Michigan is all about horsepower and strategy. See, there’s a lot of real estate to pass on the 2-mile Irish Hills race track. Also, these engines are so wound up, that horsepower usually wins out. So, the ones that may be lacking, well they go for strategy plays. With Michigan being so big, you can pit here and not lose a lap.
That’s why with having two races in as many days this weekend, I expect a lot of strategy to come into play on both days.
See, the regular season is winding down and with Daytona hosting two races this month and the unpredictability of them, Michigan is a place one can control their own destiny a bit. The playoff bubble is tight and has some big named teams on it. They need to win, but can’t afford to give up stage points either.
We know Michigan is a place where the guys that have wins already will give up stage points to position themselves for a win for the final stage. It happened in both races lat year. So, with the likelihood of points being there for the taking for the wildcard drivers, how many of them elect to take them, or how many decide to give them up and pit with the leaders at the end of Stage 2 in hopes of a win instead?
With doing so, you need track position. Track position over a run at Michigan is key. That’s why the restart on both Saturday and Sunday are going to be as wild as we see anywhere. We may see 4-5 and maybe even 6 wide at times.
“At the end of the day, Michigan is about track position,” said Clint Bowyer. “If you lose that track position, it’s a fight to try and get back up there. You look at the restarts, they are wild. We are four-wide, gouging, trying to get every spot you can. If you’re going to gain spots, that’s where you’re going to gain the majority of them. Throughout the fuel run, you might gain one or two. Keeping the track position, I think, is key all day long.”
His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate of Aric Almirola agrees.
“We’re seeing restarts get crazier and crazier at tracks that we go to,” Almirola said of restarts this year. “There’s no one track that they’re crazier at than the other anymore because that is the most opportune time to pass cars, besides on pit road. Pit road is the easiest place to pass but, once you line up for the restart, there’s opportunity to gain three, four, five spots in a lap, and there’s no other opportunity to do something like that throughout the run.
“I feel like restarts are definitely the time to gain or lose track position, so you have to be on offense and defense at the same time. Michigan is very wide and you want to be aggressive and go take spots away, but you can easily give up four or five spots that are really hard to get back once we get single file.”
He says Michigan is very line-sensitive on restarts too and that the outside lane is usually the dominant lane.
“The inside lane – the cars on the inside usually lose sideforce, they lose the air on the side of their car and they are very loose down there in turns one and two on the restart,” Almirola continued. The outside lane usually has the momentum and is the preferred lane going through (turns) one and two on the restarts.”
On Thursday, NASCAR announced the choose cone rule will start in both races this weekend. It’s here to stay. That should certainly spice things up.