6/14/2012 6:36:28 AM
Michigan International Speedway is the next stop on the series schedule this
season. The two-mile oval, which is located roughly 70 miles southwest of
Detroit, has a new coat of asphalt on it. Michigan's new pavement process
began immediately after the August 2011 race and concluded in November, giving
the asphalt time to settle and cure during the winter.
Five drivers -- Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and
Juan Pablo Montoya -- participated in a Goodyear Tire test at Michigan. Speeds
reached as high as 216 mph.
"When we were in race trim, we were almost four seconds faster than we were
racing last year, which is quite a difference," Kenseth said.
Michigan has been repaved three times in the past -- 1977, 1986 and 1995. The
track was built in 1968.
"It's a very fast track but a very comfortable-feeling pace," Gordon said.
"The track drives so similar to the way it did before, and I believe it's
going to have multiple grooves."
Last Saturday, the series ran at the newly-repaved Pocono Raceway, where the
top-36 drivers in qualifying for the Pocono 400 surpassed Kasey Kahne's 2004
track record of 172.533 mph.
The top qualifying speed at Michigan is 194.232 mph, set by Ryan Newman in
2005. That record is expected to be broken during Saturday's qualifying.
NASCAR is allowing Sprint Cup teams to test at Michigan on Thursday to get
familiar with the new track surface. Teams were also granted testing time last
week at Pocono, with a half-day on Wednesday and a full-day on Thursday.
After finishing seventh at Pocono, Kenseth moved atop the standings. He holds
a 10-point advantage over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Greg Biffle fell from first to
third in points following his 24th-place run. Biffle is now 16 markers behind
his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Kenseth.
Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak in the series has now reached the four-year
mark. His last victory came in June 2008 at Michigan (143 races ago). In his
fifth year as driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports,
Earnhardt Jr. is having one of his finest seasons in Cup. He has scored 11
top-10 finishes, including two second-place runs, in the first 14 races.
"We are doing pretty well on our end with the No. 88 team," Earnhardt Jr.
said. "We just need to get a couple of wins to really kind of solidify what we
are doing about our consistency and how well we are running to really put the
icing on the cake. It would be nice to get a couple of wins."
Earnhardt Jr's car for Michigan will feature a specially-wrapped Batman-themed
paint scheme to promote the soon-to-be-released movie, "The Dark Knight
Rises." The scheme includes the Batman logo on the hood and the faces of the
two leading characters, "Batman" and "Bane," on each side.
"I'm looking forward to going to Michigan and testing there for the day,"
Earnhardt Jr. noted. "With the repave, some things might be similar to Pocono.
We learned a lot during the five days up there, and hopefully, we can go to
Michigan with some of that stuff we learned and have a strong car."
Forty-five teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Quicken Loans 400.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, June 17. Race: Quicken Loans 400.
Site: Michigan International Speedway. Track: two-mile oval. Start time: 1
p.m.(ET). Laps: 200. Miles: 400. 2011 Winner: Denny Hamlin. Television: TNT.
Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.