This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) drivers are headed back to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) for another run at NASCAR’s fastest track. The drivers last raced at Michigan in June, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first race since 2008. It was his first win in 148 races.
The last few weeks have been all but great for Jr., though, and frankly quite frustrating. At both Pocono and Watkin’s Glen he finished outside of the lead lap.
So, the question for MIS is, can Earnhardt Jr. overcome the last few weeks and win again?
Earnhardt Jr., is hoping so ““The track has always been fun for me. Even had I not won any races there, it’s just a really fun track,” said Earnhardt. “That’s the kind of race track you hope and pray to build. I think over time the surface will age and we’ll get back to widening up the surface quite a bit.”
Earnhardt Jr. is currently fourth in the NSCS point standings, 107 points ahead of 11th place. At MIS he can mathematically lock himself into the Chase by reaching the 145 magic point marker.
He is not content racing for “just points” at this point in the season though, “On the way to getting that done, you want to win more races and we were really conservative all year long,” he said. “We feel like that in the position we are in now, we can gamble a lot more.”
So look for Earnhardt Jr. to be pushing the button in the next couple of weeks, we might just see the No.88 in victory lane again.
The race at Michigan, entitled the “Pure Michigan 400” this time around, is a 2 mile tri-oval in Brooklyn, Michigan.
Michigan was once considered the back yard of Roush Fenway Racing. The trio of Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards each have two wins apiece but neither have won since the August race in 2008. All three have run well in recent years at the track with Kenseth narrowly missing wins the last two seasons.
Denny Hamlin is another driver who has done well at Michigan. Hamlin has wins in each of the last two seasons at Michigan. Jeff Gordon will look to rebound from his unfortunate last lap spin. Gordon has 25 top ten finishes in 39 starts at MIS. A win on Sunday would put him in control of his Chase hopes. He currently trails Ryan Newman for the second Wild Card spot.
Of course Newman, like Gordon, is a two time winner at Michigan. In his last there races at MISm Newman has finished 6th, 5th and 15th.
One driver who has not won at Michigan is Jimmie Johnson. Which is odd considering the Sprint Cup Series visits the track two times each year, Johnson has 9 top ten finishes in 24 starts for an average finish of 14.7. Johnson is getting close to winning at Michigan though, in his last two starts he has finished 2nd and 5th.