Race Weekend Central

Odds & Ends Around the Track: Michigan I

Am I the only one who remembers the difference between the two Michigan International Speedway races by what you can get at the farmer’s market near the track? The biggest issue with having the Michigan race pop up a week earlier on the schedule is that the strawberries are not ready yet. This first race, in addition to always being on Father’s Day back in the day, used to be referred to by me as the Strawberry 400. Of course, the second race at Michigan was always the Sweet Corn 400. Until the corporate sponsors giving money to sponsor the race start paying me, I will stick with my old tradition.

Trouble with Tricky Triangle

I have had a love-hate relationship with Pocono Raceway over the years. The love part is the experience you get when you attend a race there. The hate part was the traffic, which I once got in trouble for mentioning in a humorous way in this column many years ago. Do you know why the Pocono races are only six weeks apart? That way, by the time you get to the interstate after the first race, you can turn around and come back for the second one. I got an email from Doc (Dr. Joseph Mattioli) about that one.

The other part of the hate with the Tricky Triangle is that she doesn’t photograph well. For us aspiring photographers at the track who are not brave enough to stick a lens through an opening in the fence on the outside the areas, getting great photographs is not prevalent without having ground transportation to get back and forth.

This track also does not lend itself to a great television viewing experience. Trust me on this one, but standing down in the corner in any of the three turns (But especially the Tunnel Turn), you get a better feel for the speed and how much on the edge these cars are than watching from the grandstand or on television. There is nothing boring about watching these cars rocket around the track up close and personal, but on television, it is possible to doze off a few laps after a restart.

This is also a place where Mister Clean Air has been a larger problem with this aero package than smaller tracks. The racing back in the pack stays pretty good, but the leader can get out ahead and get gone too easy nowadays. The people running Pocono give the fans and media a wonderful experience. The trouble with the Tricky Triangle is that it is hard to liven up the television look of this race without adding gimmicks.

Will NASCAR Go in the Wrong Direction Again?

In the recent past, NASCAR has made some really bad decisions only to realize their mistake and undo them to please the old-school fans.

The biggest and best example was when Brian France, after too many cocktails at the Chart House restaurant, decided to move the Southern 500 away from it’s usual Labor Day weekend spot in favor of racing in Southern California. Once they realized the weather is even worse in the inland empire of California at that time than in Darlington and the fans revolted, they finally moved it back.

While I have no such hopes for the undoing of the Chase or the playoffs or whatever they think we should call the end of season farce right now, I did have hopes for the aero package. Ever since NASCAR added the front splitter to its race cars and trucks, the age-old problem of clean air helping the leader has gotten worse. Dropping the horsepower has actually made this problem worse in recent years.

NASCAR has done a great job tinkering with alternative packages at the Monster Energy All-Star Race the last couple of years, and I held out hope they might reduce aero-dependence with the new package. Now comes word they are considering one manufacturer to make the basic chassis for NASCAR just like IndyCar does with their tubs. This would take away one of the last advantages that teams have in building a better race car.

They might end up with a rule package that is even more aero-dependent if they use a company that also prepares cars for the open-wheel scene. I have been calling NASCAR “Formula One with Fenders” for a while now and can’t help but wonder if NASCAR will go in the wrong direction on aero again.

Michigan I: Fantasy Insight

Looking Back to Last Week’s Picks:

Win: Kevin Harvick-So close until the penalty and loss of power steering

Place: Brad Keselowski-Finished second

Show: Martin Truex Jr.-Finished 35th with a blown engine

Long Shot: Erik Jones-Finished third

Back when my Ratings System for Fantasy Racing began way back in the early days of Frontstretch, circa 2001, there would often be very close decisions to be made due to the lack of huge gaps in the points totals for three-five drivers at a particular race. It would be rare to see a five-point spread, but when you did, that driver would often be dominant in the race and had a higher winning percentage. This week Chase Elliott leads the way by over eight points with a rating of 190.4 out of a possible 200. The next highest rating is 182 points with Joey Logano, Keselowski and Kyle Busch the only other guys over the magical 180-point margin.

Win: Elliott-Most dominant rating of the year

Place: Busch-On a tremendous roll right now

Show: Keselowski-Home state guy and Ford loves this track

Long Shot: Jones (25-to-1 Odds) Another home state guy with a chance

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