After last week’s high speed, low down force venture into braking mayhem at Pocono, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams are probably looking forward to a little less of those type problems at the Michigan International Speedway Sunday afternoon. With the lower down force the speed on the straights at Pocono were faster so the brakes were used more and that was a big problem for some, especially when it came to the Hendrick Chevys.
Dale Jr. missed a shift twice on the weekend and blew two motors which added up to an expensive and poor finish. Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne both had brake failures and hit the wall also making for an expensive and poor finish for each of them. Of the two, Jimmie Johnson’s was the worst and his impact with the wall was hard and made another true test of the safer barriers that have been mandated by NASCAR in recent years. It totally destroyed his car and, though he exited his car he definitely had to sit down on the track and catch his breath. The crash looked extremely bad but as the oft used phrase goes, “It could have been much worse.”
Kevin Harvick also missed a shift but his Ford engine didn’t blow like Jr.’s and he finished second and almost took the win away from Ryan Blaney. Not only was it amazing that his engine didn’t blow but it was amazing to him and his crew chief that the engine didn’t lose any noticeable performance. Ryan Blaney simply outdrove him in the final laps or he would have likely won, even after over-revving the engine to over 12,000 rpm.
So what will be the difference between the high speeds at Pocono and those we will see at MIS? Well for one, the turns have higher banking along with a little banking on the straights. Even with the lower down force package, there should be less demand on the brakes even though the entry speeds will be high, especially the entry into turn one. Besides, the race last fall had this same package so the teams know a little bit more of what to expect. Michigan also has lots of racing room and being three or more wide in the turns won’t be unusual. That doesn’t mean nothing will happen but it does mean they have a bit more control over the situations when they do go several wide.
One thing to keep in mind as this race progresses is how close, speed-wise, a bunch of the teams are. There isn’t that much separation in speed and that usually means it will be hard to pass even though there is a lot of racing room. To this fan that can only mean a couple things and that is it could be a race that doesn’t have that much action and possibly a lot of single file laps.
Of course it could also lead to some interesting moments as drivers press the envelope of the car either next to them or in front of them. Judging from the practice sessions, it appears most of the drivers are spending most of their time in only one of the racing grooves. Venturing out of that groove has led some to lose control and some into the wall. That may or may not be a good thing as the race progresses and the only thing that might keep them from doing a lot of follow the leader could be the Stages.
From this fan’s view the addition of the Stages has definitely added some intensity to the first and middle parts of the race and it appears they no longer “cruise” for the first 60% to 75% of the race, waiting to begin pushing it until the last 50 miles or so. Now there is more of a reason to try and run up front, or at least close to it, for more than just the final checkered flag.
Many of the cars are entering turn one at, or in excess of, 215 mph. That’s fast at any track and let’s not forget at this two mile oval they don’t run restrictor plates. It does make one wonder what these guys would be running at Daytona and Talladega with no restrictor plates. Michigan has always been fast and it is no different this year than in the past.
As far as this fan is concerned there are a bunch of possible winners for this one. I’m not going to get into that here but I do have to say this could be a complete surprise when it comes to who celebrates in Victory Lane when it is over. What do you think? Will it be a JGR Toyota or a Penske Ford? Don’t know, do you? Neither do I but one thing I do know is the winner and his team are going to have work for it and they will have to win it not only on the track but in the pits and with their strategy calls…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 17, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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