Michigan: Series round 15 preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News & Notes -- Michigan Hamlin Takes Lead In Series Wins And Chase Seeding The man who appears to be blazing a path to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this season is Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight ...

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News & Notes -- Michigan

Hamlin Takes Lead In Series Wins And Chase Seeding

The man who appears to be blazing a path to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this season is Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota) after winning at Pocono Raceway last weekend and landing his fourth win of the season, which now leads the series. It also was his fourth win at Pocono second all-time only to Bill Elliott (No. 21 FORDPARTS.com Ford) at the 2-mile track.

And to boot, Hamlin has taken the lead in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup seeding gaining 40 bonus points so far moving ahead of four-time series champion Jimmie Johnson's (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) 30 bonus points. If the Chase was set now, Hamlin would be the top seed.

Hamlin has been on fire in 2010, posting four wins and six top fives in the first 14 races. He is third in the standings behind leader Kevin Harvick (No. 29 SHELL/Pennzoil Chevrolet) (136 points back) and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Pretzel Toyota) (117 points behind), who is second.

"I feel like we're one of four or five guys that really are legitimate, week in and week out, up-front guys," Hamlin said. "But it's very tough to stay on top of any sport for the entire year."

This week Hamlin and the No. 11 team roll into the Irish Hills of Michigan looking to continue the momentum. Hamlin has eight starts and two top fives and four top 10s at Michigan International Speedway including his third-place finish at this event last season. His average finish at Michigan is 13.3.

"Right now we are being conservative, believe it or not, in our attempt for this season," Hamlin said. "Hopefully we will peak at the right time. I mean, mean, anyone would say, 'Yeah you're peaking right now.' Really I feel like the best is yet to come."

Mark Martin And No. 5 Team Looking For Last Year's Success

One of the most respected drivers in the garage and a leading contender in last year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Mark Martin (No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet), is looking to find the same magic that the No. 5 team had last year while vying for a championship.

Martin, currently 11th in the series standings, dropped two spots from ninth after being caught in a last-lap accident at Pocono Raceway. He's looking to rebound at Michigan as he returns as the defending winner and series-leading active winner with five victories there.

"We have lost some speed in our cars since we have gone to the spoiler," said crew chief Alan Gustafson. "But we have been putting a lot of time in the wind tunnel and we are confident we will find it and get back into contention week in and week out. "

Last season at this time, Martin and Company had posted two wins, while this season has gotten off to a slow start. He has yet to win and has posted five top fives, six top 10s and a pole.

This week at Michigan could prove to be the catalyst this team needs to stay in the championship hunt. Martin has made 48 starts at Michigan, posting five wins, 17 top fives, 29 top 10s and one pole. His average finish at the 2-mile speedway is 13.3.

In The Loop: Michigan The Perfect Rx For Edwards, Rest of Roush Fenway

One word may pop into the mind when sorting through Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford) 2010 statistics: Odd.

The stats aren't bad. They're also not good. They're odd, especially considering to whom they belong.

Edwards has a Driver Rating of 80.7, which ranks 19th in the series -- much lower than his ninth-place points position. That's the weird part. Only twice has Edwards suffered a terrible finish -- at Atlanta, when he finished 39th, and Texas where he ended up 33rd.

Otherwise, Edwards has hovered around the top 10, and only once finished in the top five (a fifth at Richmond).

That explains the points position. His finishes are usually better than his performances. A recent example: At Pocono, Edwards finished 12th. His Driver Rating of 80.8 in the race was 16th-best.

The same can be said about his two Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contending teammates: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford) and Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford).

Kenseth's Driver Rating of 86.9 ranks 10th, yet he is fourth in points. Biffle's 84.0 Driver Rating is 14th-best. He sits 10th in points.

All three are in the top 12, none have a win.

The drought could -- and should -- end this weekend. Michigan is Roush Country. The team has 11 wins there, tied for most with the Wood Brothers.

The team also boasts three of the top four overall Driver Ratings at Michigan. Edwards owns a series-best 112.5 rating; Biffle is third at 103.5 and Kenseth is fourth at 103.1.

Stewart Climbing Back Into Contention Just Before Prelude To The Dream

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Old Spice Chevrolet) can see the light at the end of the tunnel, after finishing third at Pocono Raceway last weekend, his best finish since second- place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this season.

Stewart is currently 13th in the series standings, just one point behind 12th-place Clint Bowyer (No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet). He has posted two top fives and five top 10s in the first 14 races of the season.

But before the big race on Sunday, there's another one on Wednesday, June 9 the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream. It will be presented live nationally on HBO Pay-Per- View® from Stewart's own Eldora Speedway with net proceeds from the telecast supporting four of the nation's top children's hospitals:

Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis: www.RileyChildrensHospital.com

Cincinnati Children's: www.CincinnatiChildrens.org

Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, N.C.: www.LevineChildrensHospital.org

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.: www.StJude.org

Beyond the charity element, this year's Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream is a team event. There will still be an individual race winner, but there will now be a race within the race, with the field broken up into four teams, each representing a children's hospital.

Each hospital will receive a donation, with the payout breakdown as follows: Winning team receives 45 percent of net money raised, secondplace team receives 25 percent of net money raised, third- and fourth-place teams each receive 15 percent of net money raised. The lowest team score wins, and only the top-five drivers from each team will be scored.

A pre-race show will air on SPEED Channel June 9, at 6 p.m. prior to the race.

"We're excited about it (Prelude to the Dream)," Stewart said. "It's obviously something we've enjoyed doing every year. It really is an atmosphere and I think it's something these guys really look forward to as well."

NASCAR Cam Video Teleconference: Jack Roush

Roush Fenway Racing owner Jack Roush was the guest on Tuesday's NASCAR Video Teleconference. Here are some of the excerpts.

Question: Where do you get your hats?

Roush: Well, my hats came from a Canadian source. I started buying the hats, exactly the same hat, about 1994 and had multiple road race cars at the time and multiple NASCAR cars at the time, and I had so many sponsors -- I was like the old woman that lived in a shoe; I had so many sponsors I didn't know which hat to wear. So I decided I'd get a straw hat and whatever I wore would be personal, and so I've worn a straw hat ever since.

Question: What are your observations about what has happened to Ford's competitiveness, why it happened, what you have to do to catch up, and whether catching up is in sight?

Roush: If you look at my (NASCAR) Sprint Cup programs, and those of Richard Petty Motorsports and Wood Brothers, all three, you say what is wrong with the Fords; the teams aren't getting it done. Ford support has been as good as it's ever been, monetary support has been equal to prior years, the technical support has improved, and a greater commitment was made over the winter to support the teams than has been made in the past.

We started off 2010 with certainly hopeful results at Daytona, not as good as last year when we ran, but good results at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas. We were certainly very encouraged by that.

We've got third-party vendors, not Ford and not Roush-Fenway, that were engaged in our data analysis and in our simulations, and quite frankly we haven't got the results this year that we had expected. Certainly the results aren't as good from the simulation data, the analysis point of view, as we had in 2008, and given the fact that we don't have testing that has been a handicap.

If you say, okay, but whatever meets the road is what happens on race day, on the race weekend, we have this year arrived at the racetrack, unloaded with simulated strategies for setups that have not been as good as our competitors, and that's what brought us to the point of looking at what we were getting and looked for the correlations and found that we didn't have the correlations that we'd expected on many of the simulations.

So we're starting off with not as good of a setup in the car based on simulations as we've had in the past and as we've expected. We're working to fill that void. I hope that we'll break through at MIS and be able to win again and rack up Ford's 12th win there for this first Michigan race because hopefully we could win twice there. We've done that in the past.

Two Crew Chiefs In The Garage Spotlight: Gil Martin and Dave Rogers

Every driver in the garage will agree that NASCAR is a team sport. The people who hold the teams together and make everything run smoothly are the crew chiefs, and two have taken their teams to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings Gil Martin, crew chief for Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick and Dave Rogers, crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch. Martin and Harvick are the series' standings leaders after the first 14 races this season, posting one win, five top fives and a series-leading 10 top 10s. "We have a lot of direction on a lot of different things where before we didn't have as much guidance as I feel like we have now," Harvick said. "The box that we work in is much different than the box that we worked in a year ago. Structure is just a lot better." The RCR duo heads to Michigan this week, where Harvick has posted two top fives and six top 10s in 18 starts. Rogers and Busch are on the No. 29 team's bumper, just 19 points behind in second place in the series standings. The JGR tandem has accumulated two poles, two wins, five top fives and nine top 10s this season. "We struggled a little bit in the beginning -- the first five races, or so -- just getting the finishes we deserved," Busch said. "We ran well. We just didn't get the finishes we were looking for. Since we've been able to knock some top-fives off and get a win at Richmond, we've really been able to run well and we've had some great runs. "I relay a lot to him (Rogers). I think he's done a wonderful job. I think he's done a lot for this team and for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization as a whole to make us all better, and he's made us all work a little bit harder toward winning races. I feel like he's done a really good job."

Around The Track At Michigan International Speedway

Sandler & James Reunite In Michigan Adam Sandler and Kevin James, stars of Columbia Pictures' "Grown Ups," in theaters June 25, will serve as grand marshals for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Sandler and James know how to say the most famous words in motorsports with passion and enthusiasm. Each have given the command before -- James in 2007 at Daytona International Speedway and Sandler at Michigan International Speedway in June 2006.

"It's exciting to return to Michigan to give the command and launch the film," Sandler said. "Last time I was there, we had the winning car for the movie 'Click' with Kasey Kahne, so hopefully we will have the same luck with 'Grown Ups'".

Pit Road Pets: Autograph Session

A group of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, crew chiefs and their family members will participate in an autograph session at Michigan International Speedway on Friday, June 11 from 6-8 p.m. in the speedway's Budweiser Acceleration Club.

The autograph session is open to fans that purchase the "Pit Road Pets: NASCAR Stars and Their Pets Second Edition" book. Fans can buy the book at the Ryan Newman Foundation's display tent located near the Kids Zone in the New Holland Fan Plaza. Fans that have already purchased the first or second editions of the book may also bring their copy and participate in the autograph session.

The session is limited to 400 fans and passes will be handed out Friday beginning at 10 a.m. at the Ryan Newman Foundation display tent following their purchase of the book. The Newmans and others will sign copies of the Pit Road Pets book and one other additional item per person.

Scheduled autograph participants are: Ryan and Krissie Newman, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr., Max Papis, Kyle Petty, Regan Smith, Casey Mears, DeLana Harvick, A.J. and Lynne Allmendinger with dog Misty, Aric Almirola with Janice Goss, Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson's crew chief), Steve Letarte (Jeff Gordon's crew chief), Tony Gibson (Ryan Newman's crew chief), Darian Grubb (Tony Stewart's crew chief).

Summer Concerts Accompany Racing

Sick Puppies and Saving Abel headline an amazing concert lineup this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

Australian alternative rock trio Sick Puppies headline the Saturday concert in the New Holland Fan Plaza, shortly after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Saturday, June 12. Saving Abel will take the stage following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday, June 13.

Up Next: Infineon Raceway Next stop on the schedule has the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heading West to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. The action kicks off on Sunday, June 20 on TNT at 2 p.m. and the green flag will drop at 3. Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) is the defending winner and Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota) was the polesitter.

Fast Facts

The Race: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400
The Date: Sunday, June 13

The Track: Michigan International Speedway (2-mile oval)
The Time: 1 p.m. ET

The Distance: 400 miles/200 laps

TV: TNT 12 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN and Sirius NASCAR Radio (WITL-FM 100.7 local)

2009 Polesitter: Brian Vickers
2009 Winner: Mark Martin

Schedule: .
Friday -- Practice 11:30 a.m.- 1 p.m. 3:10 Qualifying. Saturday -- Practice 11-11:45 a.m. Final Practice 12:20-1:20 p.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Max Papis , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Marcos Ambrose , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Regan Smith , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , Denny Hamlin , Chad Knaus , Krissie Newman , Aric Almirola , DeLana Harvick , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Petty Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing