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NASCAR Michigan Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Denny Hamlin
Over the previous weekend we watched a young driver and a team show us why they are serious championship contenders. We openly wondered about the merits of two Red Bulls charging into each other on the race track. We openly wondered about the conspiracy theorists who denied the presence of a piece of debris despite reports of it causing damage to a race car. Then we marveled over a young driver, in the midst of a miserable week, who redeemed himself by setting a new NASCAR record. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin for winning the Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips 400, (try saying that fast three times), last Sunday at the Michigan International Raceway. During the process of leading 123 of 200 laps Hamlin, to coin an old broadcasting term, "stunk up the show." The win was Hamlin's series leading fifth of the year, his second Sprint Cup win in a row and his 13th career win. Hamlin's latest trip to victory lane also moves him to third in the championship standings and only 47 points away from series leader Kevin Harvick.

Joe Gibbs Racing also had plenty of reasons to celebrate last Sunday in Michigan. It was the organization's 84th Sprint Cup win and their fifth trip to Michigan's victory lane. Toyota scored their series high seventh win of the season as well.


Then there was the matter of debris. In the waning moments of the race Hamlin held a full ten second lead over runner up Kasey Kahne. But, with 19 laps left in the race, the final caution flag of the event came out due to debris between turns three and four that NASCAR said fell off of a car.

That leads to a WHAT’S-UP to the natural born conspiracy theorists whom, to this moment, are swearing there was no debris and NASCAR ordered the yellow flag in an effort to create some race ending drama for an event that was rather tedious.

Hamlin himself also gets a WHAT’S-UP for using his dry, but often funny, sense of humor for fanning the flames of the conspiracy theorists when he said he was so positive that a late race caution was coming he considered backing off of his pace to save his tires. When asked directly if he saw the debris on the track, Hamlin replied "no, I didn't see any debris but I understand it's show business. I'm not saying it's accepted, but what can you do?

The potential dramatic restart all turned out to be for naught. Hamlin ripped off a terrific restart and finished the race 1.2 second ahead of Kasey Kahne. He later said "the best car won and that's all that matters."

Does anyone believe that Kasey Kahne deserves a THUMBS-UP for actually seeing the debris lying on the track? Sure he does. "It was a big piece of debris back there, I saw it" he said after the race. Let's be honest here. When you're riding in second place in the final laps of the race a full ten seconds behind the leader you're praying for a yellow flag. Of course he saw the debris and it probably appeared to be wider than a NASCAR hauler.

The definitive statement regarding debris comes from a genuine automotive engineer. That would be driver Ryan Newman who watched a good run turn into a 32nd place finish because he hit the debris. "we hit that piece of sheet metal or bond or whatever it was that was rolling across the race track. It jacked the front of the car up and never came back down for some reason. I heard a pop sound between turns three and four. It acted like a spring came out of the bucket or something like that. The craziest things happen to us with our U.S. Army Chevrolet. We're still trying to find out what happened to it. But it just sucks. The one piece of debris out there, we hit it and it does something to the race car that I have never had happen to me in the ten years of doing this, so it's frustrating."


WHAT’S-UP with those two Red Bulls charging into each other last Sunday? Red Bull Racing team mates Scott Speed and Casey Mears somehow found each other in a very wrong way. After some contact, Speed's Toyota went spinning through turn one. Moments later he came over the radio and said "we're running like crap in the back of the pack and now we're going to wreck each other? Really?" Speed wound up with a 28th place finish one lap down while Mears wound up behind the wall in 32nd place.

We will probably hear more about this later in the week, but let's not start looking for another proposed team mate feud. This was merely a racing deal.


THUMBS-UP to Dale Earnhardt Jr for finding that famous smile again. His Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet ran strong all throughout the Michigan race and he brought it home with a very credible seventh place finish. After the race he had high praise for his team and his sponsors and then announced the next item on his always busy agenda. Still smiling, he said "I'm ready to go home. I've got a good buddy that has a birthday tomorrow. We're going to drink some beer and have a good time. It'll be a good day."


THUMBS-UP to the overall performance of Ford's new FR9 engine. The Michigan race, with a lot of Ford executives looking on, was considered to be a major test for this new engine that was largely the collaboration of Roush Yates Engines and Ford engineers. It was regarded as the first Ford engine built exclusively for racing.

The Michigan race also marked the first time that all of the major Sprint Cup teams, from Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports, ran the engine at the same time. The performance charge was led by RPM driver Kasey Kahne who finished second. Five of the eight teams finished within the top 14.

Greg Biffle, who finished ninth for Roush Fenway Racing, said "we definitely have the power now, the power is there. We just need to work and getting the handling better. If we do that, we should be able to get things figured out."


The THUMBS-UP for making lemonade out of lemons goes to Joey Logano who, as we all know, had a very bad week. That, of course, stemmed for his Pocono altercation, and subsequent war of words, with fellow Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick. Dubbed by the media as NASCAR's "best thing since sliced bread", the bread definitely got a little stale last week.

But he more than made up for it the following weekend. Logano did double duty for Joe Gibbs Racing last weekend racing in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series, in Kentucky, as well as the Sprint Cup event in Michigan. Logano set fast time in qualifying for the Meijer 300 in Kentucky and then won the race later the same day. He also claimed a page in the NASCAR record book by becoming the first driver to win three consecutive races at the same track after starting on the pole position. The following day Logano climbed into his Sprint Cup Toyota and scored a tenth place finish in Michigan.


THUMBS-UP to up and coming driver Aric Almirola for his very exciting win Saturday at Michigan in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. With seven laps remaining in the VFW 200, Almirola made a stunning three wide move between race leaders Todd Bodine and Kyle Busch to steal his second win of the season. To no real surprise, the truck series event was by far the most exciting race during the entire NASCAR weekend.

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