I have always believed that on the Nascar circuit, there are some drivers who enjoy the thrill and excitement that the faster tracks like Daytona, Talladega and Michigan bring, and some are just not comfortable with them. After a day of testing at the Michigan International Speedway on Thursday, we started to hear comments from both sides of the fence.
Jimmie Johnson, five time Sprint Cup Champion, and driver of the Hendricks Motor Sports #48 Lowes Chevrolet said in an interview after testing at the Two Mile D-Oval in Southeastern Michigan, “It is quite a rush for the driver to be going this fast, there seems to be a good combination with the new surface and the tire that Goodyear brought. I feel comfortable in the car, although it’s still quite the challenge as a driver to get around at these high speeds.”
He also stated that with the newer chassis on the cars, and as long as the handling was what it should be, he wouldn’t have a problem running at speeds that top 200 mph. Like the new commercials on TV where guys talk about being comfortable in thier own skins, some drivers like Jimmie Johnson are comfortable in a good handling car at these speeds.
On the other hand, Greg Biffle, driver of the Roush/Fenway 3M-Salute Ford was not quite as impressed. He was quoted after testing as saying that “every lap is like a qualifying lap and you are holding your breath.” He also said that the track being as wide as it was, provided for two unique grooves that melded into one another and gave some relief for the fast speeds.
It’s pretty obvious here that Greg Biffle is not real comfortable with speeds North of 200 mph, and Jimmie Johnson doesn’t seem to have a problem with them.
This would prove out the reason Biffle runs really well on 1.5 mile tracks that have mostly flat banking. Tracks like California, LasVegas
and Phoenix. Tracks where he went to the top of the points standings. Now that we have gotten into the summer schedule with faster tracks, he has started a slide that will probably continue until he reaches the fall where Nascar returns to these types of tracks.
There were questions last night floating around Twitter about the possibility of having to use restrictor plates here at Michigan, and one report said that Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition had stated there would be no restrictor plates. He also indicated the Morning test session was optimum for getting the high speeds, but that once the track takes on more rubber from Friday Night’s ARCA race, and Saturday’s Nationwide race, the track should slow down some, especially with the expected 90 degree temperature range for Sunday.
With qualifying set for Saturday afternoon, we should see for the second week in a row, previous records start falling in a hurry. I’m betting Ryan Newman’s previous record of 194.232, set in August of 2005 should be history by the fifth driver out. Bill Elliott holds the Nascar record for fastest qualifying lap at Talladega in 1987 where he posted a lap of 212.809. I don’t think that record will be beaten this weekend. If it is, Nascar will for sure mandate a restrictor plate.
Michigan International Speedway is a very fast dangerous track, that due to it’s length and modest banking should provide some good racing, both with the Nationwide cars, and especially the Sprint Cup guys. The drivers that are the most comfortable with these speeds, and are not spooked by that wall in turn two, should hold a size-able advantage in Sundays Quicken Loans 400. I know I’ll be buckled into my Laz-y-Boy and ready for the fun to begin.
Photo’s Courtesy Getty Images For Nascar
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