What’s to know about this weekend’s Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway?
• For starters, it’s the third year Firekeepers Casino will hold the entitlement rights. Previously it was the Quicken Loans 400 and before that it was the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 and at one time it was even the Batman Begins 400.
• The 2-mile track hosted its first NASCAR premier series race in 1969 and that was the only time they ran 500 miles there. Cale Yarborough won, after a tangle with Lee Roy Yarbrough on the final lap.
• Later that same year, they scheduled a 600-miler (300 laps) at MIS. I guess Michigan and NASCAR officials got together, looked at the 54-race schedule and figured “Another 600-mile race? Why not?”
It was (mercifully) stopped after just 165 laps. Two rainstorms delayed action for nearly four hours and finally darkness arrived and they flagged David Pearson the winner and everyone went home. Soggy.
• Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., have combined to win 11 of this year’s 14 races and folks do get tired of hearing about the same drivers winning all the races. So maybe it’s noteworthy that of the three, only Harvick and Busch have won at MIS and they’ve each only won once and those wins came in ’10 (Harvick) and ’11 (Busch). Truex was, however, runner-up here last August.
• Those three aside, it’s worth noting that of the five races won by Kyle Larson, three have come at MIS. The last three races in a row, in fact, for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. Chase Elliott finished second in two of those, Truex in the third.
Four wins in a row at MIS isn’t out of the question – Bill Elliott, Chase’s father, did it in 1985-86.
• Truex, con’t: The driver of the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota tied Marvin Panch and Curtis Turner with his 17th career victory last Sunday at Pocono.
Panch won a Daytona 500 and World 600 and he won at Watkins Glen and he’ll likely be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame one day.
Turner has been called the greatest pure driver in NASCAR by many. He’s already in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, at one time was president of Charlotte Motor Speedway, was kicked out of the series from 1961-65, was eventually re-instated and eventually re-won. At Rockingham.
• There’s talk that NASCAR may bring back the aerodynamic package used in this year’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, perhaps at Pocono next month, Michigan in August and Indianapolis in September.
NASCAR has toyed with the cars almost for as long as it has sanctioned races, so maybe this is nothing new. But I’m not a fan of such moves unless they’re safety related. Maybe I’m just not convinced it’s the right (only) answer. It deserves a lot more space than I can devote here so hopefully I’ll dive a bit deeper into it in another piece very soon.
• Chevrolet has one Cup win in 2018 and we’re 14 races into the season. The last time the auto maker had fewer than 10 wins for an entire season was 1992 when Chevy teams won only eight races all year.
Ford won the first nine that season and 16 overall and a Ford driver, Alan Kulwicki, won the championship.
Of course, just three years later, in ’95, Chevrolet won 21 of 31, including the first seven and Jeff Gordon won seven himself and his first Cup title. What goes around …
In the meantime, Ford (seven wins) and Toyota (six) have been toting home the hardware this season.
• For journos only: Dateline for those first races at MIS wasn’t Brooklyn as it is today but Cambridge Junction, a tiny state park located just down the road from the race track. Seems Brooklyn became the dateline around 1978 for one reason or another.