Michigan fits Toyotas fine

Jun 10, 2008 7:01 PM

Finish Line by Micah Roberts |

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This weekendís NASCAR Sprint Cup series race takes the cars back to their birthplace, or at least in theory.

Michigan is the heart of the American automobile and where all the power of NASCAR derives from. Last season there were lots of grumbles from the suits at General Motors, Ford, and Dodge when Toyota joined the series. For years, these automobile executives have used the Michigan NASCAR races as a show of strength, sort of a Super Bowl for automobiles.

The performance of the Toyotas in both Michigan races were not awful, but it was terrible enough to have the suits snicker and gloat about how much muscle their American cars had over the foreigners. However, the funny thing is that the Toyota Camry on sale to the public is actually more American than the three competitors on the circuit.

The Ford Fusion is assembled in Mexico, The Chevy Impala and Dodge Charger are both put together in Canada, with only the Dodge Avenger actually being put together in the good old USA. The Toyota Camry is made in Georgetown, Kentucky, a place that is about as American as it gets.

Coming into this yearís race, the Toyotas are a bit more confident with current Sprint Cup series point leader, Kyle Busch having four wins. Ford and Dodge have dominated over the years at Michigan combining to win the last 13 races. Chevrolet has been a no show, claiming only two Jeff Gordon wins since 1996.

It will be interesting to see how the Toyotas fare. The Joe Gibbs trio of Busch, Tony Stewart, and Denny Hamlin will all be top contenders with an outside chance given to Red Bull Racingís Brian Vickers at 40-1.

The favorite is Carl Edwards in a Ford at 5-1. Based on his performance at Michiganís sister track in California and his two other wins on 1Ĺ-mile tracks, he will be tough for anyone to challenge.

We are still seeing instances of teams not being comfortable in their Car of Tomorrow on tracks that the car didnít run on last season. Edwards and Busch lead the way as those having a huge edge over the others.

Two of the drivers that did very well in California back in February and have labored since are Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. They finished 2-3 respectively at California, but have looked more like a Petty team than Hendrick, admitting a lack of time and research for the COT.

Chevyís slump at Michigan started one race before Johnson began his Cup career. In 12 races there, Johnson only has two Top 5 finishes with his best a third last fall. Letís stay with the trend of a Chevy not winning this week. The due theory is very overrated.

If that theory were played consistently at Michigan, your bankroll would have evaporated long ago when Bill Elliott took his Ford to the winners circle six times in eight races during the 1980ís.

I really like the concept of seeing Toyota not only winning (to the dismay of the American auto giants), but maybe even finishing 1-2. Tony Stewart impressed at Charlotte and finished seventh at California. Busch has been good everywhere, but just for fun weíll mention his fourth place finish at California.

I just wanted to wish all the Fathers a Happy Fathers day out there, including my own. Itís ironic once again that the Michigan race in the Motor City happens to be on Fatherís Day because working on American muscle cars of the 60ís and 70ís was something that my father and I did often together.

Heíd buy a wrecked GTO, bring it to the garage and go to work on it rebuilding the engine, transmission, body work, paint, and then regrettably for me, end up selling it for a profit. I loved those cars at the junkyard (especially a mangled 1968 Camaro) and, looking back, I cherish those memories with my father.

Micah Roberts is a Race and Sports Director with Station Casinos who has contributed to GamingToday for the last 11 years.

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Tony Stewart
Kyle Busch
Greg Biffle
Carl Edwards
Kasey Kahne