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Parity lives at Michigan

Jun 10, 2003 7:59 AM

Michigan International Speedway’s last seven races mirror the parity we have seen in the last four NASCAR Winston Cup seasons.

The last driver to have recent multiple wins was Dale Jarrett (18-1) who won this race in ’99 and in the fall last year. Over that seven-race stretch, we’ve also seen all makes of Winston Cup cars represented in the winners circle with Ford’s three wins leading the way.

The importance of the manufacturer’s takes center stage for the Michigan race every year. This is the Super Bowl for the executives of GM, Ford, and Dodge, who all sit atop in their luxury boxes simply rooting for their car make to win. Since 1984, a stretch of 38 races, Ford has won 24 times. GM has 13, including eight from Chevrolet.

Sterling Marlin’s victory in 2001 marked the first for Dodge at Michigan since Richard Petty swept the season in 1974.

Ford and Dodge are —130 favorite over GM at Station Casinos, which may be low considering Ford’s dominant performance over the years at Michigan, but Boulder Stations’ Kelly Airgood has his reasons.

"The most important factor in devaluing Ford this year is the demise of Yates Racing," Airgood said. "Dale Jarrett has been the top driver at Michigan for the last decade and this year he has been awful. They also don’t have a quality driver beside him like they did with Ricky Rudd. The Roush team may be stronger than ever, but the Yates factor is huge for this prop."

Matt Kenseth (10-1) won for Roush Racing last year, but it was the first Ford to triumph at Michigan since 1998. Mark Martin (18-1) has four career wins at Michigan, but the jewel of the Roush stable may be Kurt Busch (9-1). This week’s favorite won at California, which has similar traits to Michigan.

Ryan Newman (10-1) does have two wins and Rusty Wallace (18-1) has five career wins at Michigan.

Marlin (18-1) was the favorite coming into this race last year because he was leading in points.

The Dodges have Bill Elliott (18-1) and Jeremy Mayfield (65-1). Elliott has seven career wins at Michigan, two behind all-time leader David Pearson.

Dale Earnhardt Jr (11-1) heads the Chevy group. Terry Labonte (50-1) has finished second three times. Joe Nemechek (30-1) has had a solid season, but the heavyweights are still Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson (12-1).

Bobby Labonte (10-1) has three wins at Michigan. Tony Stewart (10-1) finally got that elusive win last week and moved up three positions in the standings.

Look for Stewart to continue to roll this week.