Saturday, August 20, 2011

Michigan: What to watch for

What to watch for at Sunday's Pure Michigan 400:

-- The one-week statistical oddity -- Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch tied for the top spot in the Sprint Cup standings with 752 points each – will certainly come undone today. Will one of them emerge alone in first place – or could it be Jimmie Johnson (six points back) or Kevin Harvick (eight back)?
-- Here’s another strange stat: Five-time champ Johnson has never won at Michigan in 19 starts. He’ll start 19th today.
-- Brad Keselowski says his broken left ankle continues to bother him. But Keselowski has won and finished second in the two races since he was injured.
-- Two drivers – pole-winner Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth – qualified with speeds in excess of 190 mph. But Biffle doesn’t think that’s too fast. He points out that qualifying is a one-off run, and tires wear down on each successive lap during the actual race. Speeds, accordingly, lessen the longer a car is out there.
-- Denny Hamlin’s lone victory of the season came in Michigan’s June race, but he has just one top-five finish since then. Since he’s 12th in the points and has that victory, he’d qualify for the Chase as a wild car (with Keselowski) if the regular season had ended this week. But he doesn’t have much wiggle room.
-- Dale Earnhardt Jr. starts eighth today, his best qualifying effort since he was sixth at Daytona in July. And, yes, Michigan was the track where Earnhardt last won, 115 races ago in 2008. -- David Scott