Thursday, June 14, 2012

More Michigan Testing Notes - Heading into Friday Practices


By Frederic Crespi

Unlike last week's two-day test (three separate sessions) at Pocono Raceway, gave us race fans a treat today by having the Live leaderboard feature available for today's two Michigan Speedway test practices.  Anytime tracks repave or reconfigure their surfaces, NASCAR always allows teams extra time on the track in order to create new notes and allow Goodyear to see if they brought the right tire for the track.

While most of us are unaware of what teams will be using back-up or primary chassis' during the test, having that live timing and scoring feature available really helps us much more in terms of handicapping this race, both from a wagering and fantasy perspective.  By that, I am referring to the feature of having AVERAGE lap times which is especially important during today's two three-hour sessions.

Depending on the time any on-track activity is scheduled for, this is in my opinion, the most important aspect of any race weekend. If you practice/test at 10:00 A.M. and race and 4:00 P.M., that data is easily skewed due to the completely different track temperatures.  Today's two test sessions were early enough for us to gather some solid information if we combine both of them based upon the starting time of this Sunday's race.

With that said, there is also the factor of the number of laps that are run by each specific team.  In today's two test sessions, certain teams ran a lot more laps than others, and the more laps run the better, especially when you do not have to worry about your engine (NASCAR allows every team to place race engines in at the start of practice, not testing).

Looks to be the favorite this week! (Getty)
Mark Martin in the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota logged the most laps between both practices with 103, with a small sample of 26 in the first test, and huge number of 77 in the final one. Martin was one of two drivers to log triple digit laps along with this weekend's fan favorite to win (four years and Father's Day since his last win) Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with 100.  Both of these drivers were also very impressive with their average speeds, with Martin coming home second and Earnhardt, Jr. in the fifth spot. The No. 14 of Tony Stewart clocked in first, Kurt Busch third, and Clint Bowyer fourth in overall average. However it's about the number of laps on the track, as the teams of Stewart, Busch, and Bowyer and many other drivers and teams, did not come close to either Martin's or Dale Jr.'s total laps run.

Outside of the No. 55 and No. 88 car, you always have to look at Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush-Fenway Racing at Michigan. Kyle Busch logged 87 laps with teammate, and most recent winner, Joey Logano running 97. Kyle took home the seventh fastest average while the Home Depot machine came in 14th.  Surprisingly, the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin finished 22nd overall in average but did roll his piece around Michigan 93 times. Points leader Matt Kenseth came home in 15th with laps run, while "The Biff" was 17th with 71 laps. Edwards was 9th in average with 66 laps in the book.

Based upon today (and of course last week), this race looks to be between Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at this point.  There is plenty of on-track activity left, as well as more teams releasing what chassis' they used during testing practices (or should they?), but based upon form, these two drivers should be in the top-five and hunting for the win all day long on Sunday.

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