Michigan Story Lines
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on June 15, 2014 | 9:00 A.M. EST
Who will shine today at Michigan International Speedway? Tune in to MRN's broadcast starting at 12 p.m. (ET) to find out. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
BROOKLYN, Mich. - There are a number of stories to keep an eye on in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Kevin Harvick’s track record qualifying lap of 204.557 mph was the fastest lap in Sprint Cup Series racing since 1987. Michigan now has the distinction of being the fastest non-restrictor plate track in NASCAR. But with those eye popping numbers comes some concern. There are questions whether the high speeds will impact any side-by-side racing opportunities around the wide track. Several drivers and crew chiefs have also expressed concerns about engine and tire wear. There’s no doubt Sunday’s race will feature high speeds racing but will it come at a cost?
Kahne vs. Busch
There is no love lost between these two drivers after their latest dust-up last week in Pocono. While Busch has been relatively silent on the matter, Kahne said several times this week he’s fed up with the way the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has raced him in recent years and that he’s done talking. But what will Kahne do, if anything, to draw the line in the sand with Busch? Michigan is not a place to pay back anyone in terms on rubbing fenders so perhaps if Kahne is indeed planning retribution it comes next week on the road course in Sonoma.
Chevrolet Changing of the Guard?
Ford has won the last three races at Michigan, but the Chevrolets have been fast all weekend in practice and qualifying. Led by Kyle Larson, Chevrolet took the top four spots, and put a total of seven in the top 10, in the final practice. Brad Keselowski was the fastest Ford in the session, in 14th.
The clock continues to tick on the winless season several prominent drivers are stuck in as the regular season races past the midway point. Matt Kenseth has still been shutout of Victory Lane after his six wins a year ago in his first season with JGR. Clint Bowyer, who participated in the Goodyear Tire test at Michigan, is also looking for a first victory of 2014 along with his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Brian Vickers, who took the checkered flag at New Hampshire last season. Tony Stewart has shown flashes of success most recently last week at Pocono before a pit road speeding penalty ended his day, but "Smoke" is also in search of win number one this season.
Johnson’s Michigan Madness
Michigan Int’l Speedway has not been one of Jimmie Johnson’s favorites over the years and his last three starts at MIS have resulted in finishes of 27th, 28th and 40th. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has won two of the last three races this season and came back from a pit road altercation last week in Pocono for an impressive top-10 finish. But will he finally translate some of his remarkable success to Michigan, which has been Johnson’s personal “House of Horrors” in recent years?
On the other hand Johnson’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has loved racing in the Irish Hills and the track has been one of his most successful ones on the schedule. Junior has a pair of MIS victories in the last few seasons and comes to Sunday’s race on the heels of his second victory of 2014 last Sunday in Pocono. Despite finishes of 37th and 36th at Michigan last season, Earnhardt Jr. could not wait to get to the Badger State this weekend.