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Monday, January 26, 2009

Michigan Speedway doing its part to help Big 3 automakers, fight unemployment in Michigan

With such uncertain times for Detroit’s Big 3 automakers, I was pleased to run across the news that Michigan International Speedway will be the home of a new vehicle technology research and test center.

One of the complaints Big 3 detractors have had over the years is that the U.S. automakers are lagging behind their foreign competitors in new technologies that are key to future success in the automotive industry.

It’s clear they have got the message, and over the past few years have been putting more of their focus on these technologies that will become the norm in future years. NASCAR’s future success will be much more secure if the Big 3 are secure, and with Detroit being the home base for these automakers, MIS is the perfect place for such a facility.

According to the media reports, the MIS location will give automakers, electronic systems manufacturers and others the chance to test and develop so-called “connected vehicle technologies” in a closed, neutral facility. This technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other and outside devices such as traffic signals or electronic signs to prevent collisions and improve traffic flow and fuel efficiency.

Now, instead of just holding races to entertain us, MIS will be performing a critical service for the industry that provides so many jobs and sustains so many people’s lives in the state of Michigan.

In addition, there is hope this new test center will help create jobs in the state, which is critical with the state’s unemployment rate close at more than 10 percent.

Even if it’s only a few jobs, any little bit helps. And the technology developed will likely help sell cars in the future, saving more jobs down the line. With so much negative news in this industry lately, it’s nice to hear something positive for once. It’s a positive thing for the village of Brooklyn, the state of Michigan, the country and the auto industry in general.

New teams popping up every day lately
When I wrote recently that the shorter fields would likely encourage new teams to form, I had no idea so many people would actually do it. Tommy Baldwin, Joe Nemechek, Jeremy Mayfield and several others have announced their intention to attempt the Daytona 500 and, hopefully, the full season.

The latest entry is former driver Phil Parsons, who is co-owner of the new Prism Motorsports team, which has secured a sponsor for its Toyota at Daytona and has formed a technical alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing.

The driver for Daytona? Terry Labonte. He has the second shot at the past champions provisional, after Tony Stewart, so he would make the race if Stewart makes it on time, which is likely. After Daytona, Dave Blaney is scheduled to drive the car.

At the rate new teams are popping up, we’ll have 60 cars trying out for Daytona. The big question is how many will show up the following week at California.


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