As this fan expected, the Fords did make a strong showing this weekend at a track they used to perform well at anyway. The Roush Teams of Edwards, Biffle and Kenseth also made a strong statement by finishing 3rd, 4th and 5th on the day at Michigan International Speedway. I don’t know how they will fair for the next couple of weeks, but it does appear they have worked out some of their problems and I am sure they will continue to use their new found speed to finish better on a regular basis.
Kurt Bush had a strong car but, surprisingly, had an early engine failure that took him out of the race and cost him a lot of points. The reason I say surprisingly is because the engines for Penske Racing have been very reliable over time and I am sure they were just as surprised by the major failure as anyone. Between this minor setback and a couple of altercations with Jimmie Johnson, he has been losing positions in the points and that can’t continue or he may not make the Chase. As it is, he is in but can’t afford anymore finishes like this last weekend in Michigan. Over the next three weeks it is a long shot that he could miss the Chase, but this is another one of those “it could happen” moments in NASCAR.
Denny Hamlin somehow managed to pull out a second place finish even though it was a quiet second place finish for him. He was in the right place at the right time. That’s not to say he didn’t deserve to place second, but he didn’t look like a second place car for most of the afternoon. To me, it just suddenly happened for him and he managed to stay there. (Yeah, I know he was leading at one point near the end, but honestly, he never looked like the car to beat to me, not even when he was ahead of Kevin Harvick in the closing laps.)
A lot has been said about the Hendrick teams lackluster performances over the last several weeks of competition and rightfully so. The #48 team of Jimmie Johnson has been showing up generally strong when they unload off the truck and not at the end and that is a big change from last year at this time. It is unknown if they are just experimenting and trying stuff or if the Hendrick teams are really struggling and Jimmie Johnson is not going to make it five in a row as far as Championships go. I wouldn’t give up on him just yet, but it has really been a different year for the #48 team all around.
Mark Martin has been up and down (mostly down) and definitely has to have very strong performances over the next three weeks if he hopes to beat out Clint Bowyer for the coveted 12th spot in points and a chance winning a Cup Championship this year. Michigan was not nice to him and didn’t really make the outlook for being in the Chase look too hopeful. Still, the battle between him and Bowyer is one to watch at least for couple more weeks.
Jeff Gordon has been the lone bright spot for HMS although he has struggled a lot when it comes to finishing up front. He has been consistent enough to be in second place in the points but has been disappointed more than once this year in taking wins.
This last weekend at Michigan didn’t do anything to help his outlook either. He started 36th, had a really strong racecar, worked his way up as far as second place and actually looked to be one that could challenge Kevin Harvick for the win. Unfortunately, he ran into the wrong side of that thing called racing luck again, had a flat left front tire going into a turn in a pack of cars, and, although he managed to stay off the wall, he took himself out of contention along with another strong Chevy piloted by Jeff Burton. Jeff Burton finished 24th and Jeff Gordon finished 27th. Both of them have to be very disappointed because they both had strong cars all day.
This coming weekend is racing at what is known as the world’s fastest half mile track and if last weekend at Michigan gives any insight as to what Bristol will be like, look out! Short tracks are always known for hurt feelings, short tempers and banged up race cars buy the end of the night. This fan doesn’t expect this night race to be any different, especially this late in the season and with getting, or staying, in the Chase at stake…
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 19, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
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