Michigan Int'l Speedway - The Chase spotlight

AUGUST MIS RACE YIELDS SUCCESS IN RACE TO THE CHASE BROOKLYN, Mich. (August 16, 2006) -- Three races lay on the schedule between the end of the GFS Marketplace 400 at MIS on August 20 and the start of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, but the ...

AUGUST MIS RACE YIELDS SUCCESS IN RACE TO THE CHASE

BROOKLYN, Mich. (August 16, 2006) -- Three races lay on the schedule between the end of the GFS Marketplace 400 at MIS on August 20 and the start of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, but the importance of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup's second stop at Michigan International Speedway should not be underscored. Just ask Matt Kenseth.

Last season, Kenseth was reeling as he entered the month of August. In 17th place with just six races before the beginning of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, the driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford seemed unbelievably far away from entering the 10-race playoff in the top 10 for his second consecutive season. As the 2003 champion and the eighth-place finisher in both 2002 and 2004, Kenseth appeared to be headed out of the top 10 for the first time since his second full season in the series.

A top-10 finish in Indianapolis bumped Kenseth up two spots with just five races remaining, but an 18th place finish at Watkins Glen the following week took the 32-year-old back down to 16th. Kenseth appeared to be going nowhere -- fast.

Enter Michigan International Speedway. After starting in the 13th position in the GFS Marketplace 400, Kenseth slowly moved up, leading nine laps on the way to a third-place finish. Though his finish on the two-mile oval only moved him up a single spot, his high MIS finish was the first in a string of four consecutive top-10s that led him to a berth in the Chase. Once in the playoff, Kenseth would go as high as fifth in the standings and eventually landed in seventh, assuring him his fourth consecutive top-10 season in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

Kenseth wasn't the only benefactor of a strong MIS performance in 2005. In all, six of the top seven and seven of the top 10 finishers in MIS's second Cup outing last season made the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. Eventual series champion Tony Stewart finished fifth in the GFS Marketplace 400, and would-be series runner-up Greg Biffle took sixth.

This season, Biffle has been spent much of his time just outside the top 10, but as he returns to MIS, he returns to a track at which he has experienced success. Though currently in the 13th position in the NEXTEL Cup standings, a return to Michigan just might be the right formula to get the driver of the No. 16 National Guard Ford back into Chase contention.

"I always say that Michigan is one of my favorite race tracks," Biffle said. "I've had a lot of success at that track in all three series and I enjoy the racing there. There's plenty of room for good side-by-side racing and passing."

Biffle scored back-to-back wins at MIS in August 2004 and June 2005, finished sixth last August, and finished fourth in the 3M Performance 400 in June. Since NASCAR started compiling loop data statistics in June 2005, Biffle has the highest driver rating of any driver at MIS in the NEXTEL Cup Series. If Biffle can continue his success, he might just find himself closer to the Chase for the second consecutive year.

Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, and Kurt Busch hold the ninth through 12th spots in the standings heading into the GFS Marketplace 400, and all have shown that they know how to drive the Michigan two-mile oval. Earnhardt Jr. was hot at MIS early this summer with his third-place finish in the 3M Performance 400, and Busch and Kahne each count an Irish Hills victory to their credit. Of the four, Gordon is the most decorated, and perhaps most excited of all to come to Michigan. In 27 Cup starts at MIS, Gordon has two wins and five runner-ups among 18 top-10 finishes.

There's history to the trend, as well. In 2004, five of the top 10 August finishers made the inaugural Chase. Over the past decade, half of the August Cup winners have finished in the top three in the final point standings.

With the heat on for teams and drivers to make the playoff chase, MIS is one of the final places to make a tune-up for the stretch run. Overall, it's safe to say that doing well at MIS in August pays off when it counts.

Tickets to all remaining events during the 2006 MIS season delivered by Domino's Pizza, including the ARCA RE/MAX Series Hantz Group 200 on August 18, the NASCAR Busch Series Carfax 250 on August 19, and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series GFS Marketplace 400 on August 20, are currently on sale at MIS's official website, www.MISpeedway.com, or by calling the MIS ticket hotline at 1-800-354-1010.

-credit: mis

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Series NASCAR-CUP