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Race 16: Michigan (The REAL Wild Card Race of the Season)

Posted by Amy in General | NASCAR

I tweeted something to this effect on Sunday morning before the race but I want to expound on it in more than 140 characters. When thinking about the NASCAR season as a whole- I automatically consider any restrictor plate race a wild card, meaning anything at all can happen to any driver at any point so I can’t count on that track being good to my driver(s) points wise.  This year- because of the repave I considered Pocono grouped in there- forgetting totally about Michigan’s repave.

Little did I know that Michigan would end up being the ultimate wild card. Much like Pocono- drivers tested at Michigan before the practices. Speeds were crazy fast.  During the first set of practices on Friday though, the tire was blistering at a rapid rate pretty much across the board.  Goodyear announced late Friday that they would be bringing in a new tire (really a new old tire…as this was a tire from several years back- either 2006 or 2008 I don’t remember which) and they would be giving the teams an extra final practice to work with the new tire.  The dilemma there being that by having an extra practice- that was really putting engines at the brink for laps on an engine for some teams.  So it was still kind of an unknown.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/TheDarkKnightRises/National Guard/ Chevrolet, leads Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 17, 2012 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

Then it rained overnight and into the morning.  This washed away all the rubber build up.  That being said these are the “wild card” anything can happen conditions Michigan presented us fans/viewers with on Sunday:

1. Freshly repaved surface

2. High Speeds

3. Tire change

4. Possible engine worries due to high speed and extra practice

5. Weather changed track.

6. Weather conditions changing throughout race (cloudy to sunny and back again)

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2012 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

If that is not the makings of a captivating race I don’t know what is. The race DID have a rain delay- which made me antsy and cranky. I would have had a melt down if I had to pay attention to the race on Monday because no doubt I would have had to do it at work and work for me was crazy busy today so that would have been crazy making. The race actually went quite well for Tony. I was impressed with his qualifying 8th but leery of the new tires.  I was even more leery when he said to the team on his radio that he was the only driver who hadn’t figured out the new tires yet and the team needed to be patient with him while he figured them out.  It didn’t seem to take him that long- the car seemed really good (thank you 14 team that stayed up til 11 making the 14 the best it could be).

Tony and Team 14 had a really strong car. He lead laps and he pulled away for awhile. Which is always encouraging to see- especially after the bad runs the last 3 weeks or so.  The broadcasters in the booth seemed concerned that Steve Addington didn’t tell Tony that his second to last set of tires had blisters on them.  I couldn’t resist. I tweeted at Kyle Petty because I know he would actually read his tweets that Steve DID tell him (Thank you to DirecTV hot pass- I knew that and I knew that Steve also told Tony that they would try to counter the blisters with an air pressure adjustment). Because I knew about the air pressure I was not surprised that Tony was not able to catch Dale Jr at the end. I think the air pressure adjustment made the car handle not as well for Tony.

That said- we all knew it was coming- Dale Jr has been so strong this season and seems to be steadily improving. Congrats to him on his win. Tony did finish second and remains in 8th in the points standings but has gained one point on the lead. (-74 points).

Gratuitous Tony Picture Video:

 

Next race? The Closest NASCAR track to my house: Sonoma Raceway.

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