Remember these guys? Thankfully they won't be back at Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's Carfax 400. But Denny Hamlin will be back, hoping to get back to victory lane. Michigan is, after all, the last place Hamlin won. Since then, it's been mediocreville for Hamlin. We'll let you know what he's thinking, as well the rest of the Chase contenders. We'll also keep you up to date with what's happening on the track. Stick with us all day Friday. Here are a few notes to get us started:
• Press conferences begin at 9:45 ET with Richard Childress and Paul Menard talking about their new partnership.
• First practice begins at noon ET.
• Qualifying begins at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Menard to RCR:
• Paul Menard and Richard Childress have formally announced that Menard will join Richard Childress Racing beginning in 2011. The deal is for three years. Menard was asked if there's pressure to perform considering his family sponsors his car. Menard said it's all what you made of it.
Richard Childress jumped in, comparing his grandson Austin Dillon, who drives for RCR, to Menard. "I get the same thing with Austin Dillon. Paul and Austin are making a difference. Paul does the job on the race track. ... He's got the drive to win."
Sponsorship for the 29:
• Childress said he hopes to have an announcement next week on 2011 sponsorship for Kevin Harvick.
• Yes. Martin acknowledged as much, saying now that it's known where Kahne will be in 2011 (Red Bull) "the air feels a little lighter."
Details on Jack Roush's plane crash
• Mark Martin said he talked with his former boss earlier this week and got the details on what happened in the plane crash on July 27. Martin said that according to Roush, a "conflict with traffic" was the issue.
Martin explained that whenever there is an air show, there is a lot of air traffic. According to Martin, Roush apparently thought to himself as he tried to land at Whitman Airfield in Oshkosh, Wisc., where an air show was going on, "How am I going to get out of this without hitting somebody?"
Roush tried to get slowed down and got "a little too slow," according to Martin.
• Greg Biffle said Jack Roush may try to make it to the track, though nothing is confirmed.
• Greg Biffle said it might be a good idea to shorten some races because, as a fan when he watches races, he notices when things are exciting -- the beginning and the countdown to the end -- and shortening the races would increase that excitement.
Quote of the Day:
Talking about having future Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne parked at Red Bull next season, Kyle Busch said, "I don't think Rick Hendrick is going to be asking, ‘What's Red Bull Racing doing?' I don't think they need that information, obviously. Look at the way Hendrick Motorsports runs compared to Red Bull Racing."
Inconsistency at JGR:
• Kyle Busch said the inconsistency at Joe Gibbs Racing is because not all of their chassis are equal. They have some that are good, some that aren't. He said Denny Hamlin has two chassis that are good. Busch and Joey Logano have one.
Roush Fenway revival?
• Carl Edwards believes they are back. He said a month ago he didn't believe they would be contenders. But after a month of solid runs – Edwards has finished 7th or better in each of the last five races – he believes they can contend for a title.
• Yes, Danica Patrick is competing in the Nationwide Series race this weekend at Michigan. And what are her plans for the future?
She said the schedule that she's running right now – a full-time IRL slate and a part-time Nationwide schedule – is the schedule she will run next year. "Then we'll decide what the right move is for me," she said.
Cup Practice No. 1:
• First practice is over and, after moving to qualifying trim, here's how the top 10 shook out: Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Regan Smith, Tony Stewart and David Ragan.
Can Junior make the Chase?
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. thinks so.
"I feel like it's not impossible," he said. Earnhardt said it was six races ago, "we had passed Carl Edwards for 12th. Now, he's 300 points ahead. ... The points are there if we can get the car going."