Michigan Nationwide race preview
NASCAR's Nationwide Series will join their Sprint Cup counterparts to play a major role in the racing weekend at the Michigan International Raceway. The race will mark the second appearance of the series' new C.O.T-Car Of Tomorrow. Saturday's Carfax 250 is expected to provide a lot of action with a field filled with series veterans, wide eyed future veterans as well as the traditional array of Sprint Cup double duty drivers. Oh yeah, Danica's back with the series.
THE STORY BREAKDOWN
NASCAR will once again use a Nationwide Series race to analyze its new COT performance and endurance levels. That's good news for the series' fans. They will get to see those sleek looking new Ford Mustangs and Dodge Challengers along with the newly tricked out Chevrolet Impalas and Toyota Camrys. The Carfax 250 will be the second of four races featuring the new cars as preparations continue to implement them to full time service for next year.
Because the Michigan race was a COT event, NASCAR Nationwide Series officials arranged two extended practice sessions that were held on Thursday. Carl Edwards, in a Roush Fenway Ford, topped the speed charts with a lap of 178.103 MPH with Kevin Harvick, in his self owned Chevrolet, right behind him. Harvick dominated the second practice session, with a lap of 177,205 MPH, which was a full three tenths of a second faster that Kyle Busch's Toyota.
Speaking of Kyle Busch: he will be in the Michigan Nationwide Series race in his quest to break new series records. Busch is not defending his 2009 series championship by running the full Nationwide schedule this year.
But his presence in the series has been definitely felt. In 18 series starts this year, Busch has won nine of them. He's one trip to victory lane from matching the record for the most series wins in a single season. It's a record he shares with the legendary Sam Ard. He currently owns 39 career Nationwide Series wins which is only nine away from tying Mark Martin's record of 48 wins.
One of the drivers who will be most interested in getting seat time in the new COT will be Danica Patrick. Saturday's Nationwide Series race will be her first ever race with the new car and will be a major part of her proposed transition to NASCAR. Saturday's race marks her first Nationwide Series appearance in over five weeks due to full time commitments with her IZOD IRL team.
Once again the naysayers and tongue wagers are working overtime regarding Patrick. They are very quick to point out the statistics she has accumulated in her five series starts. Those stats include zero finishes on the lead lap, a personal best finish of 24th along with an average finish of 31.2. When Thursday's dual practice sessions at Michigan concluded it was quickly pointed out that Patrick was 23d and 26th on the charts.
Patrick has also been accused of using the NASCAR Nationwide Series to further her corporate brand. Why would anyone expect anything different? It's a major part of her job outside of the race cars. The point was proven Thursday with the debut of the Hot Wheels Danica Car. The famed toy company will also be joining her long time sponsor, Go Daddy Dot Com, as a sponsor on her #7 Chevrolet owned by J R Motorsports. The truth be known Patrick has additionally picked up some branding tips from her NASCAR team owners Dale Jr and Kelly Earnhardt.
Again, the Patrick to NASCAR transition is about seat time and learning curves. She seems to be deliberately working at her own pace and that's a smart move. She doesn't want to make the mistakes some of her open wheel colleagues displayed when they came to stock cars. The critics of this program seems to be looking for instant delivery and that's not going to happen. If you want instant delivery then call your local pizza delivery but don't be too surprised if you have to wait for that too.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Carfax 250 is 125 laps/250 miles around the Michigan International Raceway's two mile, D shaped, oval.
The race has 44 entries vying for the 43 starting berths. 14 of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning they do not have a guaranteed starting berth because they are outside of the series' top 30 in owner's points. These teams will have to depend on their qualifying speeds to earn a starting berth in the race. 11 of the entries are double duty drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
There could be a problem due to the anticipated weather. Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday morning and the Brooklyn-Michigan forecast calls for cloudy skies and rain showers. If qualifying is rained out, the lineup will be set based on owner's points. That means driver Carl Long, in the #68 Fleur DeLis Construction Chevrolet, will be the one to go home early.
Brad Keselowski is the defending race winner and will be looking for a repeat Saturday in front of the fans from his home state of Michigan.
The Carfax 250 will be televised live by the ESPN Network with the pre race show beginning at 1 pm eastern time.
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