Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mark Martin and Chevrolet grab victory from Johnson and Biffle in LifeLock 400 at Michigan.


(Photo Credit: NASCAR.com via Yahoo Sports inside Gallery)

In the Irish Hills of Michigan lies the 2-mile D-Shape oval known as the Michigan International Speedway. Michigan Speedway is known for a few good races here and there, but mainly the racing on the track is long (green flag runs) and stretched out, but ends up becoming a nail bitter of a finish thanks to what turns into a fuel economy races.

The Michigan Speedway also sits in what was in some cases known as the “Big 3” automakers backyard, however earlier this weekend as one of the “Big 3” Chrysler exited bankruptcy and was taken over by Fiat, Chevrolet (who is in bankruptcy now) announced that they are making “NASCAR-wide” cuts. The NASCAR cuts include the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series teams will loss factory support and that will not be it, it is unknown if Chevrolet will cut some support in the Cup Series, but to this NASCAR fan, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few Chevy teams were cut, but that’s my opinion.

The automakers though still do believe in “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday”, I even believe that automobile manufacturers do sell more cars because they are in NASCAR, of course that slogan has to include Toyota.

Anyway, earlier today’s LifeLock 400 marked the one year anniversary of NASCAR’s Most popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr’s last victory, yeah as Junior fan I really didn’t need to be reminded of that, of course Dale Jr. is one of the most talked about stories in NASCAR and so is Kyle Busch which you can read about here at my second site BrandingBrian.net in an article I call “It will always be Kyle Busch with his fans vs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. with JR Nation, for 2009 anyway.

As for the race, Vickers on pole is nothing new, of course some new would be the rumors that Red Bull might be switching to Chevrolet, I really don’t believe this one, but I would be surprised if in 2010 Vickers and Speed were in Chevrolet’s considering Chevy’s cuts, but in the Cup Series, manufacturer support is good, but not going to shut down most teams if they don’t have it, it will mean cutting costs in other areas.

The LifeLock 400 was really nothing more than just about any other NASCAR race at Michigan Speedway, long green flag runs, finding your grove, but at the same time passing high, middle and low with 3 wide racing. I know some fans find Michigan boring and sometimes it is, but it does define racing, passing a huge part of racing and there was passing. Fans will not see short track racing here, but it’s not really a sleeper race neither, it all depends upon how you define racing.

However Michigan is also known for fuel economy races and today was no different. The first 140-150 laps is to get your racecar handling, fast and up in the top 5, all so you can save fuel by coasting into the corners, lifting on the throttle more, treating your gas petal like it has an egg underneath it (not a magnet, come on it’s a joke…), kick the transmission into neutral and even shut off the engine under caution and coast so you can make it to the end of the race without stopping and here’s where the nail biting comes from, you don’t know who has saved enough fuel and who hasn’t.

I have to say, I thought Jimmie Johnson was going to win the race, but he was two laps shy and ran out just past pit entrance, Greg Biffle comes up next taking the lead, while Mark Martin is coming on, but saving fuel, white flag is out, but then down the back straightaway Biffle runs out, Martin goes low, makes the pass, saves enough fuel and wins the LifeLock 400. What a great sight, seeing Mark Martin, Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports win this race, although it is interesting to see Chevrolet win this race, lead in the manufacturers championship and yet they say they will do cuts, although again not surprised to see support cut in the Nationwide Series and Truck Series.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
When it comes to Dale Jr. today, I was watching his progress, however I am going to stick by what I said before and see where he is after Chicagoland, but I do like seeing a new crew chief on top of the pit box, sometimes change is needed and in this case change was needed and there is some improvement.

I will say that Junior really hasn’t gotten worse from last year so much as everyone has gotten better and not everyone can finish in the top 10, top 15’s in the Cup Series are hard to come by too and 14th was it for Junior today, of course 13th was all Kyle Busch could muster today as well.

Double-File restarts
Double-file restarts to me are more for the fans, mostly they don’t do too much, but they do have some of an impact on the racing, it makes it interesting for drivers because now they racing the drivers lined up underneath them for position and this rule change also helps the fans know who is racing who and who is on the lead laps, so far good change here.

Of course I should mention that next Sunday at Sonoma (Infineon Raceway), the road course will have double-file restarts, oh boy that will entertaining and I predict someone will go off at the top of the hill for sure after a restart, can’t wait.

And Johnny Benson, get well soon.