Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on June 15, 2014 | 4:52 P.M. EST
The field fans out during Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s amazing for some fans that the Sprint Cup Series season has gone from one of the best to being dismal in the span of a few short weeks.
I guess you’ll have that when a six-time champion starts to dominate again.
Jimmie Johnson’s first career Michigan win and third in the last four weeks was the latest example of how the No. 48 team has gotten its groove back. It now seems like ancient history when people were wondering what Johnson’s problem was.
But now here’s Johnson with dominating trips to Victory Lane in Charlotte, Dover and Michigan leading Hendrick Motorsports to five consecutive triumphs when Jeff Gordon’s Kansas victory and Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Pocono win are added to the mix.
The reality is it was a matter of time for Johnson to get back on track. And after struggling at MIS for so many years, it’s also not a surprise he eventually conquered the two-mile track.
What is a surprise is that so many people were doubters.
The combination of warmer temperatures, high winds and the relatively new asphalt surface resulted in MIS looking like a skating rink much of Sunday afternoon. A pair of incidents in the opening laps saw Brian Vickers, Kyle Larson and Travis Kvapil involved in accidents, while Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin had their problems later in the race. The conditions added up to casting an intriguing shadow over the race.
The high speeds in qualifying generated much attention, led by Kevin Harvick’s 204.557 mph mark - the fastest non-restrictor plate track lap in NASCAR history. As predicted, speeds dropped some from Friday especially in light of the conditions. NASCAR continues to explore reducing horsepower and thereby speeds in the next evolution of the Sprint Cup engine package. It’s a worthy effort.
Paul Menard enjoyed a solid weekend with a win in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race and a top-five finish in Sunday’s Sprint Cup headliner. Menard continues to be a bright light in what has been a mediocre stretch for Richard Childress Racing, which saw Ryan Newman come home 15th and Austin Dillon credited with a 30th-place finish after a late tire issue. There’s still a lot of racing left in the regular season, but RCR being shut out of the Chase is more than a possibility unless the team’s fortunes change in the coming months.
Saturday night’s return to Gateway Motorsports Park was a rousing success. The Camping World Truck Series visit may have been the best race of the season across all of NASCAR’s top series. Unfortunately the crowd, which was by no means terrible, wasn’t as large as officials had hoped. NASCAR has shown a willingness to bring the Truck Series back to its roots with events at Rockingham, Gateway and Eldora. The bottom line is that unless fans support the races and buy tickets, such venues will not remain on the calendar. It’s a simple business model that lies squarely at the feet of race fans.