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Race Day: Watching Others Fight Can Be Big Fun

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 21 2011

Jeff Gordon would rather watch fights than be in them. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

BROOKLYN, Mich. – The biggest, most important struggle for Sprint Cup drivers these days is not to be No. 1 in points. It’s to get into the Chase. And for those who can’t get into the Chase on points, it’s to be in the top 20 with a victory or two.

It’s Wild Card Season. The first annual Wild Card Season.

And it’s become a hoot not just for fans, but for those competitors who are well into the top 10 in points and can watch it without having to worry about it.

Here is what a couple of drivers who appear to be above the fray have to say about the hammer-and-tong fight to get the final two Chase berths.

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (7th in points and two wins): “Yeah, that has been fun. Hopefully we can have a couple good runs and we won’t have to worry about that because I guess mathematically we still have to worry about that. Of all the changes they have made the last few years, I am not one that always probably likes change as some other people, but of all the changes made I think that is one of the best ones. It has been interesting to watch and has added a new element to going into Richmond and you don’t know who will be in the Chase or not until right to the very end.”

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (4th in points with three wins): “It is fun to watch already. I think the wild card stuff has added a great new element to the last couple of spots. With all the different winners this year, it has made it even more interesting because of how many guys have won. It has been fun to watch. Glad I’m not in the middle of it. We’ve been there before, but, I’m glad we’re not in the middle of that fighting for our life.”

Fast facts

What: Pure Michigan 400
Where: Michigan International Speedway; Brooklyn, Mich.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN, Noon ET

Radio: MRN-Sirius/XM Satellite Ch. 90

Track layout: 2-mile oval

Race distance: 200 laps/400 miles

2010 winner: Kevin Harvick

2010 polesitter: Kasey Kahne

Today’s polesitter: Greg Biffle

Points standings: 1. Kyle Busch, 752; 2. Carl Edwards, 752; 3. Jimmie Johnson, 746; 4. Kevin Harvick, 738; 5. Matt Kenseth, 724; 6. Kurt Busch, 712; 7. Jeff Gordon, 700; 8. Ryan Newman, 686; 9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 670; 10. Tony Stewart, 659.

Trivia time

Who is the only active driver to get his first Cup victory at Michigan?

Ankle update

Brad Keselowski, talking with Jeff Burton, has been rampaging on his bad ankle. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Brad Keselowski, who finished first and second since breaking his ankle in a test wreck, was asked how the injury was doing and about his luck since suffering it.

“Well, I certainly would have chose to do it without an injury, would have been a lot more fun.  Probably gets a little more press than it should have.

“I guess I look at it and say it hurts, but things have been going well.  I don’t think it’s because of or in spite of.  I just have been kind of dealing with it, making things happen best I know how.  Things have been kind of clicking.”

Toss the keys

The keys to today race courtesy of Howard Comstock of Dodge Racing Engineering:

Aero Sensitive:  “Here, more than any other place we’ve been this year and based on what we saw in June, the cars seem to be very aero sensitive.  It goes against what you would think for a wide race track with several racing lines.  The disturbance of the air seemed to really affect the cars back in the pack.  On restarts, the leader would drive away while the cars back in the field struggled to find a line that would work for their car in the disturbed air.  That’s something we haven’t seen this year.”

Fuel Economy:  “We’ve seen several races here decided on fuel economy.  Crew chiefs will be keeping a keen eye on fuel economy and when they are within the window for that last stop.  Fuel strategy could certainly determine the outcome Sunday.”

Crunch Time:  “There are teams that are outside the top 10 in points that, without a win, will not be in contention for the Chase.  There are some pretty big names out there without a win that will be taking chances to get in the win column.  It’s crunch time with just four races left to make the Chase.”

Tires:  “Tire wear should be no problem.  We saw no tire issues in the spring.  We can expect teams to go with two tires early or late in the race to gain track position.”

Trivia answer

No current Cup driver got the first victory of his career at Michigan.

Veto threat

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked repeatedly about Danica Patrick’s future with his Nationwide team.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has veto power. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Earnhardt said those asking the questions are asking the wrong person as his sister, Kelley Earnhardt, is doing the negotiations.

Earnhardt was asked if he has veto power when it comes to the deal.

“I would like to think I have veto power, but I tried to exercise it a few times and it worked and then sometimes it doesn’t,” Earnhardt said. “My sister can put up a pretty convincing argument because she’s the one with all the business sense and she went to college to learn about how to be a business woman and I went to college to learn how to build a starter and get my inspection license.

“I trust her opinion and trust that she would have the better idea on how that stuff goes.  I think I got a lot of great common sense to fall back on and can make great judgment calls and character calls, but when it comes down to x’s and o’s and licensing deals and all that kind of stuff I kind of lay that in her lap and let her and Joe and Mike Davis and those guys sort of run that show.”

Up next

The Cup series heads to the Bristol short track for the famed night race.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 21 2011
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