Saturday, August 18, 2012

Johnson, Earnhardt to rear of MIS starting grid

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Hendrick Motorsports stalwarts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson will start at the back of the field in the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday.
Earnhardt had to switch to his backup car after a spin and wreck in Turn 2 during NASCAR Sprint Cup practice Saturday morning at Michigan International Speedway.
Johnson's crew changed engines in the No. 48 Chevrolet.
Sam Hornish Jr. also will start at the back of the field because he did not practice in or qualify the No. 22 Dodge.
Practice and qualifying were handled by Parker Kligerman while Hornish competed in a NASCAR Nationwide race in Montreal.
Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet) is first in driver points and Earnhardt (No. 88 Chevrolet) is fourth.
Earnhardt won the June race at MIS.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Ageless Mark Martin on MIS pole

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Carl Edwards says he had "Mark Martin toys" when he was youngster.
Edwards still marvels at what the 53-year-old Martin does on the race track.
Martin, a five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winner at Michigan International Speedway, won his first pole position at the track Friday. The Arkansas native's No. 55 Toyota turned a qualifying lap of 199.706 mph.
Mark Martin
Edwards qualified second and Jimmie Johnson third for the Pure Michigan 400, a 200-lap race that will be Sunday.
Martin's fourth pole of 2012 gave him 55 in 845 career races.
"He's living the dream, being able to pick and choose which races he runs," Edwards said. "It's pretty amazing. He's an inspiration for me as to how well you can do in this sport for so long.
"I had Mark Martin toys as a kid. There are generations of people who've all had Mark Martin toys. Who knows? My kids might some day be racing against the guy, and be just as frustrated as me."
Martin did not compete in five of the previous seven races, including the one at Watkins Glen last week.
“It’s great when you  drive a race car like that, where you have the fastest car for the day,” Martin said.
“I feel a little bit of the magic I felt in 2009.”
While driving for Hendrick Motorsports in 2009, Martin entered the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship in first place in points.
Martin has 40 career wins.
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Roush Fenway Racing tries to break MIS 'skid'

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Drivers from Roush Fenway Racing won five of nine NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway in a stretch that ended with Carl Edwards taking the checkered flag in August 2008.
Matt Kenseth
Since then, the team built by Livonia industrialist Jack Roush is in a dry spell in the Irish Hills.
RFR has not won in the last seven races at MIS.
Is that a source of consternation for the team of Ford drivers?
"Not necessarily for me, but maybe for Jack because it is close to Livonia where he has done all his work and Roush Industries and Ford and all that," Matt Kenseth said Friday. "For me, it isn't any more or less than any other good track that we go to. It has been one of our better tracks through the years, so whenever you go to the tracks that you perform better at than others, you want to try to take advantage of that."
Kenseth, who drives the No. 17, has won twice at MIS, most recently in August 2006.
Edwards, driver of the No. 99, achieved his first MIS victory in June 2007.
He said the 2011 repaving of the track might make an already competitive track a more difficult place to get an edge.
"Before, it seemed like when the track was rough and worn out that guys that could hang the cars out a little, like Greg Biffle or guys with big horsepower, and run really well," Edwards, who qualified second, said.
"I can tell you this: When we are in Victory Lane, of all the ones I have been in, I have never seen Jack happier than the one here at Michigan."
Kenseth qualified fourth. Greg Biffle, the other Roush Fenway driver, qualified 13th in the No. 16.
MIS race winners since the last Roush Fenway triumph: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin (twice), Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers and Mark Martin.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. confident he can sweep at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- No driver has swept a season's NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway since Bobby Labonte in 1985.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a chance for a sweep Sunday when he rolls off in the 43-car field for the Pure Michigan 400.
"Our setup is pretty much the same as the one we used (in June)," Earnhardt said Friday before the first practice session of the weekend.
Earnhardt, who broke a 143-race winless streak when he took the checkered flag at MIS on Father's Day, quipped, "All we did was wash the car. I don't think we even touched it. At least, that's what I was told.
“I think we’re a more veteran, faster team than we were here the first trip here.
“There is a little bit of pressure, I guess, because people know that you did so well the last time here. I feel pretty comfortable we will be fast. We should be able to go out there and compete for the win. If we don’t, I’ll be pretty disappointed.”
Earnhardt led 95 of the 200 laps in the June race.
“You just go out there and try to lead,” Earnhardt, outlining his strategy for racing at MIS, said. “Get to the front. If you aren’t in the front, get to the front and pass the guy in front of you. Pretty simple. You run as hard as you can every lap.”
Earnhardt is fourth in points as the season heads into the 23rd race of the season.
He would like to rack up another win or two during the four races before the field is set for the Chase.
“We need more bonus points so we can lead the points once we go into Chicago (and the first Chase race),” the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet said. “That would give the team a lot of confidence.  We feel like we’ve been so strong this year. We’re just a little shy in the win column.
“But if the wins want to wait and come in the Chase, that’s fine with me.”
“If we were still winless, we’d feel a little bit snakebitten,” Earnhardt said. “I guess that might mess with you mentally.
“Once you do break through that barrier, it gives you reason to believe you can do it again at any moment.”
Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt drove 22 laps during the practice session that preceded qualifying.
His final lap, 194.227 mph, was his fastest. It was 22nd-fastest overall.
Both of Earnhardt’s points victories with Hendrick Motorsports came at MIS.
He also won in June 2008.
“We want to win every opportunity we get on the race track,” Dale Jr. said. “We don’t show up to lose.”
Earnhardt isn’t surprised that no one has swept the MIS races since the 1980s.
“It’s hard to dominate the race here,” he said. “The track is really competitive, really wide. It allows for quite a bit of passing, so it is hard to dominate the race.
“There are a lot of variables that come in. More cautions and stuff like that come in, so racing strategies change.
 “Back when the races used to get swept, it was more about engines. All the teams are quite equal (now). There’s not a car dominating under the hood like they used to.”

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sam Hornish Jr. continues strong NASCAR Nationwide season

Sam Hornish Jr. continued to make the most of his "audition" season with Penske Racing.
The former IndyCar Series champion, who had a rocky start in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, turned in another strong performance Saturday night in the Nationwide race at Iowa Speedway.
Hornish finished third, behind Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, in the U.S. Cellular 250.
That gave Hornish 13 top-10 finishes in 20 races this season. He's still looking for his first win of 2012, but Hornish has six top-five finishes and is 34 points out of first place with 13 races left in the season.
Despite a decade with Penske Racing, including time in open-wheel racing, Hornish said last week he feels like he is "auditioning" for a Sprint Cup ride with owner Roger Penske.
A couple of Penske opportunities for 2013 seem to be at Hornish's doorstep: a third Sprint Cup car Penske plans to go with the Nos. 2 and 22, or the No. 22 car, which needs a driver for next year after AJ Allmendinger was fired for failing two drug tests.
Hornish drives the No. 22 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
Hornish drove full-time in the Cup series from 2008-2010, but did not win a race in those three years, and then lost his ride when sponsorship backed out.
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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon back in pack at Pocono

Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon, two prominent NASCAR drivers who need to win a race to enhance their Sprint Cup playoff chances, will start back in the pack Sunday in the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Edwards qualified 17th and Gordon 27th on Saturday as Juan Pablo Montoya captured the pole position with the No. 42 Chevrolet.
Montoya's lap speed was 176.043 mph. He will be seeking his first race victory of the season.
Denny Hamlin will join Montoya on the front row in the No. 11 Toyota.
Edwards (No. 99 Ford) is 12th and Gordon (No. 24 Chevy) 15th in points.

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