Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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It's been 11 years since Kurt Busch's last NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, but he's hopeful that his return to NASCAR's third division will be 'like riding a bike.' His bike for Saturday's VFW 200 at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn will be the No. 18 Shore Lodge Tundra, fielded by his brother's Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team.


Although it will take some laps to get readjusted to the feel of a truck, Busch believes that having two races already under his belt on the repaved two-mile oval will give him a leg up on the competition when practice begins Friday morning. The elder Busch, who shares the driving duties behind the wheel of KBM's No. 54 Monster Energy Camry with younger brother Kyle, finished third in the Nationwide Series race at MIS earlier this year. He will be looking to improve on that finish Saturday, as he bids to add a Truck Series victory to his two Cup Series wins at the track nestled in the Irish Hills of Southeastern Michigan.

 

Quickly adapting to the feel of a truck shouldn't be a problem for the veteran driver, who proved to be a quick learner when he burst onto the NASCAR scene in 2000. As a 21-year-old driver, making his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, Busch registered a second-place finish in the Truck Series opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The talented wheelman made an immediate impact on NASCAR's third division that season, collecting four wins, four poles, 14 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes en route to a second-place finish in the final point standings and Rookie of the Year honors.

 

His success in the Truck Series earned him a promotion to the Sprint Cup Series for the final seven races of 2000 and he has been a full-time competitor in NASCAR's premier division ever since. The Las Vegas native's Cup Series resume includes a Sprint Cup Series championship (2004), 24 wins, 15 poles, 89 top-five and 171 top-10 finishes over 421 career starts to date.

 

Coincidentally, as Busch gets back to 'riding a bike' this weekend, a bike will be riding onboard the tailgate of his Shore Lodge Tundra. The tailgate will be promoting "Win Kyle's Custom Made Chopper," the latest Kyle Busch Foundation fundraising campaign. Deadwood Choppers, based in Middle Island, N.Y., designed and built a custom chopper that features the logos of the Kyle Busch Foundation's largest supporters. Fans can go to kbfchopperraffle.com and purchase two chances to "Win Kyle's Custom Made Chopper" for $54.

 

KBM PR

 

Richmond International Raceway is bringing you closer to the action than ever before with Friday Pre-Race Pit Passes prior to the upcomingVirginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Friday, September 7. You can watch NASCAR pole qualifying and practice from the perspective of a NASCAR crew member and see the stock cars from just a few feet away as they rumble down pit road, giving you an unforgettable experience of the sights and sounds that only NASCAR can produce.

Individual Friday Pre-Race Pit Passes, $50 per person, are the only way fans can gain access to pit road this season. Friday Pre-Race Pit Passes are available online byclicking here or calling 866-455-7223.

Friday’s events include Gatorade Pole Qualifying and practice for the Sprint Cup Series, as well as WRIC-TV8 Pole Qualifying and practice for the Nationwide Series.In order to purchase the Friday Pre-Race Pit Pass, you must have a ticket for the September 7, Virginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Pre-Race Pit Passes are limited to guests 16 years of age and older. Parent or guardian must sign waivers for and accompany children under 18 who are utilizing Pre-Race Pit Passes.

Again this year, shorts, short-sleeve or sleeveless shirts and blouses and open-toed shoes are permitted. Shoes, shirts and pants or shorts, dresses and/or skirts and blouses are required. No alcohol or coolers are permitted in the infield.

RIR PR

In what was most likely both the first and last victory lane celebration to feature iconic super heroes The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, Roush Fenway Racing flexed its collective muscle, scoring its seventh Sprint Cup Series win in a dominating performance that saw Greg Biffle drive his No. 16 “Flash” Ford to victory lane. Biffle bested RFR teammate Mark Martin in his equally daunting No. 6 “Batman” Ford, in a race that saw Roush Fenway place five Fords in the top 10.

“It’s been tough at times this season, but I knew we could be in Victory Lane this year,” said Biffle. “We’ve got this 16 car ironed out.”

Biffle would go on to win again in the season finale at Homestead.

The race is also noted as the Sprint Cup Series debut of Carl Edwards, who drove his No. 99 “Green Lantern” Ford to a 10th-place finish, in one of the strongest Cup debuts in NASCAR history.

Roush Fenway’s Fords were indeed ‘faster than a speeding bullet’ on this day. Biffle led a race-high 73 laps, while Martin, who led 46 laps on the day was unable to overcome a late-race pit road penalty. Biffle scored the second Sprint Cup victory of his career and his first at Michigan. The race also featured a Kurt Busch driven No. 97 Man of Steel “Superman” Ford (finishing sixth) and the Wood Brothers No. 21 “Wonder Woman” entry driven by Ricky Rudd.

Matt Kenseth, who piloted a No. 17 “Martian Manhunter” Ford in Saturday’s Nationwide Series event, finished eighth in Sunday’s race.

Martin finished second the day before in yet another “Batman” entry in the Nationwide Series race, with Biffle’s win putting a “Wham, BAM, Whop” and exclamation point on one of the most super – pun intended – weekends in Roush Fenway’s “25 Winning Year” history.

Promotion for the event went so far as to feature a press conference with Roush Fenway drivers and their matched super heroes, as well as a Roush Fenway/Justice League collector’s edition DC Comic book. 

Roush Fenway will look for yet another ‘super’ outing this weekend its two-mile ‘home track’ where Jack Roush and his team the team boasts 11 wins in the Sprint Cup Series.

RFR PR

Kyle Busch: Yes, Michigan

Wednesday, Aug 15

“Yes, Michigan” became a famous tourism slogan when the Great Lakes State produced a commercial around the theme in 1986 for its 150th birthday.

Fast-forward to some 26 years later and Michigan’s tourism board, Travel Michigan, has flourished with its most recent memorable campaign, “Pure Michigan,” which also happens to be the title sponsor of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

What does this have to do with Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR)? Well, the talented 27-year-old hopes he’ll be saying, “Yes, Michigan,” by weekend’s end and that his chances of making this year’s edition of the 10-race, 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship are much more solidified.

After a heartbreaking end to last weekend’s race on the road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, where Busch got spun from behind while leading on the last lap, the Las Vegas native is looking ahead to Sunday’s 400-miler on the Michigan oval, for which he is the defending race-winner. He’s currently in a five-driver battle for two precious wild-card berths into this year’s Chase with four events remaining before the Chase starts Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The top-10 drivers in the point standings are locked into the Chase. Kasey Kahne currently holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his two victories this season, the most of any driver outside the top-10. Ryan Newman assumed the 12th-place wild-card spot last weekend by virtue of his April 1 victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway combined with his 13th position in the standings, which is higher than his fellow single-race winners in the top-20 in points –Busch, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano.

Busch’s win in the Pure Michigan 400 last August was his first Sprint Cup win at the 2-mile oval. He also finished third in the June 2011 race, and led a total of 81 laps in the two events last year. By contrast, in his previous 12 Sprint Cup starts at Michigan, he had no wins, one top-five finish and led a total of 88 laps. So, recent history certainly bodes well for Busch’s outlook this weekend.

Including this weekend’s race at Michigan, Busch’s record at the four tracks that comprise the remainder of the Sprint Cup “regular season” is quite impressive. He has a whopping 11 career wins at those four tracks with at least one race win at each. Busch has five career wins at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and four wins at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway to go with his one win apiece at Michigan and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

So, as Busch heads back to Michigan for the second of two Sprint Cup stops this season, he’ll hope to resurrect the old “Yes, Michigan” tagline as his fate with regard to the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship stays very much alive.

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No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet News and Notes
Taking on the Truck Series at Michigan International Speedway... Cale Gale will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) debut at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday afternoon, August 18.  The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender currently has two NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) and two Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Racing Series starts at the two-mile oval.  Most recently, Gale competed in the ARCA Racing Series event at Michigan International Speedway in July 2011.  After starting from the pole, the Mobile, Ala. native led 64 laps but suffered a flat tire with four laps remaining in the 100-lap event relegating him to a 19th-place finish.


Taking a Trip Home for ESR Crew Member... The NCWTS' annual stop at Michigan International Speedway will give Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) team member, Jeff Keller, a chance to race near his old stomping grounds.  Keller, who joined ESR in August 2011, was raised just 35 miles from Michigan International Speedway in Lyons, Ohio, and later lived in Ann Arbor, Mich.  Keller is ESR's shock specialist and helps on the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet team of Gale during race weekends.


Meet Cale Gale... The NCWTS will feature an open garage at Michigan International Speedway on Friday, August 17th.  At 4:00 p.m., NASCAR fans will be invited into the garage to get a first-hand look at what goes on during a NASCAR race weekend.  At the same time, the series' will host an autograph session in the garage near gate 55c.  Wristbands are required to receive an autograph.  Following the autograph session, Gale will join teammate Justin Lofton for a question and answer session at the Chevy Stage.  Come out to meet ESR's driver lineup at 5:15 p.m. in the fan zone.


Rheem Crew Members Goes to the Movies... Greg Powell, the front tire carrier for Cale Gale and the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet team, made his Hollywood debut on Wednesday, August 8, in Nitro Circus The Movie 3D.  Powell, a graduate of the University of Maryland, has been riding bikes and doing stunts with his cousin, Travis Pastrana, since they were young.  By 2004, the Nitro Circus crew was putting on live shows across the country and on MTV.  For more information about Nitro Circus The Movie 3D, or to find a theater near you, visit: http://nitrocircus.com/go/the-nitro-circus-3d-movie/.


Battling for Points... Gale picked up two positions in the NCWTS championship points battle following the Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway earlier this month.  With three top-10 finishes this season, Gale is solidly within the top 15 in drivers points, ranking 12th, and ranks 14th in the owner points standings.  Currently second in the Rookie of the Year point standings, Gale is chasing down leader Ty Dillon.
Follow Cale... Follow Cale Gale, driver of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet Silverado, on twitter @CaleGale and Facebook (facebook.com/CaleGale), and check out CaleGale.com for the latest news and updates.


Get the Inside Scoop...  Follow Eddie Sharp Racing on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook to get real-time updates and behind-the-scenes information:  @TeamESR or facebook.com/teamesr.


Watch and Listen... The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will make its annual stop at Michigan International Speedway this Saturday, August 18.  SPEED will broadcast final practice (2:00 p.m. ET, Friday) and qualifying (9:30 a.m. ET, Saturday) from Brooklyn, Mich.  Live coverage of the VFW 200 will be aired on SPEED, MRN & SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90, beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET.


From the Driver's Seat

Cale Gale Quotes... On racing at Michigan International Speedway:  "I'm really excited about racing at Michigan International Speedway this weekend with the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet.  It should be a pretty interesting weekend with the new pavement.  I expect the new surface will allow for multiple grooves of racing and a lot of side-by-side action.  We have three practices this weekend, which will give us plenty of time to run through changes and set up options on our Rheem Chevrolet.  Jerry [Baxter, crew chief] and the guys have worked really hard to get our Silverado ready; we are all looking forward to getting on the track in Michigan."

From the Pit Box                       

Jerry Baxter Quotes... On getting ready to race at Michigan International Speedway:  "We're really looking forward to getting to Michigan International Speedway with the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet.  Our team participated in a tire test there two weeks ago.  The track seems to be more aerodynamic than mechanical; we were able to run wide open all the way around the track for 70 laps.  We only had two trucks at the tire test, so it will be interesting to see what it's like with a bunch of trucks.  Cale has raced at Michigan before, and has run well there in the past.  We're taking the truck that we raced at Chicagoland Speedway last month when we finished in the top 10, and hope to follow that up with another strong run."

ESR

Race tickets are on sale today for the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach on Feb. 18-19 at Daytona International Speedway, part of Budweiser Speedweeks 2013.

The UNOH Battle At The Beach will feature two days of short-track racing headlined by three non-points special events in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours and the Late Model division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

Ticket options for the UNOH Battle At The Beach are:

· Single-day general admission grandstand tickets are available for $25 and two-day general admission grandstand tickets are $40.
· Single-day pit passes are available for $25 and two-day pit passes are $35.
· Kids 12 and under are free in the general admission grandstands.
· A four-day ticket package, which includes admission to the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200/Daytona Shootout doubleheader on Feb. 16 and Daytona 500 Qualifying Presented By Kroger on Feb. 17, as well as a general admission grandstand ticket and pit pass for the UNOH Battle At The Beach, is available for $99.
· Camping spots (not including race tickets) are also on sale for the UNOH Battle At The Beach. Two-day infield packages are $75 and four-day infield packages are $100. GEICO Park West camping, which is located outside Turns 1 and 2 and is open Feb. 12 through Feb. 24, is $585.

Tickets for the UNOH Battle At The Beach can be purchased online atwww.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
A .4-mile oval on the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway will showcase all the racing action during the UNOH Battle At The Beach.

 On Monday, Feb. 18, the 150-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. On Tuesday, Feb. 19, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 150-lap race is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. and will be followed by the 150-lap NASCAR K&N Pro Series race at 8:30 p.m.

A complete UNOH Battle At The Beach schedule, including gate opening times, practice and qualifying race times for both days, is available at the UNOH Battle At The Beach event page.

DIS PR

No. 6 Lofton Cattle Chevrolet News and Notes
Racing at Michigan International Speedway... Justin Lofton will race at Michigan International Speedway for the third time in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) career this weekend in the No. 6 Lofton Cattle Chevrolet Silverado. In addition to his NCWTS experience on the 2.0-mile oval, Lofton has one NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) start and two starts in the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Racing Series.  Lofton has one pole (2009) and one race win (2008) at Michigan International Speedway in ARCA competition. In his NNS debut at the speedway, Lofton started 19th and raced to a 16th-place finish.   


Top-Ten Finish at Pocono Raceway... Lofton continued to pursue his championship hopes with a ninth-place finish at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. As a result of posting lap times inside the top five throughout the three-hour practice session, Lofton was one of the final drivers to make his qualifying attempt. On his first lap, the track snapped loose in the tunnel turn backing in to the outside wall.  Without time to spare, the No. 6 Millennium Private Jet Services crew worked tirelessly to prepare the back-up Chevrolet before the start of the race. With only minutes left, the ESR team was able to get the No. 6 Millennium Private Jet Services Chevrolet through technical inspection and ready for the race. After starting in 35th position at the back of the field, Lofton managed to maneuver his truck to an impressive ninth-place finish in the brief 50 lap race. Lofton left Pocono Raceway fourth in the championship points race, just 18 points out of first place.


Meet Justin Lofton... The NCWTS will feature an open garage at Michigan International Speedway on Friday, August 17th.  At 4:00 p.m., NASCAR fans will be invited into the garage to get a first-hand look at what goes on during a NASCAR race weekend.  At the same time, the series' will host an autograph session in the garage near gate 55c.  Wristbands are required to receive an autograph.  Following the autograph session, Lofton will join teammate Cale Gale for a question and answer session at the Chevy Stage.  Come out to meet ESR's driver lineup at 5:15 p.m. in the fan zone.


Battling it Out for Points... With the 2012 NCWTS season just past the halfway point, Lofton continues to battle his competition for the championship.  With 11 races complete and 11 races to go, Lofton currently ranks fourth in the NCWTS point standings, just three points behind third and 18 points out of the lead.  


Follow Justin... Follow Justin Lofton, driver of the No. 6 Lofton Cattle Chevrolet Silverado, on twitter (@jlracing) and facebook (facebook.com/jlracing), and check out loftonracing.com for the latest news and updates.
Get the Inside Scoop...  Follow Eddie Sharp Racing on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook to get real-time updates and behind-the-scenes information:  @TeamESR or facebook.com/teamesr.


Watch and Listen... The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will make its annual stop at Michigan International Speedway this Saturday, August 18.  SPEED will have broadcast final practice (2:00 p.m. ET, Friday) and qualifying (9:30 a.m. ET, Saturday) from Brooklyn, Mich.  Live coverage of the VFW 200 will be aired on SPEED, MRN & SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90, beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET.  

From the Driver's Seat

Justin Lofton Quotes... On the speed of Michigan International Speedway:  "Michigan [International Speedway] is fast. We were a part of the tire test here a few weeks ago and it seems like the track is a lot faster with the smooth new surface.  I've always enjoyed racing here; I got my first ARCA win with Eddie [Sharp, team owner] at Michigan International Speedway.  We hope to have another great race this weekend in the No. 6 Lofton Cattle Chevrolet to tighten up the championship points battle."

From the Pit Box

Dan Bormann Quotes... On looking forward to Michigan International Speedway with the No. 6 Lofton Cattle / Eddie Sharp Racing team:  "The whole Lofton Cattle / Eddie Sharp Racing team is really looking forward to this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway. It's crunch-time in the [championship] points race, so we all have been working hard to give Justin everything that he needs to go out there and contend for race wins and ultimately the championship. Michigan is a fast track, and we believe whole-heartedly in Justin's ability to put the Lofton Cattle Chevrolet where it needs to be."

JLPR

Rolling hills with lush green grass, expansive lakes and small, quaint villages are in full view on the drive along U.S. Highway 12 in southern Michigan. Golf courses and vast farmed land also are part of the otherwise tranquil scene. It’s a serene setting and one conducive to the quiet country life many enjoy in the area. Any thundering noises that may disturb this quiet setting are typically the tell-tale signs of an impending storm. It’s all part of an area referred to as the Irish Hills of Michigan.

The Irish Hills were named in homage to the Irish immigrants that settled in the area in the early to mid-1800s. Today, the area is known for its resorts that attracts numerous tourists with its state parks and its multitude of lakes. It is a laid-back atmosphere conducive to families seeking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

That all changes this weekend when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into the Irish Hills for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. It is the second time the series will be competing at Michigan as part of the 2012 schedule. The one thing everyone learned the last time the series visited the 2-mile track? It is superfast after the repaving project the track completed during the offseason. Teams will be looking forward to taking advantage of that speed during this second go-round at Michigan.

Kurt Busch and the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team, however, will be looking for more than just speed this weekend. Three races have taken place since the last off-weekend the series enjoyed, but each of those events have been plagued with plain, old bad racing luck for Busch & Company. From an engine failure at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to a blown tire at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway to the mechanical failure at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, each race transformed promising performances into nothing but disappointing results. A trip to the Irish Hills may be just what the team needs to turn its luck around in the hopes of picking up a little bit of the luck of the Irish.

While an added dash of luck could provide a big assist, the team will rely on Busch’s previous experience and success at Michigan just as much. The 2004 Sprint Cup champion goes to Michigan as a two-time winner at the 2-mile oval.  Busch scored his first Michigan win during the track’s June race in 2003, leading 23 laps along the way. He scored his second Michigan win with more of an exclamation point by leading a race-high 95 laps on Aug. 21, 2007. In addition to the two victories, Busch has a pair of poles. He earned the top starting spot for the track’s June races in both 2010 and 2011. Combining Busch’s success at Michigan with a little bit of luck just might yield the recipe needed for the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services team to capture desired results on Sunday.

Yes, the calm, serenity of the Irish Hills will be under siege by thundering racecars once again this weekend. While Busch and Phoenix Racing will be very much a part of the disruption, they are hoping to catch a break in the luck department and have Irish eyes smiling on them.

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New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Green Earth Technologies have greased the wheels in their “Greening of NHMS” initiative by making G-OIL® the official entitlement partner of September’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race.

The G-OIL 100 will run on Saturday, September 22 at 2:30 p.m.

“New Englanders are very environmentally conscious and NHMS is an environmental leader in the motorsports industry,” said Jeffrey Loch, president and CMO of Green Earth Technologies. “We are very pleased to team up in the “Greening of NHMS.’ ”

The “Greening of NHMS” is a series of initiatives the speedway and G.E.T. have taken to make “The Magic Mile” more environmentally friendly. Ultimate Biodegradable G-OIL, the first API and USDA certified, bio-based full synthetic motor oil, is being used in all New Hampshire Motor Speedway vehicles, including safety, maintenance, service, and landscaping equipment.

In addition to the G-OIL 100 title sponsorship, 5-time World Hot Saw Champion Mike Sullivan will be demonstrating the performance of the Bar & Chain oil over in the fan zone while GET provides samples of their 2-Cycle no smoke-no smell engine oil and high value mail-in rebates of their motor oil to fans at the track and in the NHMS camping areas, which are home to over 5,000 guests during race weekends.

“This is another terrific step forward in our relationship with Green Earth Technologies,” says Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway. “Green means go in our business and we’ve got our pedal to the floor to be the most ecologically-aware track in NASCAR.”

This won’t be G-OIL’s first NASCAR weekend at “The Magic Mile.” The company was a part of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR weekend in July, emblazoning the shuttle trams and several transportation carts with its logo.

The K&N Pro Series East is the highest level of NASCAR’s developmental race series. Many great drivers have entered one of the three national NASCAR series from this level. The series uses race cars that are similar to those used in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with a focus on keeping the costs to a minimum.

Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr., now full-time drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, got their start in the K&N Pro Series and were victorious at “The Magic Mile.

The field for the G-OIL 100 will feature 16-time X Games gold medalist Travis Pastrana, winner of the inaugural SYLVANIA SilverStar zXe Global RallyCross event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14.

G-Oil PR

With singer Kid Rock serving as grand marshal for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, there are plenty of his lyrics that fit Jimmie Johnson’s recent run of hard luck at the 2-mile oval, and none are more appropriate than the opening line of the song My Name Is Kid Rock. “Faded fast, ran outta gas” seems to sum things up best. (Anyone familiar with the lyrical stylings of Kid Rock, a “Pure Michigan” native, it is about the only line appropriate for this preview!)

Johnson hopes to turn around his string of frustrating finishes at the 2-mile Michigan oval as the series makes the season’s second and final visit to the track this weekend. He may have a little more confidence since claiming the top spot in the driver standings after Sunday’s third-place finish at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. He knows his modest one-point lead could use some padding, but Michigan has been a thorn in the side of Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s team over the years. It is one of only five tracks on the circuit where Johnson has never celebrated one of his 58 victories. Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and Watkins Glen are the others.

However, Johnson and his team can be encouraged by the speed they’ve shown in the car despite encountering race-day issues the past few years. In 2009, it was all about fuel. He dominated the June race by leading 146 of 200 laps, but ran out of gas after taking the white flag and finished 22nd. He led 133 laps in the August race but ran out of fuel during the final two laps and finished 33rd.

In 2010, Johnson earned one of his best Michigan finishes to that point with a respectable sixth-place result. August wasn’t as kind as a few hiccups on pit road early in the race, and then a final pit stop during which Johnson took on four tires while most of the rest of the field stayed out or took fuel only, stymied his chance at victory once again.

Last year was no less frustrating. In June, Johnson was never able to show the speed of the No. 48 machine as the car broke loose on lap eight. While he saved it from contacting the wall, a part broke, forcing Johnson to come down pit road for lengthy repairs. He was never able to recover due to long, green-flag runs the rest of the race. Last August turned out to be the bright spot in Johnson’s history at Michigan as he finished a career-high second despite encountering issues, yet again, in the race.

During this season’s June race on the newly repaved Michigan circuit, it was back to the same-old, same-old for Johnson. But despite the fact he was running out of gas, yet again, coming out of turn three while headed for the checkered flag, and having endured right-rear tire issues earlier in the race, he was able to pull off his fourth top-five finish in 21 races at Michigan. Call it another moral victory.

This weekend, much like Kid Rock, who will undoubtedly be his usual, highly entertaining self in front of the pre-race crowd, Johnson hopes to make it to race’s end without fading fast or running out of gas, and he hopes to hear that same crowd whispering his name.

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