Michigan Story Lines
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on August 17, 2014 | 8:30 A.M. EST
Jeff Gordon will start from the pole today after setting a new track record in qualifying. (Photo: Getty Images)
Chase Field Filling Out
AJ Allmendinger became the 12th different winner last week with his Watkins Glen victory and punched his ticket to the Chase. There are four races left in the regular season and four spots left in the playoff field. A win would give any driver a spot in the Chase field but point standings will be important to fill out the balance of the line-up. Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer right now have the final four positions through the standings with the likes of Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Austin Dillon looking in.
Roush Fenway Racing
Speaking of Biffle, he and the rest of the RFR organization tested at Michigan earlier this year in hopes of finding the missing competitive piece of the puzzle that has eluded the team this year. Carl Edwards qualified third for Sunday’s race with Biffle 11th so speed has been evident in the weekend at least so far. It’s Edwards’ last race with Roush before moving on next year and he brings a sense of determination to win in manufacturer’s Ford backyard.
Jimmie Johnson starts 30th on Sunday and will have to come from deep in the field to turn around his recent slide. Johnson has finishes 28th or worse in four of his last five starts with a variety of challenges. The team says it’s not worried since Johnson has gone through extended struggles before including the end of last year’s regular season, which was followed by a run to a sixth championship.
Pole sitter Jeff Gordon set a new track record of 206.558 mph and hit 200.156 mph in final practice, plus set a 10 consecutive lap average of 198.195 mph. How the high speeds translate to competitive racing and tire wear will be worth watching Sunday.
Hendrick Looking for Sweep
Jimmie Johnson won first Michigan race and Brad Keselowski pointed out that the Hendrick engines are a "full season ahead of everyone else." Since the June trace, Hendrick has won two races with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski has gone to Victory Lane twice.
Harvick Mr. Runner-up
Kevin Harvick has three straight second place finishes at MIS and looks to move up a spot to secure win number three of 2014.