NASCAR Preview — Michigan International Speedway Hosts Quicken Loans 400
NASCAR Report for Quicken Loans 400
By Blake Smith and Moon Mullins
The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series head to the Michigan International Speedway with somber hearts as they mourn the loss of one of their own. NASCAR veteran, Jason Leffler passed away on Wednesday night from injuries sustained during a sprint car race accident at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey. Leffler, whose nickname was “Left Turn”, was a veteran in all 3 of NASCAR’s top divisions and was a 2-time winner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of Leffler.
This week’s NASCAR news:
AJ Allmendinger was scheduled to drive the #51 Chevrolet this weekend at Michigan but a phone call received last week made a major change in his plans. AJ Allmendinger will share seat time with 2000 NASCAR champion, Bobby Labonte in the #47 Toyota for JTG/Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger will make his first of five scheduled starts in the #47 Toyota this weekend. The move is being made by the single-car team to help refine the team’s direction of the Generation 6 car. Allmendinger believes he can point the team in the right direction. “I have raced for Phoenix Racing some this year and feel confident I’ll be able to provide JTG Daugherty Racing with a good comparison,” said Allmendinger. “I’m thankful for this opportunity to work with the team and Bobby (Labonte).” Bobby Labonte is scheduled to fill Allmendinger’s seat in the 51 this weekend at Michigan.
I mentioned during the off-season that Dale Earnhardt Jr’s #88 Chevrolet was not fully sponsored for the 2013 season. According to the Charlotte observer on Monday, Rick Hendrick said his team was “very close” to a new multi-year sponsorship for Dale Jr’s #88 Chevrolet. I’ve not been worried about it because we could sell it if we wanted to piecemeal it. We’ve been looking for the future,” Hendrick told the Charlotte Observer. “We don’t want to get into (sponsor relationships) where you see somebody one time and you don’t seem them anymore after that. I am very confident that in the next couple of weeks we should have not only this year (covered) but we should have a lot done for next year, too.” Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive the #88 National Guard “Man of Steel” Chevy this weekend at Michigan.
When Brian Vickers climbs in the #55 Toyota at Kentucky Speedway on June 29th, the Aaron’s Dream Machine will sport the red and black colors of the University of Louisville. The Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota will be honoring the school’s 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship team. Waltrip ran the #55 UK Toyota in the 2012 Quaker State 400.
Previewing this weekend’s Quicken Loans 400:
In the Irish hills of Southeastern Michigan sets Michigan International Speedway on more than 1400 acres. The two-mile oval held it’s first NASCAR race in 1969 where Cale Yarborough went to victory lane. Sunday’s father’s day event will mark the 88th race at the track. Speaking of “88”, 1988 Winston Cup Series Champion, Bill Elliott holds several records at the track. Elliott leads all active drivers with 61 starts at Michigan International Speedway. Elliott also has led the most laps at the track with 1,061. Jeff Gordon holds the record for 2nd most laps led with 954. Gordon has the opportunity to top Elliott’s record this weekend as Elliott is not entered for Sunday’s event.
Sprint Cup Series teams will be adjusting their cars for 400 miles on the newly paved Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series will share the track on Friday with the ARCA Racing Series. The ARCA series will practice and race on Friday. This could throw NASCAR teams for a loop on Saturday morning as the ARCA Series runs Hoosier Racing tires which lay down a different rubber compound than NASCAR’s Goodyear tires.
Chassis/Paint Scheme notes for the Quicken Loans 400:
#2 Brad Keselowski: The #2 team will take to the track this weekend in Penske Racing Chassis #PRS-841. This is the same chassis that Keselowski finished 6th with at Kansas earlier this season. The car will feature the #2 Miller Lite Scheme.
#5 Kasey Kahne: The #5 team will be going in a similar direction as the #2 team. Crew Chief, Kenny Francis will be bringing Chassis #5-793. This is the same car that Kahne used at Kansas finishing 2nd. Kahne also raced this car to it’s 2nd runner-up finish in May’s Coca-Cola 600. Kahne is hoping to break a streak of bad luck they have experienced in the month of June at Dover and Pocono. Kahne will be in the blue, red and silver Farmer’s Insurance colors.
#9 Marcos Ambrose: The Aussie driver will be bringing Chassis #847 for Richard Petty Motorsports this weekend at Michigan. Ambrose last ran this chassis at Texas where he qualified 4th. Marcos will be running the usual Stanley/Dewalt Scheme.
#10 Danica “Moon’s Pick” Patrick: Danica won’t be racing a hand-me-down chassis this weekend. Stewart-Haas Racing’s “little sister” will be running the same chassis she has competed with at Auto Club Speedway, Kansas and last competed with at the Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte.
#14 Tony Stewart: Tony Stewart will also hit the track this weekend in a familiar chassis. This will be the 5th start for Chassis #14-735 since the 2012 Brickyard 400. It has made one start since the Gen6 transformation at Charlotte where Stewart finished 7th after leading 6 laps. Stewart has gained 8 positions in point standings since the Coca-Cola 600. Stewart will behind the wheel of the Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet this weekend.
#16 Greg Biffle: Greg Biffle will return to Michigan International Speedway this weekend in the same chassis he won the August Michigan race with in 2012. Since then Chassis # RK-817 ran at the Sprint All-Star race in May finishing 15th. Greg will be running the 3M Give Kids a Smile Ford Fusion seeking his fourth career victory.
#17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr: While many other teams are bringing intermediate track chassis to the track this weekend, Stenhouse will be bringing a….Martinsville car? Indeed, Stenhouse will be bringing Chassis RK-814 to the track. Ricky finished 25th with this car at Martinsville. Stenhouse will be making his first career start this weekend at Michigan in the Zest Ford Fusion.
#20 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth’s team did not release their chassis information on this weekend’s preview but they will be running the #20 Husky Tools Toyota Camry.
#21 Trevor Bayne: The part-time Wood Brothers team will return to the track this weekend with 2011 Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne behind the wheel. Chassis #745 will take to the track for the first time since Indianapolis in 2011. The team has taken the car to the wind tunnel and expect good results on Sunday.
#22 Joey Logano: The Shell-Pennzoil team is bringing Chassis PRS-857 to the track this weekend. This is a new chassis that has never been raced before.
#24 Jeff Gordon: The #24 team didn’t release their chassis information this week. Gordon will be driving the AARP/Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet.
#29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick will make his 25th Michigan start on Sunday in the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet. The team will utilize Chassis No. 378 which has finished 11th and 13th in it’s starts this season.
#31 Jeff Burton: The Caterpillar Chevrolet will take to the track this weekend with wheelman Jeff Burton. This will be Burton’s 39th career start at Michigan and 670th career start. They will use Chassis No. 372 which last ran at the Coca-Cola 600.
#39 Ryan Newman: Ryan Newman and the Quicken Loans team will bring Chassis #39-760 to the track this weekend. The car has been updated aerodynamically since it’s last start at Las Vegas in March. He won on father’s Day and he’d like to dedicate this one to his pop as well.
#43 Aric Almirola: The #43 Richard Petty Motorsports team and crew chief Todd Parrott gave prepared Chassis No. 843 for Sunday. Almirola drove this chassis to a 7th place finish at Texas.
#48 Jimmie Johnson: Last week’s winner, Jimmie Johnson will be behind the wheel of Chassis No.784 this weekend. This is the same car Johnson used to win at the Sprint All-Star Race in May.
#55 Mark Martin: Mark Martin will make his 55th Michigan start on Sunday in Chassis # 776. This car has not raced in 2013.
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr: Dale Jr. hopes to be wearing the red cape in victory lane on Sunday as he wheels the “Man of Steel” Chevrolet this weekend. Ironically, Earnhardt will be running the same chassis that was adorned with the Batman paint scheme at Michigan last June that he won with.
#99 Carl Edwards: Carl and company will be unloading a new chassis this weekend at Michigan. Chassis # RK854 will make its first start under the white and blue Fastenal colors.
Blake and Moon’s Pics for the Race
After engine problems at Dover and Charlotte, Toyota Racing Development scaled back their horsepower at Pocono for the increased RPMs at Pocono. This weekend TRD has went a little more aggressive on the engine package for Pocono after a failure-free weekend at the tricky triangle. A Toyota driver who has dominated intermediate tracks this year is Matt Kenseth.
I think he will continue that streak this weekend pending any engine issues. Matt Kenseth is my pick for Sunday! Moon, who is your pick? Duh, D-A-N-I-C-A!
While you are celebrating Father’s Day on Sunday, tune into WBKR for all of your NASCAR coverage. NASCAR USA kicks off the racing programming at 9AM with the Quicken Loans 400 following at 11AM on WBKR and WBKR.com!