely believed that Red Bull was going to switch to Chevrolet and lease engines from Hendrick Motorsports.

Red Bull Racing officials are also saying that they expect to make an announcement after the Michigan race that says their driver Brian Vickers has officially signed his new contract.

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There's a report, from earlier this week, that says Chip Ganassi, co owner of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, is considering using engines from Hendrick Motorsports to power his #42 Chevrolet driven by Juan Pablo Montoya. This is especially interesting in light of the fact that his partner, Teresa Earnhardt, formed an engine and technical business with team owner Richard Childress quite some time ago and the EGR teams have been using power plants manufactured by Earnhardt Childress Racing Technologies.

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THE RACE BREAK DOWN

Sunday's Carfax 400 is the second race at Michigan International Raceway in 2009.

The race has 45 entries vying for the 43 starting berths.

Nine of the entries are on the "go or go home" list meaning they are outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points and must earn a starting berth based on qualifying times.

Carl Edwards is the defending race winner from last year and started from the 27th position. Mark Martin won the first Michigan race last June starting from the 32nd position.

David Pearson holds the track record for most wins with nine. Bill Elliot has the most wins among active drivers with seven.

Rusty Wallace owns the track record for most laps led by race winner, 162, set in 1989.

Mark Martin has the record for fewest laps led by a race winner, one, which occurred this past June.

Michigan's record for the closest margin of victory dates back to 2001 when Jeff Gordon edged Ricky Rudd by 0.085 seconds.

The greatest margin of victory dates back to 1989 when Rusty Wallace crossed under the checkers 15.71 seconds ahead of Morgan Shepherd.

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan was held in June of 1969 and was won by Cale Yarborough.

There has been 80 Cup races at the track since that time.

30 NASCAR drivers have visited Michigan's victory lane with 18 of them having two or more wins.

Ford has the track record for manufacturer wins with 31.

Wood Brothers Racing and Roush Fenway Racing, both Ford teams, share the track record for team wins with 11 each.

Consistency is a major key to success at Michigan. Cale Yarborough holds the track record for the most top five finishes with 21. Among the active duty drivers Bill Elliot and Mark Martin co own the most top fives with 17 each. Elliot and Martin also share the track record for most top ten finishes with 29 each.

Among the Michigan International Raceway's top qualifiers is Ryan Newman who hold the qualifying record, 194.232 MPH, which was set back in June of 2005.

David Pearson hold the track record for most pole positions with ten.

THE TRACK BREAKDOWN

The Michigan International Raceway is a two mile, D shaped oval, that sits on 1,400 acres of land.

Groundbreaking for the speedway occurred in 1967 and officially opened one year later. NASCAR team owner Roger Penske was the principal owner of the speedway from1966 through 1969.

The speedway has sweeping turns, with 18 degree banks, that allows plenty of room for passing and side by side racing.

The front stretch is long and measures 3,600 feet. The back stretch is 2,242 feet long.

Pit road is spacious, 50 feet wide, and has 44 available pit stalls. The pit road speed is 45 MPH.

The speedway currently seats approximately 137,000 fans.

While weather has been known to be a factor in a Michigan race in the past, it's not expected this weekend. The Friday to Sunday weather forecast calls for sunshine, with some partly cloudiness, with daytime temperatures ranging from 83 to 88 degrees.

THE TELEVISION BREAK DOWN

Friday's Sprint Cup practice session will be aired live on Speed beginning at 12 pm eastern with re broadcasts at 8 pm et and 1230 am et Saturday morning.

Speed will broadcast Sprint Cup qualifying Friday afternoon, 3:40 pm et, with re airs at 930 pm et and 2 am et Saturday morning

The first scheduled Saturday practice session can be seen on Speed beginning at 1230 pm et.

The final happy hour practice session will be aired also by Speed on Saturday at 150 pm et.

The pre race show for Sunday's Carfax 400 will be aired by ESPN beginning at 1 pm et.

Re broadcasts of the race can be seen Monday morning, 230 am et, on ESPN2 followed by a Monday morning airing at 10 am et on ESPN Classic. The Speed Channel will present the race again on Wednesday afternoon beginning at 12 pm et.

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THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN

This week's Las Vegas rankings, from the World Sports Exchange-WSE, has Jimmie Johnson topping the list at 4 to 1 odds. This is likely the WSE acknowledging the fact that Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the entire #48 Lowes team has a tendency to get on a hot streak as they move closer to the start of the Chase. But the other interesting factor here is Michigan is one of six tracks on the current Cup circuit that Johnson has never won at . In 15 previous starts his best finish has been third.

The iconic Mark Martin comes in at seven to one this week. That's actually a very solid wager consideration. Martin won the Michigan race last June and his personal stats at this speedway is simply awesome.

Carl Edwards, who won the Michigan race in August 2008, is ranked at eight to one this week. That's also a solid consideration. Roush Fenway Racing, Edward's team owner, has an amazing track record at Michigan. Let's face it, Edwards is overdue to find a Cup win this year and Michigan could be the place for it.

The WSE ranks the trio of Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle at nine to one for Sunday's race. Stewart at nine to one doesn't really feel right considering the excellent season he's having. Mathematically speaking, Stewart can become the first driver to clinch a guaranteed berth in the 12 man Chase line up by just starting and finishing Sunday's race. That means he will be free to concentrate on collecting wins, and the ten bonus points that comes with that, during the course of the next four races before the Chase officially begins.

In other WSE rankings for the Michigan race Jeff Gordon comes in at ten to one, Pocono race winner Denny Hamlin is ranked 12 to one while Kurt Busch is locked in at 14 to one. The trio of Matt Kenseth, who needs a good race to stay in the top 12, along with Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne are ranked at 18 to one this week.

It's hardly a big secret that Juan Pablo Montoya, and his Earnhardt Ganassi Target team, have been points racing to insure a place in the 12 man Chase line up. So far it's been working very well for them. That's probably why Montoya's win ranking is 22 to one this week.

Finally, the duo of Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr are ranked by the WSE at 25 to one odds.

Once again it's time for the disclaimer. NASCAR wants to remind you that these rankings are for entertainment purposes only and neither encourages nor condones the placing of bets on their races.

Perhaps you could use your wager budget for other purposes such as a wide variety of race day snacks. You know, the stuff that is so loaded with grease and salt it could become a bigger problem for you than gambling on the race.

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