Off to Michigan
Sprint Cup Series
From Denny Hamlin
Do you think Michigan is a track where the FedEx team can capitalize with a victory?
“Michigan is definitely a place that our FedEx team has had success at in the past, winning a couple races and running up front for the most part. It was a little tough on us last year after the repave, but hopefully we’ll have the speed to contend this weekend. Obviously, we can’t afford to have bad finishes and need to get a win or two, but most importantly, we have to minimize mistakes and finish where we should. If we take care of our business and put ourselves into position to win, that stuff will take care of itself.”
FedEx Express Notes
Michigan Preview: The Series now shifts to the two-mile Michigan International Speedway for Sunday’s 400-lap event. Hamlin is a two-time June race winner at the track in the Irish Hills, taking the checkered flag in back-to-back years (2010 and 2011). In 2010, Hamlin and the #11 team were dominant, leading 123 of 200 laps en route to victory lane. The following year, the FedEx crew got Hamlin on track first after a late stop and he held off now teammate Matt Kenseth for his lone win of the 2011 campaign. Hamlin has recorded seven top-10 finishes in 14 career Michigan starts, leading at least one lap in eight events.
Pocono Recap: Denny Hamlin started 17th in last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway and appeared headed for a top five finish, but handling issues late in the race left him with an eighth-place result in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry. With qualifying rained out and the lineup determined by owner points, Hamlin started mid-pack but immediately began moving forward. He was up to 14th by lap 21, 12th by lap 32 and then ninth by lap 51. Like many others his car was loose under the bright, sunny skies but crew chief Darian Grubb and Hamlin’s FedEx crew kept working on the chassis while servicing the car in record time. On his final pit stop he made up five spots on pit road to restart second behind eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, but two more cautions and restarts saw the #11 car get shuffled back to his eventual finish position due to a severe tight condition. Hamlin moved up one position in the standings after Pocono to now rank 25th, 76 points out of the 20th position.
Kyle Busch Quotes
Most drivers really seem to enjoy racing at Michigan International Speedway. Why is that?
“Regardless of new pavement or not, it’s wide-open racing, and you can run from top to bottom. The biggest thing used to be to find grip there. But with the new surface, there is a ton of grip now. Before, you had grip for maybe five laps, and then you’d just be out to lunch. But now the tire wear is all out the window, and the racetrack is very fast. And the wide racetrack is good. That’s what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That’s the biggest deal about it.”
You won the last race before the track was resurfaced. Are you expecting the track to change a bit from the first two races on the new surface there?
“I’m hoping it’s aged a bit and widened out a little bit more. We struggled on the repaved tracks last season, but we were much improved at Pocono last weekend than we were there last year, so that gives me hope that we can do the same at Michigan this week. We just have to keep working hard and chip away at it like last week. I’m hoping we can learn enough in practice that we can have a good run there this weekend. One of the biggest things on repaved tracks is track position. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the M&M’s guys have worked really hard on our qualifying setup, and it’s really showing this year. I think our worst qualifying effort is 13th, and that was at a (restrictor) plate track. We’ve been qualifying even better on the intermediate tracks. We’ve got a pole on one of those tracks and haven’t qualified worse than eighth. It will have to start with a good qualifying effort and see what we can learn in practice Saturday.”
Your 2013 Toyota Camry and the new “Gen-6” car have been really fast each week. Do you expect more of the same at Michigan?
“I expect it to be fast. With a new surface, there’s always a lot of grip. We’ve set several track records this year with the new car, and I know we’ll be fast at Michigan this weekend, too. But if you are just a little bit loose there, now you are nervous that just any little bit of getting outside the groove or having a little bit too much yaw will lead to a wreck. It was really intense last year in our tests and in the races there. You are hauling there now, for sure, with a combination of the second year on a new surface and the new car. I don’t expect that to change much.”
Can you win the championship this season?
“It’s real early to be talking championship, but certainly I will give a lot of credit where its due and that’s to the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing – all the guys and gals who have worked so hard at giving us some really great racecars – and I think it’s proven. We’ve moved up the standings here the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, Denny (Hamlin) was out for a few weeks so he hasn’t gotten a full taste of it all, but he’s had some great runs since he came back at Darlington. (Matt) Kenseth has obviously been great for us, and that’s why we all talked last season about what we needed and what we were looking for in another driver, and we knew Kenseth had it. It’s not that he was missing anything over there at Roush, but it just seems like everything is in a lot better place right now. He’s got a fresh start, so it looks a lot reminiscent of my 2008 season from leaving Hendrick for Matt – more than this season looks like 2008 for me, I believe.”
Kyle Busch: Looking for a Little Luck of the Irish Hills
During the 19th century, the Irish Hills area of Michigan – located near U.S. 12, approximately halfway between Detroit and Chicago – was a well-known stopping point during the five-day stagecoach trip between the two large Midwest cities.
At the turn of the century, the Irish Hills turned into an enjoyable tourist destination with its plush, green landscape and more than 30 lakes for vacationers and residents to enjoy in peace and quiet.
For the last several decades, the Irish Hills come to life two weekends per year and become anything but peaceful and quiet when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for the state’s largest sporting events.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), hopes his upcoming stopover in the Irish Hills brings a little bit of good fortune his way during the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday.
Busch sits seventh in the Sprint Cup standings after consecutive top-10 finishes where strong performances turned into solid finishes. He has gained three spots in the point standings with finishes of fourth and sixth at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, respectively, the last two weekends.
Busch hopes he can turn yet another solid run into yet another strong finish and continue his climb in the standings. With just two top-10 finishes at Michigan over his first 14 starts there, Busch broke through with his first Sprint Cup win there in August 2011, edging five-time champion Jimmie Johnson in a late-race shootout.
So as Busch and the M&M’s team head to the Midwest this weekend, they’ll hope to luck of the Irish is on their side on their road for a second Sprint Cup victory of the season Sunday afternoon in the Irish Hills of Michigan.
From Matt Kenseth
“I always look forward to the races at Michigan because I like returning to the Midwest and being around all those great fans in that section of the country. Michigan is a big sweeping track with lots room to race, and since the repave, it’s been a very fast race track for us. We’ll see how the track has weathered over this past winter, but I feel like the racing at MIS this weekend will be similar to Kansas was earlier this year, and a very entertaining race.”
From Jason Ratcliffe, Crew Chief
“For Michigan you have to have the aero package, the handling, and good horsepower to have a good weekend there. Since the repave, we had a ton of grip that first race on the new surface and it turned into just wanting a fast race car. The second race at Michigan last year, we had a different tire for that race, but I found that the grip level had gone down since the June race. Handling is going to be even more of a factor now as this track has aged again. I think that the track will have less grip after this past winter, but we’re not really sure how the track has changed until we get out for practice on Friday. Our thought process for this weekend is to unload close to our Kansas set-ups and use that as a baseline to work from and tweak as necessary for the differences between those two tracks.”
No. 20 Husky Toyota News & Notes:
- KENSETH BY THE NUMBERS: In 27 Sprint Cup Series career starts at Michigan, Matt Kenseth has an average finish of 9.6 which ranks him second of all active drivers in the series. Kenseth has completed 5,172 of 5,295 (97.7 percent) career laps, has led for a total of 284 laps. He has earned two wins, 12 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes at the 2.0-mile track located in Brooklyn, Michigan.
- FATHER’S DAY MUST-HAVES: Every dad deserves the best, so this Father’s Day, make sure you get yours a few of the Husky Tool must-haves from The Home Depot:
- The Husky 7-Piece SAE Universal Ratcheting Wrench Set features a steel construction for durability and a chrome finish to resist corrosion.
- This Husky 26-Piece Screwdriver Set includes 7 slotted tips, 6 Phillips tips, 5 Torx tips, a scratch awl, an offset screwdriver, a 4-way pocket keychain, and 5 SAE nut drivers ranging from 3/16 in. to 7/16 in.
- The Husky 2 Ton Hydraulic Trolley Jack comes with a blow molded case so you can easily store your jack when you don’t need to use it. Lifts 2 tons (4,000 lbs.) with minimum height of 5 in. to a maximum height of 13 in. Painted black, it comes with a removable handle.
- The Husky 46 in. 9-Drawer Mobile Work Center provides a variety of options for your tool storage needs. The solid wood top makes a beautiful and durable work surface area. The full-width drawer is designed to accommodate longer items that most tool boxes can’t.
- RACE INFO: Coverage of the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway (2.0-mile) begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 16th. The race will be broadcast live on TNT, Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN Radio.
From Elliott Sadler
“I always really look forward to the Nationwide Series race at Michigan. It’s a fun track, and it’s a pretty quick race with only 125 laps, giving everyone a real sense of urgency. We had a great race at Iowa last weekend, and this OneMain Financial team is looking to build off the momentum from our third-place finish at Iowa Speedway.”
No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota Event Preview
HEADING FOR THE IRISH HILLS: The No. 11 OneMain Financial team and Elliott Sadler travel to the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Mich., to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Michigan International Speedway. Sadler has eight Nationwide Series starts at the two-mile track, with four top-10 finishes and 10 laps led. Sadler brings experience from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 24 starts at the track, including one top-five and six top-10 finishes. He also competed in one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in 2010 where he finished ninth.
LAST TIME AROUND: In the June 2012 Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway, Sadler started from the sixth position and spent most of the 125-lap event toward the front of the field. On the final restart for a four-lap shootout, Sadler was shuffled back to finish 11th.
SUPPORTING THE REAL HEROES: The OneMain Financial team will continue to support the troops while in Michigan with the Real Heroes Program. The No. 11 team will host military members and their families at Nationwide Series races throughout the summer. Fans will also have the opportunity to send thanks to the troops at participating OneMain Financial branches, and through social media. For more information, visit OneMainRacing.com and utilize #RealHeroes.
TO THE POINT: Sadler moved up two positions to fifth in the Nationwide Series driver championship point standings, 60 points behind the leader with 20 races remaining in the 2013 season.
LAST RACE – Iowa: After rain showers delayed the start of the race at Iowa Speedway from Saturday night to Sunday morning, Sadler started from the seventh position for the 250-lap race. The OneMain Financial team continued to work on a loose-handling condition as another rain shower halted green-flag conditions. Getting back to green after track officials dried the track, Sadler worked his way to the third position where he crossed the finish line.
THINK PINK: The OneMain Financial driver will sport pink Oakley driving shoes throughout the entire Nationwide Series season to show support for breast cancer awareness and honor his mom, Bell. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and is now a survivor. This season, he will also wear special pink Oakley driving gloves. Fans will have the opportunity to bid on his race-worn shoes throughout the season, with proceeds going toward breast cancer research and education. For more information, visit OneMainRacing.com.
MEET SADLER: Sadler will participate in the Nationwide Series autograph session at Michigan International Speedway on Friday at 4:15 p.m. local time in the Budweiser Acceleration Club located outside turn four. For more information, visit MISpeedway.com.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY: Sadler will spend Father’s Day with his two children, Wyatt and Austyn, and his father Herman. “I love that NASCAR is such a family-oriented sport. Without my father, I wouldn’t be the man I am today, or I wouldn’t be where I am in my career. He sacrificed so much for my brother Hermie and I growing up so we could pursue our dreams of racing. Having children myself, I appreciate my father even more. It definitely changes your life. I am excited to spend this Father’s Day with my two kids, because there is nothing like spending time with your children and your wife after a long weekend at the track.”
From Brian Vickers
“Michigan has always been one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. I’ve got a Cup win there, and would love to win on the Nationwide side. This week will be my first time at Michigan since the repave, so that will be something new for me. I’ve always liked intermediate tracks. We’ve done pretty good on intermediate tracks so far this season, but we need to be just a little better there.”
From Kevin Kidd, Crew Chief
Kevin Kidd: “Going into Michigan in 2012, there were a lot of unknowns on how the track would race with the repave. A lot of those questions were quickly answered, and I feel much more at ease going there this year over last. Since our race there last year, Goodyear has changed the tire, which will have us on our toes some, but overall I expect a little less grip than last year.”
No. 20 Dollar General Toyota News and Notes
- DOLLAR GENERAL LOOKING FOR VICTORY LANE AGAIN IN MICHIGAN: One year ago in last year’s Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing partner Dollar General was in the spotlight. Driver Joey Logano drove his yellow and black Dollar General Camry to Victory lane at Michigan, collecting the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based retailer their third of four Nationwide Series wins with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012.
- VICKERS A FORMER MICHIGAN WINNER: In August of 2009 at Michigan International Speedway, Brian Vickers earned his second career Sprint Cup Series victory and made history for his former team, Red Bull Racing. Vickers’ win at Michigan was Red Bull Racing’s first-ever win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He returns to the two-mile oval this weekend for the 250-mile Nationwide Series race with Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Dollar General team. Vickers’ Nationwide Series stats at MIS include five starts with two top-five finishes, three-top-10 finishes, one pole and a total of 114 laps led. The 29-year-old is currently positioned seventh in the Nationwide Series Championship point standings.
- JOE GIBBS RACING AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY: Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide Series program has 28 starts at Michigan International Speedway with two wins, nine top-five finishes and 19 top-10 finishes. Of laps contested in their 28 attempts at Michigan’s two-mile oval, JGR Nationwide Series entries have completed 99.0 percent (3421 of 3454 laps) while leading 175 laps of competition.
- THIS WEEK ON THE NO. 20 DOLLAR GENERAL TOYOTA: Dollar General vendor partners Oreo, Purex, Maxwell House, Glad, STP, Gildan, Huggies, Nestle Drumstick, Colgate, Degree for Men, Lysol and Sundown Naturals will be featured on Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota Camry this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
- RACE INFO: The Nationwide Series Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway kicks off at 2:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 15. Watch and listen live on ABC, Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN Radio.
From Kyle Busch
What do you expect from Michigan this week, another track where you and the crew have both experienced victories?
“We’ll see what the track surface brings. I know it will be fast and we’ll be ‘wide open’—I’m looking forward to returning to the No. 54 with Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys. We’ll have a strong car this weekend.”
From Adam Stevens, Crew Chief
As we enter Michigan this week, we visit another track where you are a defending race winner, having earned victory here in 2012 with Joey Logano. What do you like about this race track and your chances for another win here with Kyle Busch?
“I am pumped to be back with KB this weekend. We let one get away at Dover and under performed last week at Iowa. We had a great weekend at Michigan last year. It’s a totally different place than it used to be since the repave. You really have to maximize your wide open throttle time to be good here. You can’t tell who has a good car until you get 10 or 15 laps on your tires. If you have to lift a little more than the next guy it will really show up at this point. It was awesome to get a win for Toyota at MIS last year. We had a good car at Fontana earlier this year and are hoping the setup will work again this weekend.”
No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Team Preview
The No. 54 Monster Energy team and Kyle Busch travel to the ‘Motor City’ this Saturday, to attempt their seventh win of the season at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, competing in the Alliance Truck Parts 250. Busch will make his 11th NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) start piloting the black Toyota Camry this year with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Previously on the two-mile D-shaped oval Busch has earned one win, four top-five and four top-10 finishes over his Nationwide Series career at Michigan. Joe Gibbs Racing across all three of NASCAR’s top-racing divisions in 116 starts at MIS has earned nine wins, 36 top-five finishes, 62 top-10 finishes, five poles and 869 laps led.
While Busch last experienced NNS Victory Lane at Michigan in 2004, with a previous manufacturer, No. 54 team crew chief Adam Stevens is the defending Toyota winner of this spring MIS event. In 2012, with former JGR driver Joey Logano, Stevens and team led 31 laps and brought home the victory. Those same team members who earned last year’s win, work under Stevens again this year and are joined now with Kyle Busch. Needless to say, together, they will be a powerhouse to contend with.