Dodge gets first win in 24 years at Michigan

By PNSchilke - After "Happy Hour" yesterday, the storm clouds that had been hovering to the north moved in and dumped lots of rain overnight. This morning after light mist, the sun came out under still partly cloudy skies. Word is...

By PNSchilke -

After "Happy Hour" yesterday, the storm clouds that had been hovering to the north moved in and dumped lots of rain overnight. This morning after light mist, the sun came out under still partly cloudy skies. Word is possible heavy rain late this afternoon with a chance of hail and tornados. The race was reschedule to start early at 2:01 p.m. instead of green flag scheduled at 2:20 p.m. on a "green" race track. No doubt, NASCAR officials were trying to get the race in -- needing to get 100 laps (200 miles) to reach half-way mark.

Best laid plans of mice and men were changed due to the omnious clouds that returned north of the track at 1:30 p.m. Pace laps were extended due to a light rain that started after the first pace lap. The Cup cars remained on the track as NASCAR officials were making the decision to rain-delay the start of the race or to display the green flag. Track conditions were not changing as the sun returned over the speedway.

Jeff Burton and team made changes due to the overnight rain and predicted conditions for today. "We made changes for the start of the race and we alter what we need to during pit stops. We are ready to go," Burton said.

Race started at the original schedule time under partly cloudy skies with the sun sneaking a peek out. Early word, of course, is that the track is quite slick. By lap three, passing was definitely under way. Bill Elliott wanted to make sure Dodge had a good chance to win and took the early lead. Ricky Rudd kept playing with Elliott by attempting a pass for the lead and on lap 10, turn 4 -- Rudd became the leader. Ricky Craven, pole sitter, was trying to make move on Elliott on lap 11.

First pit stops with a lot of adjustments made to the cars. Rudd was happy with his car so no change was made. Jeff Gordon had a problem with his pit stop -- hard time getting hid right front tire off. During the stop, they also made a few adjustments and corrected his vision problem by cleaning the windshield. Elliott had a great pit stop and took over the lead.

Top five on lap 50: Elliott, Craven, Rudd, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Sterling Marlin.

Dark skies rolled back in over the main grandstands and turn four with 40 laps to the halfway point. Temperatures became cooler as the skies darken. Teams prepared for the change in the weather and how it would affect the car's handling. Todd Bodine came in for his second pit stop but missed the box and had to put it in reverse to back into his pit box. Rudd's in-track temperature gauge read 120 degrees which is cool compared to the June race here.

Second pit stops started around lap 92. Andretti ran out of fuel on turn three and coasted into pit lane where after refueling and service, he was restarted and continued. Rudd lost a cylinder which gave the lead to Rusty Wallace. Gordon and Elliott had great pit stops while trouble continued for others. Tony Stewart had the worst luck when he ran out of fuel, made it to his pit box, but they could not get the car refired. After several attempts, Stewart was back on track. Harvick lost a cylinder and slowed on track. Hornaday was another one who had the fuel virus. He was giving a nice bump by Skinner and was able to make it to the pits. Wallace came in for a clean pit stop and then the rain started.

Yellow flag came out with three laps to go and Mark Martin inherited the lead as he had not made a pit stop yet. Top five on lap 97: Martin, Kevin Lepage, Wallace, Craven and Casey Atwood. Red flag was shown at the completition of lap 100.

Quotes during red flag:

Bill Elliott -- "Car tightened up when the track got cool. Pretty good in the middle of the run."

Casey Atwood -- "Comfortable to drive, bit tight but running up front."

Mark Martin -- (fuel issue question) "Not if it keeps raining - strategy was to do this. I can't drive from the back to the front - not running good."

During the red flag, Rusty Wallace was seen playing golf over by the team's motorhomes without realizing that teammate Jeremy Mayfield was watching his style.

"We're just staying out of the way. Pontiac is struggling. We'll see if it gets better as the race gets going again," said Johnny Benson.

Fans, teams and crews were treated to a spontaneous jazz jam session performed by Alto Reed, lead saxophonist from Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band. Reed also performed the Candian and American national anthems prior to the race start. Fans filtered back in and from the looks of grandstand, everyone stayed.

Race was restarted under yellow and both Martin and Lepage made pit stops as did others who had not made them prior to the red flag. Leaders at green flag were: Elliott, Wallace, Craven, Jeremy Mayfield and Marlin.

Wallace passed Elliott on the second green flag lap.

On lap 121, Rudd's engine went and he managed to get it down on the apron and into the garage. Yellow flag did come out for lap 122. Rudd was second in points and was nursing the Ford for a finish when it blew. Leaders pitted during the yellow flag.

Leaders at lap 130 were: Elliott, Mayfield, Dave Blaney, Craven and Marlin. Reports at that time were Wallace's engine was going south.

Lap 103 saw a three-deep fight for second between Mayfield, Craven and Blaney. Mayfield got caught out and Marlin moved in for the fight. Four cars continued to fight for second as Elliott pulled away.

Lap 144, Dale Jarrett got loose and bumped the outside wall -- no yellow, minor damage -- and pulled into his pit box for a right side tire change.

Marlin took the lead from Elliott on lap 145 -- Dodge was in position one-two for it's first win.

Piece of plastic blocked the grill of Matt Kenseth's car which caused the engine temperature to rise. Ward Burton had a "push" all day and came in at the early window of the pit stops. As the window opened, the rain started again.

Lap 152 -- Marlin, Craven, Elliott, Kenseth and Blaney. Battle for the lead was between Dodge and Ford throughout most of the race.

Yellow out on lap 156. Rain on track. Leaders were: Marlin, Craven, Elliott, Kenseth and Benson.

Tony Glover, crew chief, Coors Light Dodge was pacing patiently whie waiting for a red flag/checker flag and the celebratin for not only the win at MIS today but more importantly for the first win for Dodge this year to mark their return to Cup racing.

The checker flag was displayed at the completion of lap 162. Race ended for rain.

First win for Dodge since 1977.  First win in NASCAR Winston Cup Racing for
team owner Chip Ganassi.  Winner - Sterling Marlin.

"The key was that on the last pit stop, Tony called for four tires and Bill Elliott took on only two. I was able to run him down and go to the front", said race winner Sterling Marlin.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Todd Bodine , Kevin Lepage , Sterling Marlin , Casey Atwood , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Dave Blaney , Mark Martin