Monday, June 11, 2012

2012 Michigan Quicken Loans 400 Storylines

Montoya hits speeds at 210 mph heading into turns during test in April 
Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 marks the final race of spring 2012 – summer begins with the longest day of the year June 20 – and the second week in which the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has raced on a repaved race track. The two-mile track’s first of two races has been run three times on June 17 with Carl Edwards the most recent to visit Victory Lane in 2007.

The race also falls on Father’s Day and marks the four-year, 143-race anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in 2008. "You know, my daddy, he meant a lot to me," said Earnhardt of his late, seven-time champion father Dale Earnhardt following his Michigan win.

Denny Hamlin won the Quicken Loans 400 in 2010-11 and looks for the hat trick outside the Motor City.

Brad Keselowski didn’t come close to repeating last August’s Pocono win – he finished 18th – but coupled with Kyle Busch’s engine failure, the Detroit-area native reached the top 10 in the points standings for the first time in his career pre-Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. In order, Busch, Ryan Newman, Pocono winner Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne are the current "wild card" aspirants.

Greg Biffle’s tenure atop the points ended after 11 races. He’s replaced by Roush Fenway teammate and Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth. Earnhardt is second and Biffle third.

NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers begin a grueling, 16-week run in Saturday’s Alliance Truck Parts 250 with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hoping to end a "mini" slump of two finishes outside the top 20 that handed the championship lead to Elliott Sadler. Several drivers are slated to do double duty, including Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader Austin Dillon, who’ll make his second NASCAR Sprint Cup appearance; Logano, winner of three of the past four NNS races and 2010 NNS champion Keselowski, who sat out the past two races at Iowa and Dover.

Seven-for-seven is a sweet phrase nicely summing up the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to date. Veteran Johnny Sauter became the season’s seventh different winner at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. Better yet, beleaguered ThorSport Racing finished one-two for the first time since 2009 with Matt Crafton runner-up to his teammate. The series’ next race is June 28 at Kentucky Speedway.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Wild, Wild ‘Wild Card’
With Michigan native Brad Keselowski knocking Kyle Busch out of the top 10, Busch leads the "wild card" standings with a win in 12th place. Ryan Newman and Joey Logano have a win apiece and are tied in the point standings, but if the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup were to begin today, Newman would get the nod with a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas to Logano's next-best finish, eighth place two weekends ago at Dover. Kasey Kahne fell two spots in the standings at Pocono with engine failure to 16th overall and fourth in the "wild card" race. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, dropped a spot to 22nd and two spots out of being eligible for a "wild card" with a win.

Hamlin Hat Trick?
Denny Hamlin has won the last two June races at Michigan and looks to make it three in a row. Hamlin comes off a fifth-place finish at Pocono, his fifth top-five finish in his last seven races. The streak started with his second win of the season at Kansas.

June 17 at MIS
This race has been run three times on June 17. In 1979, Buddy Baker took the checkered flag, and five years later, seven-time Michigan winner Bill Elliott went to Victory Lane. In 2007, Carl Edwards won.

Ford Fiesta
Long-time Ford owners Glen Wood and Jack Roush share the all-time record for wins at the track with 11. Roush Industries calls Livonia, Mich., home. Coincidentally, one Roush Fenway driver – Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth – replaced Greg Biffle as the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader on Sunday at Pocono. Kenseth, the 2003 series champion, hasn’t held the standings lead this late since 2006. Biffle, who’d led the points for 11 races – since Las Vegas in March – dropped to third behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Father's Day Four Years Later
On June 15, 2008, Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points win for Hendrick Motorsports. It was his last victory, 143 races and seven runner-up finishes ago, and it took place on Father's Day. Earnhardt posted his 11th top-10 finish at Pocono, one fewer than his entire 2011 total. Math majors: Junior is on track to reach 28 top 10s – a career best (21, in 2003 and 2004).

After claiming victory on that Father's Day, an introspective Earnhardt Jr. said, "It's special. You know, my daddy, he meant a lot to me. There's a lot of people that I look up to that just happen to be great fathers themselves, role models for their sons. It means a lot to me to do well on Father's Day. It's a special day for my family, special for my sister. She's very, very happy at home and in tears on the telephone, so it means a lot to her. I'm glad she's as happy as she could possibly be today under circumstances. And it makes me feel good. I know I can't tell my father happy Father's Day, but I get the opportunity to wish it upon all of the other fathers out there, and I genuinely mean that when I say it, because that's what today is all about. It's for all of the fathers out there."

Speaking of Dale Earnhardt Sr., a No. 3 car returns to MIS, driven by Austin Dillon who will do double duty and compete in his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race with American Ethanol on board.

Coors Light Pole Qualifying
For his one and only Coors Light Pole at Michigan, Ryan Newman set the track record with a circuit at 194.232 mph (37.069 sec.) on June 18, 2005. With speeds well over 200 mph on the new pavement at a Goodyear Tire test, expect the track record to fall for the second consecutive week. A pole would be Newman's 50th career start from the top spot and put him in elite company.

NASCAR Nationwide Series
Stenhouse Seeks Slump-Buster At Michigan
Although he had an unforgettable experience presenting on the red carpet at the CMT Awards in Nashville while the NASCAR Nationwide Series was off last week, it’s the last two races that reigning series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wants to forget.

Finishes of 26th and 32nd – the worst consecutive results he’s had since late 2010 – have dropped Stenhouse into second place in the standings, 12 points behind leader Elliott Sadler. And he’s only two points ahead of hard-charging Sunoco rookie Austin Dillon, who’s third. Stenhouse had led for four weeks in a row with a 34-point advantage over Sadler at one time in that span.

Michigan could be the perfect remedy for Stenhouse. Jack Roush, his team owner, bases his Roush Industries in Livonia, Mich., making this a "home" race. He was arguably the strongest car in this race last year before being overtaken by his teammate and 2007 series champion Carl Edwards on Lap 116 of the 125-lap event. He finished 13th in his series first race at MIS in 2010.

Logano’s Hot – But Toyota’s Not At Michigan
For drivers, figuring out how to attack the newly paved 2-mile surface at Michigan is one thing. Figuring out how to beat Joey Logano – anywhere lately – is another.

Logano looks to build on his series-leading four wins – three in his last four races – Saturday at Michigan. He’ll also try to increase the lead of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series owner standings, which currently is 34 points over the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. He also comes in off his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory, last Sunday at Pocono.

A win by Logano – or any other Toyota driver in the field – would be a big one. Toyota has yet to win at Michigan in the Nationwide Series. Different manufacturers have been represented by the last three winners. He was sixth in this race last year running in the No. 20 JGR Toyota. He also has top-10 finishes at MIS in 2008 and 2010.

- NASCAR Media Services

No comments: