Michigan: Round 15 preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News and Notes - Michigan Edwards Looks To Defend Michigan Title Roush Fenway Racing Enjoys Michigan Success Kahne Riding Hot Streak Into Summer Stretch Ragan Nearing Chase Berth; Several Drivers In Contention Michigan...

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News and Notes - Michigan

Edwards Looks To Defend Michigan Title
Roush Fenway Racing Enjoys Michigan Success
Kahne Riding Hot Streak Into Summer Stretch
Ragan Nearing Chase Berth; Several Drivers In Contention

Michigan Win In 2007 Puts Edwards Back On Fast Track

It started as a joke at the end of a breakout season.

After Carl Edwards' (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) win at Texas Motor Speedway in Nov. 2005, Edwards' motor coach driver and longtime friend Tom Giacchi, famously declared that he wouldn't shave until Edwards' next victory.

For a driver that won four races in his first full season -- and two consecutively in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- the wait wasn't supposed to be long.

However, a sophomore slump left Edwards without a win in 2006, and Giacchi with an ever-growing beard.

It took 15 races the following season, but Edwards finally returned to Victory Lane. The win came at Michigan International Speedway in June 2007, the same track at which Edwards finished 10th in his series debut in 2004.

While the win was nice for Giacchi, it has helped put Edwards and the No. 99 team back where they were the previous season--winning races. Edwards won two more races last season (Bristol and Dover) and has already won three through 14 races in 2008. He trails only Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) (seven) in wins in the past year.

Roush Dominates Michigan

There is nowhere that Roush Fenway Racing performs better than Michigan International Speedway. And team owner Jack Roush, who lives in nearby Livonia, Mich., wouldn't have it any other way.

"We have two-thirds of our activities and two-thirds of our people located in southeast Michigan," said Roush, referring to Roush Industries. "So we've got great support and great exposure for our employees and all the things that means moral-wise.

"We were able to win on the 100th anniversary of Ford Motor Company, I had my 200th win there with Mark Martin and on average we have won more there in all three series than we have at any other track."

Of Roush's 105 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins, 10 have come at Michigan. He also has three NASCAR Nationwide Series wins and three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series wins.

"I keep waiting for the bubble to burst," Roush said. "I go to Michigan and think we've had way more than our share of good fortune here, when do we start giving it back.

I sure hope it's not this weekend."

Kahne Hopes To Continue Momentum At Michigan

The day before the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, a frustrated Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) confessed to the media, "to me it's just (our) cars aren't where they need to be to go fast."

The next day, his car was still not where it needed to be to win the Sprint Open. Thanks to a fan vote, Kahne made the all-star race, where his fortunes changed.

Kahne won the race -- his first victory since October 2006 at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- and followed it with a Coca-Cola 600 win the next weekend.

Two weeks later, Kahne added another at Pocono Raceway.

He knows the team is building up to something big that can carry them through the season.

"Momentum is so big in this sport," Kahne said. "The excitement, the confidence and everything; you go to Gillett Evernham right now and everybody is walking around there with a smile on their face, and that's not how it was a month and a half ago. But that's probably how it was in '06. It's just good. Everybody is excited."

This weekend, the team has another chance to add back-to-back wins at a track Kahne has already conquered.

"Michigan has always been a strong track for us and we're looking forward to keeping the momentum going. Everything is clicking for this team right now, it would be great to get back-to-back wins for Gillett Evernham."

Ragan Closing In On 12th Place; Other Chase Hopefuls Hang Tight

The start to David Ragan's (No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career wasn't exactly a fairy tale, but signs are starting to point to a happy ending.

Ragan was thrust into NASCAR's top series after being named as Mark Martin's replacement in the famous No. 6 Ford in late 2006. After a slow start, during which Ragan was labeled a "dart without feathers", the second-generation driver is starting to come around, displaying the talent that earned him his coveted ride.

Just over halfway towards the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Ragan has put together a solid season and sits seven points out of 12th place -- the cutoff point for Chase eligibility.

"I've been making fewer mistakes on the track," Ragan said. "We've been qualifying better and just overall have had better cars every weekend. I also have been making better decisions throughout the whole weekend when it comes down to practice, qualifying and the race. All of these things combined have definitely helped us get to where we currently are in the points."

Ragan isn't the only driver in position to make a run at a Chase berth. Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) is 14th, 10 points behind 12th, Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Carhartt Ford) is 15th, 34 back, Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) is 16th, 56 back and Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota) used a second-place finish at Pocono to climb to 17th, 112 back.

That's not to say that others aren't still in the hunt for the Chase. Kenseth was in 24th place, 308 points out of Chase contention in 2005 at this point of the season, and roared back to make the Chase.

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Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) was this week's guest on the NASCAR CAM Video Teleconference.

On the importance of winning at Michigan

"Well, it's the manufacturer's backyard and everybody gets excited to carry their nameplate to Victory Lane at Michigan. I've had the chance to do it for Dodge, and of course Roger Penske's headquarters are up there. It seems like a second home race for everybody. You've got Charlotte, of course, and then you've got Michigan, which are two very pride-filled racetracks, and any driver that goes to Victory Lane at Michigan feels that for their manufacturer, it's a proud day and a proud moment for Dodge when we get to win there."

On younger brother Kyle Busch

"He seems to be doing real well. He hasn't asked for any type of advice, and you know, the thing is that we're both racers and we both love to try to win. He's got everything going for him right now, so he's grabbing life by the horns, as you would say in Dodge Land, and he's going for it."

On his team's struggles this season

"You know, when you're 21st you want to be first, and when you're first it can be real easy to get smacked down to 21st. So you have the good times and you have the bad, and you try to even them all out. We're working real hard to get ourselves back up in this points mix and see if we can't make the Chase."

Top 35: No. 66 Chevrolet Leaps Into Locked-In Position

Scott Riggs (No. 66 State Water Heaters Chevrolet) finished 21st at Pocono, bringing his Joe Custer-owned Chevrolet to 34th in the owner standings and a secured spot in Sunday's race. The Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet had previously fallen out of the top 35 after being docked 100 points for improper wing mounting locations.

Riggs' rise came at the expense of Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota), who fell out of the final locked-in position after a 37th-place finish at Pocono. Waltrip, who is also the car's owner, will be required to qualify for a position in the race at Michigan.

Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge) holds the final locked-in position for car owner Roger Penske. Hornish is guaranteed to make the race at the track Penske used to own.

Forty-six cars are expected this weekend, meaning there will be 11 cars vying for the final eight positions in the race. Two of those cars -- the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford (Bill Elliott) and the No. 45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge (Terry Labonte) are driven by former champions, leaving each another opportunity to make the race if their qualifying speeds aren't quick enough.

Loop Data: Roush Teams Top Charts

Roger Penske may have once owned Michigan International Speedway, but statistically this is the track that Jack Roush built.

Three Roush Fenway Racing drivers rank in the top five in Driver Rating: Carl Edwards (first), Greg Biffle (third) and Matt Kenseth (fifth).

But one Roush Fenway driver in particular is king of the two-mile MIS oval layout: Edwards.

Edwards, who broke a 52-race winless drought with last season's Michigan win, ranks first in a number of statistical categories over the past six races.

Edwards, who has finished in the top 10 in five of the last six races, leads the series in Michigan Driver Rating (112.3), Average Running Position (7.9), Average Green Flag Speed (175.550 mph), Laps in the Top 15 percentage (88.2%) and Quality Passes (329). Additionally, he's tied for third in Fastest Laps Run with 81.

Teammate Biffle, who has run strong lately this season, is a definite threat for his first victory of 2008. Biffle won back-to-back races at Michigan (the second race of 2004 and first of 2005) that began a streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes. Last season, though, Biffle struggled there, with finishes of 38th and 19th.

Still, over the last six Michigan races, Biffle has a third-best Driver Rating (105.4), a third-best Average Running Position (9.7) and the second-most Fastest Laps Run (88).

Kenseth looks as if he's shaken of any bad vibes from his early-season struggles. After finishes of 38th (Phoenix), 41st (Talladega) and 38th (Richmond), Kenseth sat 22nd in the point standings. Since then, he has enjoyed four consecutive top-10 finishes and is up to 15th in the standings, only 34 points behind 12th-place Tony Stewart.

This Sunday, he can continue his march. Kenseth has two wins there, and finished fourth the last time the series raced at Michigan. Since 2005, Kenseth has a Driver Rating of 104.1, an Average Running Position of 13.1 and has run 72.55 of the Laps in the Top 15.

Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings

Regan Smith (No. 01 Principal Financial Group/DEI Chevrolet) finished ahead of Sam Hornish Jr. in the Pocono 500 to regain the lead in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings. The two were tied heading into Pocono.

Michael McDowell (No. 00 MWR Toyota) finished 27th, the highest of the five rookies, for his second Raybestos Rookie of the Race award of the season.

Manufacturers' Standings

Kasey Kahne's Pocono win put Dodge in Victory Lane for the third time in 2008, tying Chevrolet and Ford. Toyota leads all manufacturers with five wins.

Ford hopes a trip to Michigan will end its 'winless streak'. A Ford driver has not won a race since Carl Edwards' win in Texas on April 6, but the manufacturer has won seven of the last 12 Michigan races. Dodge has won the remaining five races.

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NSCS, Etc: Hornish Excited For First Father's Day At Home Track

Hornish Set For Homecoming

Sunday's LifeLock 400 will have special meaning for Sam Hornish Jr. Not only does Hornish consider Michigan International Speedway his home track, but it will also mark his first Father's Day. Hornish and wife Crystal welcomed daughter Addison Faith to the world on Feb. 4.

In addition to celebrating his own Father's Day, Hornish, from Defiance, Ohio, is excited to spend time with his own father.

"I'm really looking forward to this weekend in Michigan," Hornish said. "To spend Father's Day close to home with my family and my dad is very special to me. I remember going to Michigan International Speedway as a child with my dad and some of my fondest memories are from there."

Hornish finished 25th in the 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan, his only NASCAR start at the track. He has four top fives and six top 10s in six Michigan starts in the IRL and ARCA.

Special Birthday Wishes

Mark Martin (No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet) will deliver a special birthday gift to the United States Army at Michigan this weekend. The Army will be celebrating its 233rd birthday on Saturday, June 14 and Martin and Army officials will take part in a cake-cutting ceremony prior to Sunday's race.

"The only birthday gift I have in mind is a trip to Victory Lane with the U.S. Army Chevrolet," Martin said.

Special Honor For Greg and Nicole Biffle

Greg Biffle (No. 16 Dish Network Ford) and wife Nicole will be honored by the North Shore Animal League America for their life saving efforts on behalf of homeless animals on Wednesday. The couple run the Greg Biffle Foundation which "creates awareness and serves as advocates to improve the well-being of animals by engaging the power and passion of the motor-sports industry."

The Biffles will be recognized during the North Shore Animal League America's seventh annual Lewyt Humane Awards Luncheon which honors individuals and organizations who have helped to save lives and sustain the Animal League's mission to rescue, nurture and adopt.

On The Right Track

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell Pennzoil Chevrolet) has been running at the finish in 58 consecutive races -- tying his all-time record of 58 for consecutive completed races. Herman Beam completed 84 consecutive races that he competed in (1961-63) but, he did not compete in all of the races during his personal streak.

Martin Truex Jr. was the runner-up finisher in both Michigan races last year. The first came two weeks after his first career win at Dover last June. He finished third at Pocono in between the two. This year Truex finished sixth at Dover and 17th at Pocono.

Patrick Carpentier (No. 10 LifeLock Dodge) will be attempting his stock car debut at Michigan, but the former open-wheel star has plenty of experience on the two-mile track. Carpentier has six career open wheel starts at Michigan and won the final CART-sanctioned race at the track.

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Up Next: Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will visit Infineon Raceway next weekend, the first of two road courses on the schedule.

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Big Red Slim Pack Dodge) started 32nd in last year's race and worked his way through the field before taking the lead for the first time on Lap 104 of the 110-lap race. Montoya led the final seven laps of the race for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. It was also the first win for Dodge at the Northern California track. Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal Ford) started on the pole.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) leads all drivers with five wins and five poles at Infineon.

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The Race: LifeLock 400
The Place: Michigan International Speedway

The Date: Sunday, June 15
The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)

TV: TNT, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio

The Track: 2-mile oval
The Distance: 400 miles/200 laps

2007 Winner: Carl Edwards
2007 Polesitter: J.J. Yeley

Pre-Race Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:10 p.m. Saturday -- Practice, 12-12:45 and1:20-2:20 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Roush Fenway Racing