Michigan Rear View Mirror

Michigan

On a picture-perfect August afternoon, Joey Logano outlasted the field and drove to Victory Lane after Mark Martin’s engine came up dry only three laps from the finish. (Photo: Getty Images)

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – High speeds and fuel mileage have been part of Michigan International Speedway’s legacy since the track first opened its gates in 1969. Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 was no different.

On a picture-perfect August afternoon, Joey Logano outlasted the field and drove to Victory Lane after Mark Martin’s engine came up dry only four laps from the finish.

Once again passing for the lead was at a premium basically on restarts only and it was strategy that proved to be the key to success.

Now that summary might sound boring to some but Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 was actually an entertaining affair. Sure there weren’t side-by-side battles for the lead for more than a lap or two and “clean air,” the phrase many race fans have come to hate, was in vogue for the leaders. But there was enough going on over the two hours and 45 minutes to keep fans entertained.

Mark Martin’s gamble to stretch his final load of fuel 50 laps failed. Kyle Busch had a miserable day. Jimmie Johnson had an even worse one. And the points championship including the Wild Card battle for the final two spots in the Chase got even more interesting with three races left in the regular season.

Some of you reading this will cry foul and ask why Michigan was better than the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, which I thought for all its prestige, was still a pretty deadly dull race this time around. You’d have a valid point.

Maybe it’s just because Michigan has been generating this style of racing for more than 40 years and it’s what’s expected on the two trips to the Irish Hills every season.

Beauty as they say is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

  • The garage area was on fire with rumors about the 2014 campaign and “Silly Season” is in high gear. Juan Pablo Montoya’s release by Earnhardt Ganassi Racing last week added another layer to the madness. Mark Martin’s name is now in the mix with his potential fill in for the injured Tony Stewart potentially ending his tenure at Michael Waltrip Racing, making way for Brian Vickers to get into the No. 55 as a jump start to his full-time rise next year. Expect some fast movement on a couple of fronts as early as this week to this annual game of musical chairs.
  • The “House of Horrors” that is Michigan Int’l Speedway continued for Jimmie Johnson on Sunday. After wrecking his primary car in Saturday’s practice session, Johnson was forced to start from the rear of the field in a back up. Early pit strategy got him toward the front of the field but an engine failure knocked him out before halfway. Michigan remains one of only five tracks where the five-time champion has now won and Johnson is no doubt thanking his lucky stars a trip to the Irish Hills isn’t part of the Chase schedule.
  • Clint Bowyer managed to take advantage of Johnson’s early race misfortune and cut his lead in the Sprint Cup Series standings to 41 points, but it wasn’t easy. Bowyer had trouble on lap one when he spun and played catch up all day long through a series of pit stops and strategies to somehow finish 5th on Sunday. But in order for the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing team to be considered a serious title contender Bowyer needs to find Victory Lane. Consistency does win championships but I don’t see someone going through the Chase without a win taking the crown.
  • I spent Saturday working the MRN Radio broadcast from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday as the Nationwide Series made its debut at the historic track. While AJ Allmendinger had the field covered and the race featured the usual late race mayhem of stock car road racing, the biggest story of the day was the crowd. While no official estimate was given, the place was packed with people, campers and tents literally everywhere around the place. There was a vibe in the air not unlike last month’s truck series smash at Eldora and a welcomed energy throughout the weekend. I’d definitely expect a return engagement to Mid-Ohio in 2014 with potentially a Nationwide-Camping World Truck Series doubleheader.

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