Michigan Rear View Mirror

Michigan International Speedway

Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 was a wild affair that had its share of exciting racing, as well as some hard hits. (Photo: Getty Images)

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – The chatter about potential changes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule accelerated this week with talk about Montreal coming into the picture soon.

However, there’s no indication NASCAR will add a 37th-points paying race to the Cup schedule, which means any addition will need a subtraction from another track.

Michigan International Speedway should not be on that potential date harvesting list.

The two-mile track has enjoyed a long history in NASCAR racing with more than four decades of competition in the Irish Hills.

There have been many highs and lows during than tenure but MIS has survived and, in many ways, the track has prospered.

Things were nearly at an all-time low just a couple of years ago, due in large part to the economic pressures around the area. The track located just outside Detroit suffered the consequences of the troubled automobile manufacturing industry, basically the lifeblood of the area for nearly 100 years.

While there has been improvement in that area, there are still many challenges. However, the track has remained fairly steady in attendance the last several events, no small feat given the tough Michigan economy.

The manufacturers that support the sport still consider winning at Michigan a big deal. That factory-centric mindset has been attached to MIS races since the beginning and even with the twists and turns Ford, Chevy and Dodge have gone through over the years, a checkered flag in the Irish Hills still resonates.

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. The track’s new asphalt surface, which had made it the fastest speedway in NASCAR, was the latest in a series of renovations and upgrades to Michigan.

Plans are to continue renovating the facility and the possibility of returning open-wheel racing to the yearly schedule of two NASCAR weekends has also been raised in recent weeks. That’s good news for a track that has more than 40 years of NASCAR history.

Michigan gets my vote to remain on the schedule and a chance to continue the upward trend of recent years.

  • Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 was a wild affair that had its share of exciting racing as well as some hard hits. A number of drivers had their day end with wrecked race cars, including Regan Smith, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Trevor Bayne and Mark Martin, who had a scary accident with the pit wall that destroyed his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Maybe it was some leftover aggression from Watkins Glen but Sunday’s race at Michigan had sparks flying.
  • It wasn’t a good day for Hendrick Motorsports, at least half of its stable anyway. While Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne found their way into the top five, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon both suffered the same engine problems that knocked them from contention. Gordon’s issues happened early and continued the misery of 2012 for the four-time champion, but Johnson’s hit with the checkered flag only a couple laps away. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the five-time champion, who somewhat out of character chose not to address the media after his departure.
  • Engine issues weren’t only Hendrick’s problems Sunday. Tony Stewart dropped a cylinder early in the race and was out of contention before a third of the way was in the book. It was another in a series of up and down days for the defending series champion.
  • Marcos Ambrose followed his Watkins Glen win with a strong run Sunday and a fifth-place finish. He also had a controversial afternoon when he made contact with Regan Smith, sending the Furniture Row driver into the wall. Smith was furious afterward but Ambrose did run to discuss the incident immediately after the race ended.

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