Nascar Racing

Michigan Means Time Is Running Out To Make The Chase from a NASCAR Fan’s View


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Summer is winding down and time is running out for those trying to make the Chase for the 2016 Sprint Cup Championship. For those trying to stay in the top sixteen, the time doesn’t seem to pass fast enough. For those trying to make it in the top sixteen either with a win or by points, the time is passing much too fast. Uh, in case you’re wondering or just not paying attention, there are only three races remaining until the Chase begins… (Wow! This year has gone fast… well… at least for this fan it has.)

I find it funny that even though NASCAR changed the rules a while back, (which removed down force and was supposed to reduce the speeds a little making the racing more competitive), the teams are already running faster than they did the last time they visited MIS. According to the lap times, many of the drivers were running consistently above two hundred and fifteen miles per hour entering into turn one. Since they were averaging right around that two hundred mile per hour bracket in their timed speeds, two fifteen to two twenty would be a reasonable assumption for their top speeds. No matter how you look at it, that’s fast!! And remember, Michigan International Speedway is only a two mile oval.

I don’t know about you or what you think but it is fascinating to this fan how the drivers, their teams and the engineers simply keep on finding more speed no matter what changes to the rules and aerodynamics of the cars NASCAR makes. That has to be somewhat disheartening to the rules makers and hopefully won’t yield what higher and higher speeds did to the super speedways like Daytona and Talladega. (To clarify what I mean by that statement, it seems restrictor plates became the answer at those two tracks and, as fans of a sport that involves speed, one would hope they don’t incorporate restrictor plates at tracks where speeds exceed two hundred miles per hour.)

Of course, Goodyear keeps on making better and better tires for just about anything the different tracks throw at the teams. This weekend is no different and this tire could make a difference on which of the teams takes the trip to Victory Lane. The tire wear appears to make the handling last longer than expected and most of the teams have already found that the first couple of laps on sticker tires are the worst for handling. That could mean something, especially when it comes to restarts and should probably figure in to the overall strategy from a crew chief’s point of view if not from everyone else.

It would be reasonable to assume (at least from this fan’s view) that the higher speeds could be cause for alarm for possible tire problems but I just don’t think that will be the problem this weekend. If you compare the speeds of many of the drivers and teams, it is easy to spot that many are running at the higher speeds and that could mean better and tighter racing which is uncommon at MIS. From where this fan sits, the drivers usually run flat out simply because they can and the Michigan International Speedway is conducive to high speed racing with plenty of room and multiple grooves.

It is easy to see that the time really is running out for those needing or wanting a win to cement their spot in the final sixteen for the Chase. Those that already have wins are just biding their time until these next three races are over and they can hopefully get down to business in the final ten races for the season and ending up in the final four for Homestead. As for those without wins but either in the top sixteen or close to being in, well, they are more focused on getting a win than where they finish as long as they don’t lose too many points in the process. For some, winning is the only chance they have of making the Chase and winning this weekend would make life a lot less stressful, at least until after Richmond.

For once in the last several months the Chevys are noticeably showing a little more speed and there may be some actual hope the Hendrick teams could make a decent showing this weekend. Of course that may just be an illusion but at least they were showing up higher in the speed charts than they have recently. Jimmie Johnson was at the top of the list for the Hendrick teams for much of the weekend so far and did qualify second for the start of the Pure Michigan 400 beside pole sitter Joey Logano – (Well… that is if nothing goes wrong for them during the practice sessions on Saturday which with the way things have gone for the Hendrick teams this season would not surprise this fan one bit.)

At least this weekend hasn’t been dominated by the Joe Gibbs teams but, in this fan’s opinion, that doesn’t mean much considering the way they have been running most of this season. If things go as they have much of this season, there is likely going to be at least one or two of the JGR teams in the top ten and possibly one of them sitting in Victory Lane at the end of the day. Toyota fans have to be hoping the JGR teams haven’t peaked too early and will continue their dominance in the 2016 season right on through the Chase to Homestead.

From this fan’s view, it is quite likely this race is going to come down to a fuel mileage race along with some pit strategy to gain spots on the track. It is possible this could be one of the least exciting finishes in recent race weekends if there aren’t at least a couple of yellow flags to tighten the field back up near the end. Michigan is not generally known for having a lot of caution flags flying and it often does come down to consistent track position, pit strategy and fuel mileage when all is said and done.

Unless something totally unexpected happens during this one to mix things up, this fan doesn’t expect much to be different than the usual late summer race at Michigan. Well… that is unless someone like Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney or Chase Elliott is sitting in Victory Lane when it is over…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 27, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.