Michigan Rear View Mirror

J.Gibbs Racing

Joe Gibbs Racing made the headlines this weekend at Michigan. (Photo: Randy Peterson)

The atmosphere at Michigan International Speedway was pretty dismal two years ago. The track located just outside Detroit was suffering from the horrific economic issues that impacted the area of the country so connected to the automobile manufacturing industry.

A pull out of NASCAR factory support from all three manufacturers in the wake of their financial problems seemed imminent and many questioned just how much of a hit NASCAR as well as the track would take in the aftermath.

Fast forward two years later and things are much different.

Yes, the economy in the Michigan area is still among the most difficult in the country and the auto manufacturers are still trying to climb out of the economic hole.

However, the rhetoric about the possible end of manufacturer support to big league stock car racing has dwindled to virtually nothing and the sport remains healthy while Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler remain committed to NASCAR.

And through it all stands MIS, just as it did when the doors to the facility first opened in 1969.

While the crowds may not be as big as those who jammed the place in its hey day, respectable attendance in the neighborhood of 100,000 is nothing to overlook especially given the circumstances that still exist in the area.

Michigan also now has a new challenge in the addition of anther Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway in a matter of weeks. The spillover of the 100,000-plus fans that choose to attend the new race in the Bluegrass State is expected to impact Michigan as well as Indianapolis and most likely played a part in Bristol’s ticket sales.

But still the crowds come and there shouldn’t be any talk in the near future of NASCAR perhaps slicing a weekend from the Michigan calendar as was feared only a short time ago.

That’s good news for a track that has more than 40 years of NASCAR history and one that still generates very respectable attendance indeed.

  • The Michigan weekend included its share of controversy once again involving a penalty for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. One week after Kyle Busch’s car was found to be too low after finishing third at Pocono, all three JGR entries had their oil pans confiscated during Friday’s practice session. The unapproved parts were taken to NASCAR’s R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina and a penalty is expected to be announced later this week. However without the Gibbs cars actually taking to the track with the parts in question, the penalty will most likely be much smaller than if a lap had been turned in practice. Many have pointed out the irony in JGR again having Michigan inspection issues with the great Nationwide Series magnet infraction of two years ago still not too foggy a memory.
  • There have been comparisons between the Gibbs situation of this weekend and the 2007 penalty that saw NASCAR suspend crew chiefs Chad Knaus and Steve Letarte six weeks when their Hendrick Motorsports entries were found with flared fender wells during inspection before an Infineon Raceway weekend. Both crew chiefs were escorted off the premises in the wake of the infractions. It’s unsure why NASCAR viewed the Gibbs situation differently and this week’s explanation will be interesting to hear.
  • Gibbs was also in the news this weekend as a possible new home for Carl Edwards. The Roush Fenway Racing driver’s contract is up at the end of the year and although there have been indications both parties would like their deal to be extended, Edwards has drawn interest from other organizations including JGR. Speculation is Edwards could slide into the No. 20 Home Depot ride with Joey Logano either being released from the final year of his contract or moved over to a fourth team entry.
  • Discussion of Lucas Oil Raceway losing its Nationwide Series race to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2012 also was a big topic around Michigan this weekend. Published reports have track officials and NASCAR in discussion take transfer the annual summer date from the Clermont, Indiana short track to The Brickyard as part of a tripleheader weekend which would begin with a Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car race on Friday and end with Sunday’s Brickyard 400. Initial response within the Nationwide garage area as well as with fans has been less than favorable for such a change with many lamenting the possible loss of what has been one of the series most popular races and venues for more than two decades.

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