* Kyle Busch Continues Storybook Season * Dale Earnhardt Jr. Seeks Michigan Sweep * Marcos Ambrose Riding Wave Of Momentum * Jockeying For 12 Chase Spots Continues * NASCAR CAM: Greg Biffle/Jack Roush Point Towards Michigan Kyle Busch Enjoying...
* Kyle Busch Continues Storybook Season
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. Seeks Michigan Sweep
* Marcos Ambrose Riding Wave Of Momentum
* Jockeying For 12 Chase Spots Continues
* NASCAR CAM: Greg Biffle/Jack Roush Point Towards Michigan
Kyle Busch Enjoying Storybook Season
Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota) looks to add to his storybook season this weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pays a return visit to Michigan International Speedway.
The 23-year-old Busch already has put together the type of season that drivers dream of having. Consider some of his accomplishments through the first 22 races of the year:
Series-high eight victories, along with 13 top- five and 14 top-10 finishes
Once he clinches a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, he will be the top seed with 80 bonus points
His 16 national series wins in one season (eight in NASCAR Sprint Cup, six in NASCAR Nationwide Series, and two in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series) is a NASCAR record for wins spread across all three series in a single season
Series-high Driver Rating of 110.6 (compared to 96.5 at this time a year ago)
Has displayed outstanding versatility with four wins on intermediate tracks, two on road courses, and two on restrictor plate tracks
With his victory last Sunday at Watkins Glen, he became the 18th driver with eight or more wins in the first 22 races of a season -- 13 of the previous 17 went on to win the series championship.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Looks For Michigan Sweep
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet) hopes history repeats history this Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
The last time he visited this two-mile oval (June 15), he snapped a 76-race winless streak by outlasting Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) in a green-white-checkered two-lap shootout to claim his 18th career victory and first at MIS.
Coming off a disappointing 22nd-place finish last Sunday at the Glen, Earnhardt currently would be seeded fifth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He says he's looking forward to a return trip to MIS this Sunday.
"I really like that race track; it's a lot of fun to race on," Earnhardt said. "We are sort of starting to swing back toward the tracks that we have better runs at and we have better luck at. I've had some rough, rough runs this summer, but that seems to be the case every year. These cars are pretty challenging this year, but that is still a fun track for me."
The last driver to sweep both races at Michigan was Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios Racing/Betty Crocker Dodge) in 1995.
Marcos Ambrose Looks To Continue Momentum
In what has to be one of the top "feel-good" stories in NASCAR this season, Marcos Ambrose (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) looks to build upon the momentum he generated this past weekend at Watkins Glen.
On Saturday, the likable Australian won his first NASCAR race, winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at The Glen. If that wasn't enough excitement, he turned around the next day and passed 40 cars en route to a third-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, while driving the No. 21 car for the Wood Brothers. It was the best finish for that historic NASCAR racing organization since 2005.
"It is very special to drive for the Wood Brothers," said Ambrose following Sunday's race. "They are historically one of the most famous teams. I remember them growing up; I read a lot about them with their race wins here in NASCAR. They've had a tough year and they need some momentum to move them forward, and I hope I can help them do that."
Ambrose's ascension through the NASCAR ranks is a prime example of the ladder system in the sport. The former two-time Australian V8 Supercar champion got his NASCAR start in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, running 22 of 25 races in the No. 20 Ford for Wood Brothers/JTG Racing. In 2009, Ambrose will be driving the No. 47 Little Debbie Ford fulltime for JTG Daugherty Racing.
Ambrose currently is 10th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings. He is slated to once again drive the No. 21 Ford in Sunday's NSCS race and the No. 59 Ford in Saturday's NNS race.
Jockeying For Top 12 Chase Positions Continues
While the first five positions in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are becoming more solidified each week, there remains some considerable jockeying for positions 6-12.
With four races remaining until the Chase begins, a look at the standings show just how competitive things are at this point of the season. Only 148 points separate sixth and 13th places in the current point standings. It's even tighter between ninth and 13th places -- a mere 83 points.
And, Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) is just 22 points behind the 12th place driver -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford). Kenseth is one of only two drivers (Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet is the other) to make the Chase field all four years of its existence.
Roush Fenway Racing, Michigan A Perfect Fit:
Roush Fenway Racing drivers have won 10 times at Michigan International Speedway -- second most of any organization. The Wood Brothers lead the way with 11 wins at this two-mile oval. Roush Fenway drivers have won six of the last 13 races at MIS.
Former or current Roush Fenway drivers who have visited Victory Lane at Michigan include: Mark Martin (No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet) with four wins, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford) with two wins each, and Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) with one win each.
Greg Biffle and team owner Jack Roush were this week's guests on the NASCAR CAM Video Teleconference.
Q: To what do you attribute Roush Fenway Racing's success at Michigan?
Biffle: "The very first time I saw the racetrack and was on it in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, I adapted to the track very well, loved the race track, the way it raced. I raced twice there in the Trucks, was undefeated, and then came back and got two more wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. That racetrack has just been one of my favorites right out of the get-go."
Roush: "Michigan is a great track for us, a two-mile track with a lot of opportunity to race wheel-to-wheel, to race clean, to be able to pass clean, and the guys have been very effective. I'm just proud to ride the wave."
Q: How much on-track attention do you pay to other drivers attempting to secure a Chase spot?
Biffle: "When the caution comes out, we'll sometimes reflect on where people are running. I won't call in and ask; I know the cars I'm racing for that position. I'll see them ten spots ahead of me and know that there's nothing I can do about it, but certainly I'm aware where they're at and running. Once the green flag drops you're really focused on the task at hand, and that's getting the car around the track."
Q: How has the manufacturers' role changed?
Roush: "If none of the manufacturers were involved at the level they all are, then it wouldn't matter. But today, every time somebody steps up then the other manufacturers feel the need to match it, and if they don't do that, then they'll get behind. It's really a cascade, snowball thing. "
Top 35: No. 84 Toyota Bursts Into Top 35
AJ Allmendinger (No. 84 Red Bull Toyota) has raced his way into the top 35 in owners' points with a string of impressive performances over the past four races.
His 11th-place finish last week at Watkins Glen moved his team up to 35th in owners' points -- the first time it has been on the inside of that magic number since Red Bull Racing made its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in 2007.
Since Jimmy Elledge took over as crew chief for the No. 84 after the Daytona race in early July, Allmendinger has turned in finishes of 13th at Chicagoland, 10th at Indianapolis, 19th at Pocono and 11th at Watkins Glen.
"We're in the top 35 and that's been our big deal and I know once we get in we're not going to fall back out," Allmendinger said. "When we get to Michigan, I'll be a lot happier when we don't have to qualify on time."
The No. 00 Champion Mortgage Toyota, owned by Rob Kauffman, is 36th in owners' points, and is just eight points out of 35th place. Veteran driver Mike Skinner will be behind the wheel of that machine this week at Michigan, in place of regular driver Michael McDowell.
In The Loop: Roush Drivers Hard To Beat
The event at MIS arrives at a most opportune time for three members of Roush Fenway Racing.
Take the case of Carl Edwards for instance.
Edwards, second in the series standings, is a near-certainty to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. So for him, it's an all-or-nothing strategy going into the final four races in the Race to the Chase. Edwards trails Kyle Busch in the Chase bonus points by 50 points, so a win is imperative -- and Michigan looks like the perfect place for it to happen.
Edwards has been brilliant there. In eight career Michigan starts, Edwards has seven top-10 finishes. He won there in the spring of 2007 and is coming off consecutive seventh-place runs. Since 2005 (which includes four top fives in seven races), Edwards owns series-high marks in Driver Rating (112.5), Average Running Position (7.4), Laps in the Top 15 percentage (89.6%) and Quality Passes (382).
Then there are two of his teammates -- Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle -- who are both in the top 12 and battling to stay there. Kenseth is in the more precarious situation, sitting in 12th, 22 points ahead of 13th-place Clint Bowyer.
Kenseth could pad his lead with another strong run at Michigan. Over his last seven races there, Kenseth has turned in five top-five finishes, including a win in the 2006 summer event. Over that seven-race span, Kenseth has a Driver Rating of 10.72 (third).
Biffle is 83 points inside the Chase cut-off and is coming off two consecutive finishes outside the top 10. For Biffle's mini-slump to end this weekend at Michigan, he'll also need to end a Michigan mini-slump. Over the past three races at MIS, Biffle has finishes of 38th, 19th and 20th. But prior to that, he had five consecutive top-10 runs, including back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005.
Since 2005, Biffle has a Driver Rating of 104.0 (fourth), an Average Running Position of 9.7 (third), 95 Fastest Laps Run (second) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 81.8% (third).
Kyle Busch's win last week at Watkins Glen was his series-high eighth of the season and the ninth win for Toyota on the year. As a result, Toyota increased its lead over Chevrolet in the Manufacturers' Championship standings -- 143-121. Ford is right on Chevrolet's heels, just one point behind -- 121-120. Dodge is fourth with 100 points. Ford has enjoyed solid success at Michigan, winning 30 times there overall, including seven of the past 13 races at Michigan.
NSCS, Etc: Michigan International Speedway Celebrates 40th Anniversary
MIS Sports 40-Year History Of Racing
Michigan International Speedway is celebrating its 40th anniversary of racing in 2008. Located on 1,400-plus acres in the scenic Irish Hills region, MIS' 2-mile layout features 18 degree banking and 73-foot wide sweeping turns.
A Who's Who of NASCAR greats have added to their racing resume by winning at Michigan. David Pearson is the all-time winner with nine victories, followed by Cale Yarborough with eight. Mark Martin leads current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers with four wins at Michigan.
"I love racing at Michigan," Martin said. "It's one of the tracks that really suits my style of driving. The track is big and wide and there is plenty of room to pass. If you get your car hooked up just right at Michigan, a driver can have a lot of fun there. On the other hand, if you aren't very good, it can make for a long day. I've had my share of success there over the years and I would say it is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit."
Kyle Busch Going For Broke?
Currently with eight wins on the season, points leader Kyle Busch has a legitimate chance to establish a new single-season record for victories. Since the schedule was reduced in size in 1972, 13 wins in a season has been the standard -- with Richard Petty winning 13 in 1975 and Jeff Gordon matching that number in 1998.
Stewart On The Verge Of Winning?
While Tony Stewart's (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) winless drought has now reached 36 races, all indications point to the fact a victory is right around the corner for the two-time series champion. Stewart has earned runner-up finishes the past two races. He also has the second-best Driver Rating (100.6) at the next four tracks.
Variety The Norm At Michigan?
There have been 14 different race winners in the past 18 races at Michigan. Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) have repeated as race winners there since August, 1999.
Half A Century Milestone For Reutimann
David Reutimann (No. 44 UPS Toyota) will make his 50th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start this Sunday at Michigan. Reutimann currently is 27th in drivers' points with one top 10 finish on the year -- at Lowe's in May.
Carl Edwards will celebrate his 29th birthday this Friday, Aug. 15.
Looking For Michigan Win -- Two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has visited Victory Lane 35 times during his career, but is still looking for his first victory at Michigan International Speedway. Johnson's wins have come at 15 different tracks, with MIS just one of seven tracks on the current schedule where Johnson has yet to win.
Up Next: Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will go short-track racing next weekend, with the annual late-summer visit to Bristol Motor Speedway. Carl Edwards is the defending race champion.
Three-quarters through the 2007 Sharpie 500 at the newly-repaved Bristol Motor Speedway, Edwards took the lead for good on Lap 371 and held off Kasey Kahne for his first victory at this historic short track. Kahne led 305 laps, but Edwards led the final 130 laps to claim his second win of the season and his first in the new car. With the victory, Edwards clinched a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Clint Bowyer ran third, followed by Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kahne was the polesitter.
The Race: 3M Performance 400 presented by Bondo
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, Aug. 17
The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 2-mile oval
The Distance: 400 miles/200 laps
TV: ESPN, 1 p.m. (ET))
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio
2007 Winner: Kurt Busch
2007 Polesitter: Jeff Gordon
Friday -- Practice, 12-1:30 p.m., Qualifying, 3:40 p.m.
Saturday -- Practice, 12:30-1:15 p.m. and 1:50-2:50 p.m.