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Race Day: The Boys Are Back And Still Dang Angry

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 19 2011

A lot of eyes will be on the No. 29 car of Kevin Harvick today. Those eyes will be in the grandstands and in the cockpits of other Cup cars at Michigan. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

It’s a big day today. It’s one that has fans and Sprint Cup drivers contemplating and remembering. It’s one which produces smiles in some and sadness in others.

Nope, not talking about Fathers Day here. It’s the day of the first race in which Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have come off of NASCAR probation – probation which resulted from their on-track and on-pit-road actions at Darlington six races ago.

Neither driver has said they have forgiven the other. Harvick in particular has said the feud between them is not over. Heck, he took an on-track swipe at Busch while he was still on probation.

A number of the people who will be sharing the track with Busch and Harvick in today’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway were asked about the on-going feud; asked if they are amused by it or concerned that they might become innocent bystanders in it.

Here is what couple of those other drivers said:

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Chevrolet: “When I am on a race track I don’t concern myself with any of that. I usually have more than my own share of problems that I have

Kyle Busch is off of probation. Is he ready to have at it? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

to figure out or take care of or work on to be competitive and win. That is what we worry about. After the race with that stuff, anybody that says it isn’t fun to watch is probably lying. It is always fun to watch conflicts and feuds and rivalries and different stuff going on that makes news. I hate being involved in it though.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet:   “We’ll definitely keep our eyes open with our other competitors down the road.  I think I’ve been aware of them being around one another period.  Now that they’re off probation, I don’t see it being much different.  I don’t see anything a lot different.  I’ve had my eye watching those two for a  while like everyone else has so I don’t see it being a lot different than that.  I don’t know where Kevin’s (Harvick) mind is and what he has or if he mentioned that he had one coming.  I have no clue what’s going to happen, but I’m sure we’ll all be very entertained.”

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet: “You thought it was funny didn’t you? Well, I did too.  Its entertainment at its best.”

Fast facts

What: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400

Where: Michigan International Speedway; Brooklyn, Mich.

When: Sunday 1 p.m. ET

TV: TNT, Noon ET

Kurt Busch is on the pole at Michigan. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 90

Track layout: 2-mile oval

Banking in corners: 18 degrees

Grandstand capacity: 119,500

First race at MIS: The Motor State 500

First race winner: Cale Yarborough

First pole winner: Donnie Allison

Race distance: 200 laps/400 miles

2010 winner: Denny Hamlin

2010 polesitter: Kurt Busch

Today’s polesitter: Kurt Busch

Thoughts on pop

Carl Edwards was one of several drivers asked about driving on Fathers Day. Been too busy with the kids to think about it, he said.

“I didn’t realize it was Fathers day until last Monday I guess,” Edwards said. “I hadn’t thought about it. We have been so busy running around chasing the kids and everything. My Dad, he is the one who got me into racing and he is still one of the smartest racers I know. We have spent quite a bit of time together lately which has been really nice. This is my first Fathers Day with two kids. That is just amazing to me. Five years ago if you would have told me that I would have never believed it. I am very fortunate and I hope we can have a safe, fun day. One of the neatest things was winning in 2007 on Fathers Day and giving the trophy to my Dad. That was a cool day and it would be neat to win again.”

Track tidbits

Races: 83

Youngest race winner: Kurt Busch (24 years, 10 months, 11 days)

Oldest race winner: Harry Gant (52, 7, 6)

Mark Martin has lots of top-10s at MIS. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Races won from the pole: 16

Most lead changes: 65 (in 1881)

Most cautions: 10 (in 2006)

Most caution laps: 63 (in 1975)

Closest margin of victory: .085 seconds (in 2001)

Most victories: 9, by David Pearson

Most top-fives: 21, by Cale Yarborough

Most top-10s: 29, by Bill Elliott and Mark Martin

Least DNFs by active driver: 0, by Greg Biffle

Winning

Kurt Busch, who will start from the pole today, was asked if winning races has become more important under the new wild card format. He said:

“I think wins add insurance in your pocket. You feel real good about your position. Like Kevin Harvick, there’s no way he’s going to miss the Chase.  He’s got three wins.  That’s how I would feel if I were him.  If I was Juan Pablo Montoya with zero wins, 14th in points, I’ve got to go win Sonoma.  I’ve got to go try and get Watkins Glen, those are my two best chances.  The same thing for (Marcos) Ambrose who I believe is in the top 20 in points.  Then you have a Michigan race that could be a fuel mileage race.  Then Kentucky, who knows what’s going to happen there?  I think Kentucky will play into the hands of guys like Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards, guys who have run Nationwide there over the years.  I think those are the guys that will run strong there and they’ll be tough to beat.”

Trivia time

Who was the last driver to win from the pole at Michigan?

Stock answers

Tony Stewart will be back in a car with a roof and fenders today. When he got to MIS, he was asked

Tony Stewart had a ball at The Glen. (RacinToday HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

several questions about his car swap with Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton at Watkins Glen on Tuesday.

“It was cool,” Stewart said. “I am still excited about it at night going to bed. I know it was only four laps but it was pretty cool opportunity and a lot of fun and it’s like I told Juan (Montoya) this morning when he came and asked me about it. I said I think I could run a 100 percent of what I could do and it was still not going to be a 100 percent of what the car is going to do.  I think in a whole day you could kind of get an idea of what it is really about.  It’s hard to learn it all in four laps but that was one of the coolest four lap runs of my life.”

The biggest surprise about the F1 car?

“I think the brakes really,” the two-time Cup champion said. “I never got a chance to run the IndyCars on the road courses so I was used to he downforce and was used to what it felt like in the high speed corners as opposed to low speed corners and getting slowed down.  To have a car that had that kind of braking ability it was something.  When we go back to Watkins Glen I will probably burn the brakes off in the first couple laps thinking it’s going to stop and it’s not.”

Thoughts on Hamilton?

“He is a class act.  He is a really nice person and really enjoys racing and doesn’t matter what it is.  Not just Formula One, he enjoys all of the motor racing.  It was really cool because in a relatively short amount of time we developed a great relationship.  He is one of those guys that you would feel comfortable with going anywhere with him and having a good time.”

Earncon alert

Conditions for a victory by Dale Earnhardt Jr. today at Michigan stand at: 4.

Earnhardt got his last victory at MIS. That was back in 2008. He clearly likes the big, wide tri-oval. And he continues to have fast cars. Again, we stand at Earncon 4 today.

Trivia answer

Brian Vickers was the last driver to win a Cup race from the pole at Michigan. He did it in August of 2009.

Up next

The first road race of the year. It will be at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Jimmie Johnson got his first road race victory there last season.

Kasey Kahne started from the pole. Qualifying will be key as a third of the races there have been won from the front row.

Today

Ranking today’s race:

1. Sprint Cup. The big, wide Michigan track lets cars race. They will go three and four wide. Big potential for the race to be a fuel-mileage job.

2. NHRA. Races at Thunder Valley are just a tad cooler than those at places like Englishtown and Brainerd. The setting, the fans, the tradition, the sound.

3. IndyCar. I love the Milwaukee Mile. It’s the oldest oval track still hosting races in the country. Perfect size, perfect shape for great action. Only problem is, pretty predictable that a Ganassi or Penske car will win.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 19 2011
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