NASCAR Preview

Last Updated Monday, Aug 23, 2010 1:49 am, EDT

Race Capsule

Michigan International Speedway
  • What:

    Race 23 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI

  • When:

    August 15, 2010 1:16 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    200

  • Track Length:

    2. miles

  • Race Length:

    400.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $5,126,880

Drivers to Watch

Kasey Kahne Kahne finished second in the June race at Michigan. It was his sixth top-10 finish in 13 starts at the track, including a win in the June race of 2006. "We are really looking forward to this weekend after how well we ran there in June," said Kahne. "We are determined to win at least one race before this year is over." Kahne is leaving RPM at the end of the season.
Jimmie Johnson Johnson dropped one position in the standings and is 251 points above the Chase cutoff as he heads to one of the few tracks where he has never won a race. He has two top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 17 Michigan starts and was 33rd last August and sixth in June -- his first top-10 at MIS since he was sixth in the June 2008 race. "It's fun trying to get one off the list," Johnson said of his list of tracks where he hasn't won. "I'm really happy to get two very difficult tracks for me off the list with Bristol and Sonoma and excited for Michigan. It's been a really good track for us. We had a decent finish there in the spring. Didn't really perform like we wanted to during the day and we were trying some things. We feel like we're going to come back closer than what we were in the past. We had a lot of speed in the car during the race and we'll take it from there. We're optimistic, excited, no idea what to really expect. It could be a fuel-mileage race. It's been a good track for us although we haven't won there. We've led a lot of laps over the years and hopefully we can take home a trophy, especially after last week with the disappointing finish after we ran so well and passed so many cars to then have a late race incident take us out of a good finish. I don't like sliding down in the points any further than I am right now and (am) looking forward to a good finish and hopefully to go up in the points a few spots."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer has two top-10 finishes in the last three races at Michigan. "We had a top-10 going the last time (in June), but we ended up in the fence and had a horrible finish (22nd)," said Bowyer. "Michigan has been one of those tracks that we've always run well at. I know we can get a good run there."
Tony Stewart Stewart is in eighth place but is just one point behind Kyle Busch and 234 points ahead of 13th. Stewart drove to victory at Michigan in June 2000, but that remains his only win there. He has 10 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes in 23 Michigan starts -- including six top-10s in the last eight races. He was 17th last August and fifth in June. "Michigan is a very, very wide race track," Stewart said. "The good thing with that is it gives us as drivers an opportunity to move around to different spots of the track and help ourselves out as far as if our cars aren't handling exactly the way we want -- you can normally move around and find a spot that's a little bit better and helps you out. That's one thing about MIS that I think all the drivers really like, is that there are so many options. It's not a track that's 'line committed', we call it, where you're stuck in one spot on the race track. We have the flexibility to move around. That gives us the opportunity to make our cars drive a little better without having to make changes. We obviously want to win every time we go out. That's what we're hoping for. We're trying to improve every week on where we run. We had a good run there at MIS last time. Hopefully we can have a better one this time and finish a little higher."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya has only one top-10 finish in seven starts at Michigan. "I'll be honest with you -- it would be nice if we could carry over our momentum into Michigan this weekend," said Montoya. "That win in Watkins Glen was big for us, and we'd like to keep it going. I've said it all along our cars are fast and we've come a long ways with our program. Now it's going out there and getting that oval-track win."
Greg Biffle Biffle, who has a 112-point cushion over 13th place, has three top-10 finishes in the last four races at Michigan, which gives him nine top-10s in 15 starts at the track, including two victories. "I love Michigan," said Biffle. "It is my favorite track on the circuit, and I'm really looking forward to going there. I like Michigan because I've had success there with wins in the Sprint Cup Series and the Truck Series (two)."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth dropped a spot in the standings and is only 175 points ahead of 13th place. Kenseth is another two-time Michigan winner (June 2002 and August 2006) and has nine top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 22 starts there. He was 14th last August and 14th in June. He has not finished in the top five in his last three MIS starts. Before that, he had three straight top-five finishes at Michigan. "As far as our car goes we haven't run very well there the last two or three races," Kenseth said. "It used to be one of our best places, but Kasey (Kahne) ran well there last time. I think all of us as an organization looked at their stuff to try to get our stuff better."
Kevin Harvick Harvick, who has a 185-point lead in the Cup standings, has no wins, two top-five finishes and six top-10s in 19 starts at Michigan. He was 12th in this race last August and 19th in June. His last top-10 at Michigan was August 2008, when he was eighth, and his last top-five was way back in August 2003. "Michigan has been tough for us," Harvick said. "We've had a tough time just trying to figure out the package that we need to (use). Everywhere else we've been this year, one of us (on the Childress team) has been able to figure something out, but Michigan has been a place where we all struggle. This time going back we'll have a couple of days with the new Nationwide car that we're going to hopefully use to our advantage to get a direction on some things. ... We got a good direction that we needed to go last time in qualifying, and hopefully our stuff that we came up with this time will be a little bit better than what we raced last time. So we're looking to go being competitive with a lot of different changes than what we had last time. We just struggle finding the balance of the car. We have great horsepower, so that's not a problem, and our cars are great week in and week out. But, for whatever reason, we just find it tough to find the balance on the car, whether it's too loose or too tight. But it's a fun race track and I really enjoy going there, and you have a lot of options as a driver to move from the bottom to the top. It's a fun place to go."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex has only two top-10 finishes in nine starts at Michigan, but both of them were runner-up finishes in 2007. "I absolutely expect the NAPA team to be even better now that we are returning to tracks for a second time," said Truex. "We've learned a lot as a new team and are bringing back even better Toyotas."
Paul Menard Menard has struggled at Michigan with only two top-15 finishes in eight starts at the track. "Honestly, we weren't very good in Michigan the last time we were here (finishing 25th)," said Menard. "That was one of the races this year where we were really disappointed in our performance, and we vowed that when we went back there for the second time, we would be a lot better."
Jeff Burton Burton, who climbed two positions up to third place and is 264 points ahead of 13th place, has never won at Michigan, where he has four top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 33 starts. He was 18th in this race last year and eighth in June -- his first top-10 finishes in his 14 Michigan races. "Michigan has been our worst race track," Burton admitted. "It has been a track where we have struggled and have not been good at all. It has pushed us, tricked us and made us mad. But it's a place where we have to find a way to improve. We had some circumstances and have been in some situations that made the finishes look worse than they really were. I like going to Michigan because it's a fun race track. It gets pretty slick and there's a lot of options and those are the places I tend to run well on. We took a step forward in the spring and we ran well. That was a step forward from what I've been doing there, and I hope to be able to improve on that."
Kurt Busch Busch made the biggest jump in the standings, climbing an astounding three positions in one race and increased his margin over 13th place to 261 points. Busch has two wins, three top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 19 Michigan starts. His victories came in June 2003 and August 2007. He was 36th in this race last year and third in June -- his first top-five finish at Michigan since he won in 2007. "What we need is a win," Busch said. "We take those bonus points with us to the Chase. So if we can win at Michigan, we're going for it. Our point situation is comfortable, but we're not locked in by any means. We still have to continue to play it smart. Last June, we just got a little bit tighter as the race track rubbered-in and as the race reached the latter part. We have to make the Dodge a little bit more adjustable and maybe not handle as good early, but be able to attack at the end."
David Reutimann Reutimann has only one top-10 finish in seven starts at Michigan and was 18th in June. He realizes he needs another performance like he had at Chicagoland Speedway in July, where he won the second Cup race of his career to keep alive his hopes of making the Chase. "We've got to run a lot better than we did there (Michigan) in June," he said.
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger finished 11th in the June race at Michigan for his best finish in six starts at the track. "Until last weekend at Watkins Glen International, we felt like we hadn't run as well as we would have liked the past couple of weeks," said Allmendinger. "Hopefully we can continue that success this weekend on the oval in Michigan."
Ryan Newman After back-to-back wins at Michigan in the early part of this decade, Newman has struggled at MIS in recent years and has no top-10s in the last 12 events. Despite running into handling problems after running over a piece of debris in the first race this year, Newman believes "we have some good notes going back to Michigan, so I think we should have a good race car."
Kyle Busch Busch lost a position in the standings and is 235 points ahead of 13th. Busch has never won at Michigan and has just one top-five and three top-10 finishes in 11 starts there. He was 23rd last August and 20th in June and has finished out of the top-10 in his last three MIS starts. "Myself and Dave (Rogers, crew chief), we're going to take a new car there and try to shake down a new car," Busch said. "We feel like we only have one really, really good race car for the Chase. We need to find a second one. You can't go into a 10-race stretch with one bullet. We've got a little bit of work ahead of us, but we're hoping that next week at Michigan we can find a good race car. We've got some work ahead of us to find some good tuning tools to work within the Chase. We'll try to keep ourselves locked into it here the next five races and then go fight them at the end."
Jamie McMurray McMurray has four top-10 finishes in 15 starts at Michigan. "We started from the outside pole for the last race at Michigan, but we just couldn't seem to get the setup right for the race," said McMurray. "So we're looking to return with a couple of new ideas, and I know Bono (crew chief Kevin Manion) feels pretty confident in some of the things we've found since the last Michigan race."
Carl Edwards Edwards climbed a position in the standings and is 190 ahead of 13th. Edwards has won twice at Michigan, in June 2007 and August 2008, and has seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 12 starts. He was fourth last year, but his string of six top-10 finishes ended in June when he was 12th. During that six-race streak, he had both of his victories and two fourth-place finishes. "A win at Michigan would be huge, but right now any wins we can get for Ford and Roush Fenway are great," Edwards said. "All the guys have been working so hard, if we can keep this momentum going forward and keep running well and winning races, it is what we have to do. We are on the step -- this is the way Jack Roush described it -- and we have a chance to either step up or step down. That would be huge, and Michigan would be a great place to take that next step."
Brad Keselowski Keselowski has finished 24th and 27th in his two Sprint Cup starts at Michigan. But he did win the Nationwide Series event there in June. "It will be interesting to see how much we learned from that first race that we can apply as we go back a second time," he said.
Joey Logano Logano will be seeking his third straight top-10 finish at Michigan. After finishing 25th in his MIS debut, Logano has finished seventh and 10th in the last two Sprint Cup races at the track. "We are really looking forward to going back to Michigan, especially after the last couple of weeks," said Logano, who has four finishes of 19th or worse in the last five events.
Denny Hamlin Hamlin took the biggest dive in the standings, falling three positions, and is 241 points ahead of 13th place. Hamlin won the June race at Michigan, extending his streak of top-10 finishes there to three, and has three top-five and five top-10 finishes in nine MIS starts. "Absolutely, this is a track where we never ran very well early in my career. We struggled and had some bad luck," Hamlin said. "It was also a combination of my comfort level and just not being able to get the car where we needed it. I think it was June of last season that we came here with a new car and a new setup and it clicked. We were fast off the truck and finished third, and it was a turning point for us in a lot of ways. We came back in August and ran in the top 10 and then really hit on it when we came back this year and dominated a race probably as much as I ever have. It was a great day for us, so that definitely gives us confidence coming back to a track."
Jeff Gordon Gordon won at Michigan in this race in 1998 and in June 2001 and has 18 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes in 35 races. He was second last August and fourth in June. In fact, he has a string of three straight top-four finishes -- he was second in June 2009. "I love coming to this race track," Gordon said. "Whether it's on a double-file restart late in the race or just racing one guy ahead of you, there are a lot of places to go here. Because we can get fanned out and run multiple grooves in the corners and down the straightaways, that makes this one of the best tracks we race on, in my opinion. We've run well here recently. Those two second-place finishes were fuel-mileage races, but I think we were a top-five car in both. In June, we were a top-five car again, but we just didn't really have enough to battle for the win. I don't think we were too far off, so hopefully we can make those gains and battle for the win on Sunday."
Marcos Ambrose Ambrose finished 15th in the June race at Michigan for his best finish in four starts at the two-mile track. "We are hoping to build on the momentum from Watkins Glen," said Ambrose. "This year certainly hasn't gone as we had hoped, but there are still plenty of races left to finish the year on a high note."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt will be seeking his third straight top-10 finish at Michigan and his seventh in the last 10 races. Earnhardt's last win came at MIS 79 races ago. "Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and the guys unloaded a great car the last time at Michigan," Earnhardt said of his seventh-place finish in June. "We've had some good runs with this car."