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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take on Michigan International Speedway Sunday afternoon and speed is the key word at NASCAR’s fastest oval. If things go as usual, anyone lacking speed will quickly fall behind the leaders and probably be lapped more than once before the racing is done. That could spell trouble for any trying to make it into the playoffs either by points or winning.
First… before I get too far into this, I’d like to offer my congratulations to Chase Elliott and the whole #9 team for his first win in MENCS at Watkin’s Glen last weekend. He drove an almost flawless race and showed this fan there is hope for the Chevy Camaro possibly becoming more competitive as the playoffs approach.
Notice I said “there is hope” but I didn’t say anything definite about them returning to being in Victory Lane on a regular basis as the 2018 season continues. I still have concerns of whether or not the Camaros have the speed to win one or two more races before the playoffs or even in the playoffs but I will admit they are making progress. That progress, however, has been relatively slow all season and, on a high-speed track like the Michigan International Speedway, lack of speed can be a losing and disappointing battle on Sunday afternoon.
Think about it. Running down the straights at over 200 miles per hour and entering and driving through the turns at 185 plus miles per hour. That has to be some kind of experience for all of the drivers. They are averaging lap times at, or just below, 200 miles per hour. At those speeds, it doesn’t leave much room for errors. It also doesn’t leave much time for correcting them either. If there is anything that can be said about racing on this high-speed oval, I think it would be, ‘things happen fast.’ You know, that just might be one of the biggest understatements I’ve made in recent months. At those speeds, everything happens fast.
Last week, Denny Hamlin showed a lot of speed and took the pole position. This week he did the same. Last week he made a good showing even though he didn’t win and it remains to be seen if he will have a repeat performance or do even better than he did last weekend. The Toyotas have been showing good speed lately and this could be a good weekend for them, especially the Joe Gibbs Toyotas. There’s Denny Hamlin, Kyle Bush and Erik Jones all with good lap times and either of these three could bring home a victory Sunday afternoon. Daniel Suarez could be a contender and win his way into the playoffs but he did smack the wall in qualifying. There is also that other Toyota driven by Martin Truex Jr. and he could be leading the way when it comes down to race end. At this point, I won’t rule any of these out and it could prove to be interesting when it comes down to the final laps.
Once again, the Fords do look to have a lot of speed and both the Stewart/Haas and Penske camps are going to be tough to beat on Sunday afternoon. After all, according to what they say, Michigan is Ford country.
Brad Keselowski is still looking for his first win this season and Michigan is like a hometown track to him. In this fan’s opinion, there is nothing he would like better than to break into the win column for 2018 at Michigan International Speedway. He is in a pretty good spot as far as points go but, in this fan’s opinion, he would rather enter in with at least one win under his belt. Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and others all could be up front battling for the stage wins and the win and I expect they will be visible as the laps wind down with zero left to go. When it comes to the final black and white checkered flag, well, let’s just say it could be very interesting.
When it comes to the Chevys, it does appear the RCR camp has found a little more speed and Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman could be factors when it comes down to the final laps. The Ganassi teams of Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray both could use a win or at least a very good finish. Whether that will happen I don’t know but, when it comes to Jamie McMurray, he needs a win sooner than later if he wants to make it into the playoffs. Honestly, that’s about the only chance he’s got.
On the Hendrick side of things, Jimmie Johnson just about looks like he’s going to have win this one or one over the next three races. A new winner anywhere other than him just about kills his chances of even making it in on points – he’s getting awfully close to that cutoff spot.
Just looking at the way things are shaping up for the race tomorrow, it looks to this fan that the Chevys are running about one to two miles per hour slower than several of the Fords and Toyotas. Whether that will hold true throughout the race Sunday remains to be seen. It is possible they could still win but it is going to take some real strategy and no mistakes on the track or in the pits. Well, I guess that last statement holds true for just about any of the teams if they want to win this one, huh… (and many are pulling for Chase to make NASCAR history with two in a row.)
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 11, 2018 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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