Give Me Five: Michigan and Road America Edition
The NASCAR Sprint Cup, Camping World Truck, and Xfinity series have wrapped up their respective events at Michigan International Speedway and Road America for the Pure Michigan 400, Road America 180, and the Careers for Veterans 200. Here are five takeaways from this weekend’s events:
- Schedule: On Saturday, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was delayed by rain, and was ran during the Xfinity Series event at Road America. This was a nightmare for fans who wanted to watch both events. Motor Racing Network broadcasted the race from Road America, and will replay the Truck race sometime this week. Even if the events were ran at their respective times, there was a small window for fans to switch to events barring the first one get placed under a red flag. I understand that the events were held in two completely different venues, but it was a logistical nightmare for fans. TV probably played a role in the start time of the events, but hopefully it will be looked at scheduling wise to allow fans the chance to watch both races.
- First Time Winners: This weekend was a first in NASCAR history. All top-three national series experienced first time winners. Brett Moffitt in the Trucks, Michael McDowell in the Xfinity Series, and Kyle Larson in the Cup series. It is pretty cool, in my opinion, to be witnessing so much history happening in 2016. This makes me excited for the future of this sport, the sport I love and grew up on.
- 2017 Aero Package: The aero package that is expected to be used in 2017 needs some work. Kentucky and Michigan 2 provided lackluster racing, which resulted in a snoozefest, in my opinion. I wish this test was going to be used at track like Darlington because it has an abrasive surface, unlike Michigan and Kentucky. The first Michigan race where this package was used provided some fantastic racing, but it failed to produce in the next two events it was used in. I applaud the sanctioning body for trying to make the racing great again, but there needs to be some look on this package tested out.
- Road Course Racing: I absolutely love road course racing. Although the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series is finished with road course racing, fans get to see the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Mosport in Canada next weekend. Road course racing is some of the best of the season. Names in the Xfinity Series were certainly made over the past month with the three road course races and short tracks. Hopefully, we will continue to see the resurgence of road course racing. Every road course provides its own challenges, which is something that some ovals need!
- Youth Movement: The future of NASCAR is bright. Three of the top-five finishers in the Pure Michigan 400 are and were rookies within the past three years. We are beginning to see the changing of the guard to a new youth movement. “Kids Drive NASCAR” is a huge youth initiative started by NASCAR to attract the younger fans to the sport that many of us grew up on. I applaud NASCAR for their continued efforts in trying to reach a younger demographic. Much to the demise of the “older” NASCAR fans, you have to embrace change in order to keep the sport relevant. I applaud the efforts by the sanctioning body in trying to keep NASCAR relevant.
What are your five takeaways from the events at Michigan and Road America?
McDowell Masters Road America
Michael McDowell holds off his teammate Brendan Gaughan and saved enough fuel to win the Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville. This is Mcdowell’s first career win in NASCAR competition in 94 starts. This is Richard Childress Racing’s third consecutive victory in Road America.
“Its just huge. I am so thankful and very blessed. I thank all my guys back in Michigan with Circle Sport Levine Family Racing for letting me be here. They know how bad I wanted a victory at Road America. Just thankful to do it. This is awesome,” said McDowell in a post-race victory lane interview.
“Our South Point Chevy was great all day. Michael McDowell and his Richard Childress Racing Chevy was awesome all day. Three years in a row where RCR has won at Road America. I love this racetrack. It didn’t matter if it was rain or dry, Im the only guy that wants it wet, but I don’t care either way. I love this track,” said Brendan Gaughan post-race.
The first half of the race was under dry, but foggy conditions.The opening laps of the race were dominated by Alex Tagliani. Erik Jones flat-spotted his tires and was on pit-road early, but received a lucky break as the caution flew for Garrett Smithley, who spun on the frontstretch. Cars began to hit pit road around lap 10 to help with fuel strategy. Kenny Habul went behind the wall due to a broken axle, but returned to the race. Justin Marks, who was running in the top-three, received a penalty for speeding on pit road during the first cycle of pit stops. As the second caution fell, teams began to evaluate their strategies for the remaining portions of the race. At the halfway portion, Tagliani lead McDowell with Kelly, Marks,and Suarez rounded out the top-five as teams were logging laps in preparation for the second half of the race.
The second half of the race began with McDowell passing Tagliani. A light sprinkle of rain began to fall around lap 25, which brought out the third caution. Many teams went with “slicks” instead of the rain tires due to the nature of the cell near the track. Kelly collided with Elliott Sadler, who collided with Brendan Gaughan, as they exited the pits for the weather caution. Tagliani, who dominated the opening half, made contact with McDowell racing for the lead and dropped back to 28th. Teams began to tell their drivers with 10 laps remaining to begin saving fuel if a late race caution pulls the race into overtime. The teams who took fuel became excited as the caution flew for Alon Day, who became stuck in the gravel pit. McDowell dominated the second half after Tagliani’s spin earlier in the second half.
McDowell scored the victory, Gaughan was second, Brennan Poole finished third, Suarez fourth, and Ryan Reed rounded out the top-five.
The Road America 180 saw six lead changes among four different drivers. McDowell led the most laps at 24, Tagliani led 17 laps, E. Jones led 5 laps, and Gaughan led two laps. The race saw six cautions for 13 laps. Three cautions were for accidents, two cautions for debris, and one caution for weather. The time of race was 2 hours, 36 minutes, and 20 seconds. The average speed was 74.573 mph. The margin of victory was 0.534 seconds. The race went a total of 48 laps.
The Chase grid remains the same after Road America. E. Jones holds the top seed over Suarez and Elliott Sadler.
Sadler holds a 47 point lead over Suarez, a 50 point lead over Allgaier, a 57 point lead over Ty Dillon, and a 63 point lead over Gaughan.
Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 from Darlington Raceway, a Labor Day weekend spectacle. The race will be on NBC and Motor Racing Network beginning at 3:30PM EST.
NXS Road America Preview
While the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series are in Michigan, the NASCAR Xfinity Series rolls into Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to Road America for the Road America 180 presented by Johnsonville. This is the third and final road course event for the Xfinity Series in 2016. 40 drivers have entered into the event.
Michael McDowell is the sole NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver who will be pulling off the Michigan and Road America
Road America is situated between Green Bay and Milwaukee near the Kettle Moraine. The track is 4.048 mile road-course. Drivers will have to master 14 turns over 45 laps. Adding to the challenge of Road America, drivers may have to battle some rain during the event.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series has only raced at Road America since 2010. There have been five different pole winners in six events. Michael McDowell currently holds the record of being the youngest to win a pole, while Alex Tagliani is the oldest. All the races held at Road America have seen different winners. Reed Sorenson is the youngest winner, while Brendan Gaughan is the oldest. Only three races have been won from the pole position. In 2013, AJ Allmendinger was the last driver to win from the pole position in Xfinity Series competition at Road America. In 2012, Nelson Piquet Jr set the qualifying record with a speed of 85.171 mph; He also set the race record that year at a speed of 109.516 mph.
Drivers talk about the challenges at Road America in weekly press releases.
"Road America is a really cool track. It's packed with NASCAR fans and it's just a lot of fun to drive. It's very technical. It has a lot of elevation changes and it's very long. We had a lot of speed at Mid-Ohio when it wasn't raining so all I'm really hoping for this weekend is a dry track,” said current Xfinity Series point leader, Elliott Sadler.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to some road course racing this weekend. We were really strong a few weeks ago at Mid-Ohio and we had a solid run here last season. So hopefully we can have that same speed again this weekend with our LoudMouth Exhaust Mustang and see what we can do on Saturday,” said Bubba Wallace Jr.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend at Road America and our last road course of the year. This has definitely been a learning year for me when it comes to the road courses and trying to figure out how to get around each one and the unique challenges of each track. All year we’ve had fast Camrys and I know this weekend at Road America will be no different. We’ll use the practice sessions to get up to speed and for me to figure out my way around the track. We’ve got a big group from Reser’s with us this weekend and I’d love to get them another trip to victory lane,” said Erik Jones, the top seed in the Xfinity chase.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series has already had two practice sessions at Road America. In the first practice session, Michael McDowell paced the field with a speed of 108.847 mph, with Owen Kelly in second at a speed of 108.839 mph, Alex Tagliani was third at a speed of 108.687 mph, Justin Marks was fourth at a speed of 134.586 mph), and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top-five with a speed of 107.780 mph. In the second and final practice, Justin Marks paced the field at 108.946 mph, Michael McDowell in second at a speed of 108.907, Alex Tagliani with a speed of 108.571 mph, Owen Kelly with a speed of 108.378 mph, and Ty Dillon rounded out the top-five in final practice at a speed of 108.194 mph. No drivers ran 10 consecutive laps in both of the practice session.
NASCAR Xfinity drivers will qualify for the race at Road America on August 26th at 6:30PM EST on NBCSN. Coverage from Road America will be on Motor Racing Network and NBCSN beginning at 2:30PM EST.