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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Toyotas sweep season at Michigan Speedway for first time; Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin fall flat

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- With Kyle Busch’s victory at MIS, Joe Gibbs has now swept the season in Brooklyn … and more importantly, Toyota has swept the season, for the first time ever.
NASCAR was once dominated by the Detroit 3 automakers, but Toyota has made itself a force in the top three NASCAR series over the past decade or so, much to the chagrin of many who favor good old American horsepower.
I fully recognize this sentiment isn’t as strong as it once was, and people nowadays do focus more on drivers than car makes, but at the same time I have to imagine the powers-that-be at Ford, Chrysler and GM aren’t too happy that their home track victories went to the overseas competition.

Carl, Denny tank it
Carl Edwards came into MIS tied for the points lead, but he dropped to fourth in the points when he finished 36th due to a failing racecar.
“I don’t know what was wrong with it. It was running on seven cylinders, it felt like it was running on seven cylinders. We changed a bunch of stuff and then it was fixed. It wasn’t something mechanical, it was probably something with some electrical connection or a coil or something,” Edwards said. “We weren’t expecting a failure like that.”

Denny Hamlin, the June winner who is clinging to a Chase spot, also struggled mightily, coming home 35th.
There was some tense talk between Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford … (at one point, when Ford asked Denny to go to the garage, Denny said “No. Fix the f----- car.”)
After the race, a frustrated Denny admitted his hopes to make the Chase likely depend now on maintaining the wild card spot, and hoping others don’t get more wins and pass him.
“More than likely, that’s the odds for us, a wild card position. But I can’t worry about those other guys. We have to – to me , it’s not worth making the Chase if I’m not going to be effective in the Chase and right now we need to right out ship.”

Jimmie: The championship is wide open still
Jimmie Johnson had his best ever run at MIS – but he still hasn’t won – This is the only track on the NASCAR circuit where two races are run each year that Jimmie has yet to win at … an amazing statistic.
Jimmie was happy with how things ended up for the #48 car, despite not taking the checkered.
“Great finish for the Lowe's team. Very proud of the effort and can't thank the employees of Lowe's enough for their support and sticking by this race team over the years. We had a tough start to the race on pit road and on the race track but we got that stuff ironed out and had great stops from then on and got the car underneath me. It was just really loose at the start of the race and I drove up through the field and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made a great call to get me to pit road before that caution came out,” Jimmie said. “It gave us the shot at the win but once I was up front in the clean air the balance of the car was a bit too loose. I got away from Kyle but I was loose and I knew he was going to come at some point and he showed up. Disappointed that i didn't win but a very good effort for the Lowe's team especially when you look at where we started the race and where we finished."

He also said that once Chase time comes, it’s anybody’s game.
“The guys that make the Chase, they are all very capable of winning the championship,” said the man who has taken the crown the past five seasons. “I think it’s the hardest one to predict. It’s going to be a close one. I don’t know who to make the favorite.”

Gordon falls short of big to break wins tie with DW/Allison
For a minute, Jeff Gordon was the best car out on the track, and it looked like he might take the win and break his tie with DW and Bobby Allison in wins total. He ended up falling back to sixth in the end and remaining tied with the two legends.
“We were really good in clean air and when we got our front we were able to show that. I think Kyle (Busch) was the best car and he won the race but I felt like we were the second-best car and when we got the lead we could really show that. I just didn't get clear of the No. 17 and then the No. 2 got in there and when that happened, it just killed us. We got real, real tight behind those guys and we got a bunch of debris on the grill that started messing with us and the temperature going up and we got loose, but hey all in all a solid day for our DuPont Chevrolet,” Gordon said. “You know I love the effort and what kind of race cars we are bringing to the race track right now. It's a lot of fun out there and you know I thought we were going to be a little bit better than that and at time we were but right there at the end I think we just needed a little bit better track position so I guess I didn't do a good job on the restart."
On a somewhat related note, Bobby Allison is still very connected to the NASCAR community, and was at MIS Sunday morning signing autographs for fans. He’s a class act, and I’m glad to see him still be involved. Too few people know about the great things he and others of his era did in this sport before it got big.

Jr. frustrating, but hanging on
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who still dominates in number of fans despite not winning in over three years, was not happy after the race, when he ran decent all day but ended up 14th in the final running order.
"We had a good car. We had a couple of bad sets, well, I don't know whether they are bad sets of tires, but I put them on my car and they drive like crap. Then I put on another set and it will drive good. I don't know how to explain that,” Jr. said. “I've been doing that all my life. I ain't got an explanation for it yet. I had some awesome runs where the car was really fast, then I'd put on some tires and couldn't drive the car. So, you tell me. I don't know."
“Racing is frustrating as a whole. That's a part of this sport,” he continued. “At least we run good when we had our opportunities. We had a pretty good car. We had some bad stuff happen on pit road. We got back up to 10th or ninth, drove it up there. Then, we probably shouldn't have pitted there at the end. I don't know. We took two tires like a lot of guys and just didn't have the good fortune at the end on that last green-white-checkered. We were on the bottom behind the No. 00 (David Reutimann) and some other people that were as slow as hell and just couldn't go nowhere."
Relax Jr., you’re still in the Chase. And if you get through Bristol you should be safe … maybe. (A win might make you breather easier, though.)

Lake Orion-Built Sonic paces field at MIS
A Michigan-built Chevy Sonic LTZ was the pace car for the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday at MIS.
“In keeping with the spirit of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race, the Pure Michigan 400, the pace car is a vehicle that was built right here in Michigan – in Lake Orion,” said Jeff Chew, Marketing Manager, Chevy Racing. “The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ is a fun-to-drive, 1.4-liter turbo 5-door with a 6-speed manual transmission.”
The 2012 Chevy Sonic, the only small car built in the United States, launches in October.

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