NASCAR: Motor City

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Kenseth has shot at taking Michigan race

This week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan will have more hype than usual. Twice a year we get the usual Motor City banter back and forth between the executives from all the competing automobile manufacturers, but it’ll be much different this week just because of the great lead-in they got throughout America from the fireworks that went off at Pocono last week.

While the “I’m better than you” trash talk between Ford, Chevy, Dodge and Toyota is always entertaining, watching angry drivers settle scores is a little bit more gripping.

NASCAR soap opera

We knew it had to happen some day, and it finally did. Joey Logano finally blew up at someone for being picked on. The young phenom had enough of Kevin Harvick’s antics after being punted and had a meltdown on national TV calling Harvick “stupid” and then even bringing Harvick’s wife into the rant.

It was pretty entertaining. Then we got to hear Tony Stewart blow some smoke; he’s not happy with a lot of the drivers, and we got to see two more sets of teammates, Kasey Kahne and A.J. Allmendinger, go after it.

The whole manufacturer angle is taking a back seat at Michigan this week which may be good news for the Ford brand. Ford had absolutely dominated Michigan since the tracks inception in 1969, but they have only won one race there in the last five. The demise can be directly linked to the Roush-Fenway group and their current struggles. From 2002 through 2008, a Roush driver had won seven different Michigan races.

The woes from 2009 have continued for the Roush stable as they can’t seem to find the right mix on the down-force track. The three top Roush drivers, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, are all currently within the top-12 in points, but haven’t come close to winning a race. If there is any track that could change that streak, it could be Michigan.

Even though Carl Edwards struggles with his car every week, he still manages decent finishes. Michigan should be a place he’s ready to roll at. He’s the track’s all-time leader in average finish position at 6.1 and was outstanding last season with two fourth-place finishes.

Matt Kenseth has been almost as good as Edwards over his career at Michigan which includes two wins. Of the Roush drivers this week, Kenseth looks to be the best candidate to win for the Ford brand.

It’s not going to be easy getting by the Chevy bow-ties, the Gibbs Toyotas or even Kurt Busch’s Dodge this week.

Leading the charge for Chevy will be Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Gordon finished second in both Michigan races last season and has been fantastic on all down force tracks this season. Jimmie Johnson, surprisingly, has never won at Michigan and has one of his worst average finishes of any track at 16.0; however, I like Johnson to do very well this week; maybe get his best finish ever on the track.

Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin may just be too good for anyone at this point. They finished 1-2 last week at Pocono and have combined to win six of the 14 on the season. Neither has ever won at Michigan with Hamlin having the better runs of the two with a 13.3 average finish in eight career starts.

Kurt Busch should be considered a great candidate to win because of his team’s success on the down force tracks this season that include a win at Charlotte and Atlanta, along with a sixth-place finish on the sister-track of California. Busch is a two-time winner at Michigan over his career winning in both a Roush Ford and a Penske Dodge.

The two winners from last year don’t appear to be solid contenders this week. Brian Vickers is out for the season, but his car wasn’t very good in any race while he was driving. Mark Martin won this race a year ago, but he doesn’t seem to have the same stuff like he did all year. He looks closer to Dale Earnhardt Jr. this year rather than the version he looked like a season ago, which was his other teammate, Jimmie Johnson.

 

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