Each week, we’ll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race to capture the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find; the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking during the rain delays for the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
With overnight temperatures in the 40s and the race time temperature in the mid 60s, Saturday’s weather wasn’t anything like what the teams had encountered in practice or qualifying. That left crew chiefs up and down pit road scrambling, looking for the proper setup to handle the new conditions. At the drop of the green, Greg Biffle led the pack into turn one, but Brian Vickers had the lead by the time the field got back around to the start/finish line. Matt Kenseth started 12th and was in the top five within five laps of the start of the race. Denny Hamlin moved to the front quickly, followed by Kenseth. They traded the lead of the race in the middle stages of the race, but after the final pit stop it was all Hamlin. Hamlin marched away from the field over the closing laps and had a nearly five-second lead by the time the checkered flag fell.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has two wins at Michigan, with the most recent triumph coming in 2001. Overall, he has 20 top-10 finishes in 29 Cup starts in the Irish Hills, with an average finish of 10th… not too shabby.
The series heads to Michigan this weekend for the second of the series’ two visits on the year – and hopefully, your fantasy team is scorching like the late summer heat. Just four races remain until the end of the regular season, and just like the excitement surrounding the Chase, the battle in many leagues is at a fever pitch. Are you in Kurt Busch’s shoes, holding on to a tenuous lead while others battle to knock you down from a spot in the money? Or are you like Dale Earnhardt Jr., a driver in need of some solid finishes – and more importantly, luck – to work your way back into contention?
This weekend’s race featured a spin to win, two drivers putting in their NASCAR best effort to pull each other’s hair out after a wreck, and a crazed fan making his way onto the track during a red flag… just to ask for an autograph. Makes it sound like an August Cup race at Bristol, doesn’t it? But instead, this was what transpired from what began as a tranquil Sunday afternoon in western New York. Shocked? So were many of the fans who watched this year’s edition of the Centurion Boats at the Glen. But they weren’t the only ones happy to see a surprising series of twists and turns that matched the road course’s 2.45-mile layout. Perhaps the biggest smile on the day came from stunned race winner Tony Stewart, who inherited the top spot as NASCAR’s winningest road racer, Jeff Gordon, spun in turn 1 with just two laps to go, relinquishing the lead and 10 bonus points to his longtime rival in the process.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon is one of the better NASCAR road racers. While he has four wins at the Glen, oddly enough he hasn’t had a top-10 finish here in five races – he’s finished outside the top 20 in three of those events. But don’t be fooled; Gordon also has five wins at Sonoma, and could easily break out of his road-race slump here.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon won here in June to score his first Pocono victory since his 1998 “dream season.” It was his fourth win and 20th top-10 result at this track in just 29 starts.
This year, the Chase looks to provide some excitement again to what otherwise would be a comatose-inducing runaway by points leader Jeff Gordon. Under the old system, his fifth championship would all but be decided at this point, as long as he could just avoid accidents and injury. Even during crew chief Steve Letarte’s four-week suspension for rules infractions at Sonoma (with two more still to go), Gordon’s come up with an eye-popping average finish of 5.2. Currently enjoying a 371-point lead over Denny Hamlin, the No. 24 team has entered into a time zone all their own; and did I mention that total doesn’t include the 100 points Gordon was docked for the fender issue at Sonoma?
The tight confines of O’Reilly Raceway Park made for an exciting short track shootout for the Busch Series on Saturday night. Aric Almirola ran away with the race early, leading 87 of the first 100 laps, but as the second half of the race unfolded, it was another Busch regular who found his way to Victory Lane. After Almirola faded with problems on pit road, Jason Leffler was able to run down and pass Greg Biffle with three laps to go, bringing Toyota their first ever victory in the Busch Series. Up until the final stages, Biffle had dominated the race’s second half, but Leffler’s team decided to put on tires with 50 laps to go, and the fresh rubber ultimately paid off in a mad dash back to the front for the No. 38.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won a track record four Brickyard 400s, including the inaugural event in 1994. He’s also managed 10 top-10 finishes here in 13 starts. The Indiana transplant is hugely popular with the fans in Indy, as well.