Traditionally, a trip to Michigan International Speedway is a chance for fantasy owners to put together a big points day. Aside from the occasional fuel mileage finish, the track's wide racing surface keeps wrecks to a minimum and allows drivers with the fastest cars to get the front. The fastest cars may still get to the front this weekend, but the increased speeds being seen on Michigan's recently repaved surface are raising eyebrows. Suddenly, a normally uneventful trip to MIS has become a wild card race.
Marcos Ambrose grabbed the pole with a lap of 203.241 mph, shattering the old track record of 194.232 mph. When all was said and done, 19 drivers topped 200 mph, and 40 of the 45 drivers ended up breaking the old mark. Not only did the qualifying record fall, Dale Earnhardt Jr. put together a 10-lap average speed of almost 198 mph in Happy Hour Friday. In other words, drivers are averaging speeds over the course of several laps that would easily top the track's old qualifying record. The repaving process has made the speeds so much faster that there is a chance that MIS will see a completely different type of racing than in year's past.
The speeds also caused tire issues for several teams, and blistering was reported by almost every team that made an extended run. NASCAR and Goodyear have already responded by providing teams with a more durable left-side tire, and an extra practice session will be held late Saturday evening following the conclusion of the Nationwide Series event. The new tire is going to be a curveball for teams, but the last thing anyone wants is for tires to start blowing out when cars are traveling in excess of 200 mph.
Even with the changes, tire wear is likely going to be a problem in Sunday's race. Don't expect a repeat of the nightmare that was the 2008 Brickyard 400 when a lack of tire durability forced NASCAR to throw a competition caution every 10 laps, but it is a near certainty that a few drivers will suffer blown tires and even more will be forced to make unscheduled stops as a result of tire problems. Hopefully, the tire change and the extra practice correct most of the problems, but it is going to be a nerve-racking 400 miles for fantasy owners this weekend.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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