Tag Archives: Michigan International Speedway

NBC Sports and Steve Letarte Brought Their A Game to NASCAR

NBC Sports paid what some might consider a fortune to take over the second half of the NASCAR season from ESPN and TNT. Looking at the declining ratings one cannot disagree with that thought. A bunch of races in and it is apparent that NBC intends to make their half of the season a success.

Each and every week Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton have provided great and accurate analysis of what is happening on the track and off. This week it was apparent that it goes much deeper than that. NBC Sports is reporting on the entire NASCAR viewing experience.

At the end of the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Steve Letarte and the NBC crew went back and covered the side skirt on the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota driven by Matt Kenseth; the race winner.

It might have been shown on TV but it wasn’t noted by the announcers but during a pit stop Matt Kenseth’s team had trouble with a jack and it pulled out the side skirt behind the right front wheel. NASCAR made a big deal about pulling out the side skirts in front of the right rear tire and needless to say comments on Twitter about this was big for quite a while during the race.

NBC came up with the footage and Steve Letarte explained it and why it didn’t matter after the race; more importantly after the interviews of the leading drivers including Matt Kenseth. They even tracked down the crew chief for his explanation.

Steve Letarte said, “The competitor in me saw it in the closing laps and I wanted to know how that side skirt got to where it was. There are some distinct rules that say you cannot flare out these side skirts on purpose but what we’re going to see here on lap 100 pit stop of the 20 of matt Kenseth if you watch tge jack man he attempting to put the jack under the jack post he misses it peals the side skit up he slides it back underneath and catches the post. That is without a doubt not on purpose. If you were going to flare the side skirt out for advantage you would want to do it way closer to the rear tire out underneath the tail pipe that would have been an advantage. That right there is really lucky that the jack man did a good job of not tearing off the entire door off the car he recovered so well that I didn’t even see it on that pit stop but the competitor in me never goes away as I saw him making those laps I wanted to know how that skirt got there and it was definitely a mistake there.

We have reached a new point when NASCAR fans on social media, Twitter that is, are being paid attention to by the TV commentators and/or producers to make sure what is happening is properly covered. What we are talking about is covered and no stone is unturned. The collective eyes on NASCAR are being listened too. It is refreshing. NBC has certainly raised the bar.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 311524 Sean Gardner/Getty Images

NASCAR Needs a Qualifying Bump Hour

Watching NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying it dawned on me. NASCAR really needs a qualifying bump hour instead of knock out. For those of us old racing fans Indy Car had a Bump day in order to make the Indianapolis 500, why can’t we have a bump hour to make the Sprint Cup race?

While watching qualifying this week for the race at Michigan International Speedway it finally dawned on me that in each and every session those drivers who were on or near the bubble were making adjustments and rushing out to try another lap to make or keep their position in that round of qualifying. That is where the excitement of qualifying is. That is what Kasey Kahne did on his way to the Coors Light Pole.

What if we let drivers and teams have at it. Nothing is off the table except shocks, springs and camber. Track bar up or down, wedge, new tires, tire pressure, or tape on the grill; fire away and have at it. You have one and only one hour.

Sure it would cost some teams some $$$ but it would achieve the desired result of making qualifying interesting and exciting. There would be no gaming of qualifying by the teams. Keep going till you get the prize. That is what the idea is, isn’t it?

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 309735 Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Will Hendrick Continue or Roush Return to Form at Michigan?

To say that Roush Fenway Racing has made the Michigan International Speedway their playground in NASCAR is an understatement. Since 2002, a Roush driver has won nine races, one race every year from 2002 to 2008 plus a race in 2012 and 2013. They have more race wins at Michigan than any other Sprint Cup team.

Greg Biffle is the most recent Roush driver to lead the charge. Biffle leads all active drivers with four wins there. His most recent win goes back to this race in 2013. His statistics for Michigan are like Jimmie Johnson’s are at many of the other speedways. He has a driver rating of 107.1, an average finish of 10.9. His average running position of 8.9 is incredible.

In 2014 the Roush Fenway Racing Drivers of Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr had their worst showing ever in this race. Greg Biffle led the team with a finish of 20th followed by Edwards 23rd and Stenhouse 27th. No laps lead and equally painful qualifying positions. In the August race those same drivers did a little better. Biffle scrambled for a 10th place finish, Stenhouse 15th and Edwards 23rd again. In Roush Fenway Racing standards their showing at Michigan last year was dismal.

Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports drivers of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon took full advantage of the opportunity to win the races at Michigan. In fact all four of the Hendrick cars were in the top ten in June and three of the four in August; Jimmie Johnson 1st and 9th, Jeff Gordon 6th and 1st, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 7th and 5th and Kasey Kahne 5th and 16th.

This season Jimmie Johnson has won at three of the five 1.5 speedways but those he didn’t win he had issues leading to damage. Johnson finished 9th at Fontana, Michigan’s 2 mile sister speedway. Stewart Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick has also dominated the 1.5 mile speedways including coming in 2nd at Fontana. They are also a Hendrick associated team.

This weekend all eyes will be on Roush Fenway Racing at their home track. Greg Biffle has shown some improvement this season but overall the Roush teams are still struggling. This weekend will tell the story whether or not there has been any improvement. In the mean time it looks like the Hendrick teams have an edge to continue where they left off last season.

If you cannot get to Michigan International Speedway Sunday, June 14th 2015 for the Quicken Loans 400 it will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 starting at 1:00 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 304998 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Statistics for Michigan International Speedway

Rank Car No. Driver Name Average Finish Driver Rating
1 16 Greg Biffle 10.9 107.1
2 48 Jimmie Johnson 15.3 102.5
3 20 Matt Kenseth 11.7 101.3
4 99 Carl Edwards 9.7 100.5
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12.7 98
6 14 Tony Stewart 10.1 95.8
7 24 Jeff Gordon 15.4 93.6
8 22 Joey Logano 14.9 91.8
9 4 Kevin Harvick 11.5 90.2
10 41 Kurt Busch 21.3 89.9
11 2 Brad Keselowski 14.8 89
12 5 Kasey Kahne 17.1 89
13 18 Kyle Busch 18.9 88.3
14 11 Denny Hamlin 15.3 88.2
15 55 Brian Vickers 17 86.3
16 15 Clint Bowyer 14.6 82.5

 

Paul Menard is Sneaking Up on Two Mile Speedways

Paul Menard, driver of the No. 27 Moen/Menards Chevrolet SS for Richard Childress Racing has been doing quite well on the two mile speedways of Michigan International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. The big question is will he be able to improve on that and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway this Sunday, June 14th 2015.

The statistics for Paul Menard at Michigan are not that great. He is 22nd in driver ratings of 71.9 in the past ten years. His average finish of 18.4 is only worthy of a yawn as is his average running position of 19.2.

What is eye catching is the fact he has finished 4th in each of the last three Sprint Cup races at Michigan. He also finished in the top ten the last three years at Auto Club including 4th this year.

Will Menard be able to continue his run on two mile speedways and improve?

Menard said, “Hard to say, there will probably be a little advantage when drafting, similar to the XFINITY Series cars, with the increased throttle time. Because of the horsepower loss, it’ll be hard to complete a pass. We’ll find out what’s in store for us this weekend.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series is also racing a Michigan this weekend. Paul Menard will be driving the No. 33 Richmond/Menards car for Richard Childress Racing. He is defending champion of that race. This will give him the extra track time he needs.

Menard is currently 11th in the standings and in a position to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. A win here at Michigan International Speedway would guarantee that spot.

If you cannot get to Michigan International Speedway for the Quicken Loans 400 it will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 starting at 1:00 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 305028 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

 

What is Your NASCAR Excellent Adventure?

In 2001 my buddy asked me to go to the Brickyard 400 with him and a couple other guys. I went. Most NASCAR fans will tell you they were hooked when they went to their first race. I was hooked just watching practice from turn two of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I was reeled in watching the Busch Series race at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

One week later my buddy calls me up and tells me his other buddy from Milwaukee got tickets to the Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He made me an offer. Since I had a camper they would provide the tickets. I accepted even though it would be the second race weekend in three weeks.

We left the Chicago area after work and arrived at the Brookfest Campground across from MIS at 2 AM to set up camp.  Needless to say the ambiance of camping during a NASCAR race weekend is much different than staying in a hotel in Indianapolis. I really like both but nothing beats an all weekend tailgate party; ah stories for another day.

The next day another group of guys with a pop up set up camp behind us. We got to talking and they told us they were going on after Michigan to Bristol to see the night race. Ever since that day in 2001 I have always wanted to do that, well not exactly that but attend two race weekends in a row; following the series from one venue to another.

This year the new schedule presented a possibility. The second race of the season will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway. So unlike the many times I drove through Atlanta to go to Daytona International Speedway to see the Daytona 500, I could, on the way back, stop and watch the races. Such is the beginning of an excellent NASCAR Adventure.

The logistics of the both of us making this happen was such that we won’t be able to be in Daytona for the qualifying races. We will be watching them on TV somewhere between the Chicago area and Daytona. We will make the rest of the races that weekend and the races at Atlanta. NASCAR dream fulfilled.

I get to fulfill my NASCAR adventure, what is yours? Take time to tell us about it in the comment section below and who knows maybe we will see you along the way on your adventure.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 295405 Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images