Race:Pure Michigan 400
Date:Sunday August 19th, 2012
Track:Michigan International Speedway
Time:12 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, Auto Racing Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Although he didnt win, in fact coming home with a 21stplace finish, Jeff Gordon proved that his team has what they need to make cars better.That being said, theres still hope.There may only be a miniscule amount of hope, but its there.Gordon referred to his car midrace as junk.During the last pit stop, they made a myriad of changes and he drove the car all the way to 9th, with 7thand 8thplace runners in his sights.Unfortunately, NASCAR did a poor job in regulating the cleanliness of the track and Gordon wrecked, as did Jr. and nearly Keselowski and race winner Marcos Ambrose.
I implore you, if you have not seen the race or a replay, go watch it now.That was one of the best finishes I have ever seen in a race hands-down.Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose were both world-class in their driving and their mentalities on the track.They both were able to run through the grass and back to the track and lean on each other but they never once wrecked each other out.They both agreed that is the way racing is supposed to be.I have to concur with them on that call.
Regardless, Kyle Busch was his mad little self because Keselowski spun him out during the second to last lap.Instead of manning up and taking responsibility for his car being the one dumping fluid on the track, Busch and his team blamed everyone else and refused post-race interviews.
Maybe Michigan will treat him better, but then again, this is Kyle we are talking about.His temper and attitude have gotten the best of him on more than one occasion.Hes done a good job stifling himself this year, so maybe Michigan can give him a little redemption.This particular track is a 2 mile D-shaped oval.It has 18 degree banking in the turns, 12 degrees on the frontstretch, and 5 degrees on the backstretch.The frontstretch boasts an impressive 3600 feet , while the backstretch is nothing to shake your head at with 2242 feet.
This is a fast track and a track where position is everything.Tires, pit strategy, and track position are the keys here.We saw a lot of equipment failure at Watkins Glen on Sunday, but thats because the track is simply rigorous compared to a typical setup that these guys are used to.Michigan is no exception.Its all about having that speed on a track like this.Qualifying should actually be a good preview as to who is going to be up front for the majority of the day.In terms of winners, I have to strongly go with Dale Earnhardt Jr.He won the spring race here, which was his first win since 2008.That 2008 win was here as well.With as solid a team as those guys have built, I wouldnt put victory circle past them.Someone that they are going to have to watch, though, is Brad Keselowski.Hes just awesome lately.Hes a fighter and someone who can come onto these big tracks and run up front all day.Given a fast car, Brad is going to be one to watch.Overall, its really going to boil down to the Hendrick show in my opinion.Not only is Jr. going to be a force to contend with, but teammates Johnson, Gordon,andKahne all have an awesome shot at a win.If not a win, look for all of those guys to be top 10 contenders at the very least.Finally, you have to watch Kyle Busch.As sassy as he ended up on Sunday, hes got a win here and now a point to prove.Heres the rundown of my Pure Michigan 400 picks for this week:
Pick to Win:Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Middle of the Road Pick:Brad Keselowski
Dark Horse Prediction:Mark Martin
Martin is a feel-good pick.Hes one of those dark horse guys you just cant count out.Hes a legend and one whos running for a team that does significantly well on this style of track.Needless to say, hes got his work cut out for him, but that doesnt mean he cant get it done.
Michigan is going to be a points-changer as was Watkins Glen.Heres the rundown of your top 10 after Sundays race:
4.Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6.Martin Truex Jr.
10. Denny Hamlin
The only driver who didnt move was Kevin Harvick.Kasey Kahne sits in 11thas the first wildcard driver with Ryan Newman in 13thas the second pick.Jeff Gordon lost 2 spots, falling to 15th, but theres only 19 points between 11thand 15thpositions right now.Look for Michigan to be another wildcard, if you will, in this journey to the Chase.
Check back each week of the racing season as I offer my free picks with analysis!