Race Fans Await Car's Two-Mile Debut
Following a successful Daytona 500 weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway’s sister-track, California Speedway, for the Auto Club 500 weekend.
Many storylines are coming out of California’s race, including the debut of NASCAR’s new car on the two-mile oval. Two-time defending race winner Matt Kenseth, who also has two Cup wins at MIS, is looking forward to seeing how the new car performs this weekend.
“Yeah, I mean, it's just a real big, wide track. You get a little bit of everything there. Especially this new car has less drag, so you go really fast on the straightaways,” Kenseth said. “It's got some pretty big corners where you can run around the bottom or you can run up high. You're always kind of searching for a groove, so it's always a lot of fun. You do get some pull down the straightaways in general at Michigan and California probably more so than any of the other tracks we go to besides Daytona and Talladega.”
Because of the similarities California and MIS share, it will give drivers like Kenseth an added advantage when the series heads to MIS in June.
“California and Michigan certainly have a lot of similarities,” he said. “You can use a lot of what you learn at California at Michigan and vice versa. I remember there's years when Kurt (Busch) won both races and ran almost exactly the same stuff at both tracks. You know, what California likes Michigan kind of likes. You might not be able to run a carbon copy but you'll certainly be able to use some of the stuff you learned.”
Race teams tested more than 60 cars during a two-day test at California and speeds ranged from Denny Hamlin’s top time of 182.523 mph to 173 mph. Times for the new car are expected to be faster at MIS due to the speedway’s higher banking. MIS carries 18 degree banking in the turns, 12 degree banking on the frontstretch and five on the backstretch, while California is 14 degrees in the turns, 11 on the front and three on the back.
With the variance in banking, the new cars times at MIS could be very similar to the old car, ranging from 185-190 mph. The qualifying record at Michigan International Speedway stands at 194.232 mph, set by Ryan Newman in 2005.
“I’m looking forward to (the new) cars because everyone is so close,” said Carl Edwards during the test. “I believe that opens the opportunity for the drivers to be able to make a little bit bigger difference. I think that’s going to be a pretty good thing.”
“I think you're going to see a lot of people moving around,” said Kevin Harvick at the preseason test, of Sunday’s Auto Club 500. “I think this car, even at Las Vegas, you could move around and make time. You're just going to see a lot of different grooves develop as the race goes on.”
And if last week’s season-opening Daytona 500 is any barometer, expect more “raciness” this season.
NASCAR’s new car, beginning its first full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, promises a ramped-up competitive environment along with significant safety boosts and cost-containment measures. Last week’s Daytona 500 was one of the most competitive in the race’s 50-year history with winner Ryan Newman taking the lead on the last lap.
The event’s 42 lead changes were the most since 2001 (49) and the fifth time since 1972 that a Daytona 500 produced 40 or more lead changes. Also consider that 16 drivers led at least one lap, the second-highest total in Daytona 500 history. Only the 2006 race had more leaders (18).
And the new car begins 2008 by racing at four consecutive tracks for the first time, including California, where series teams tested on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.Michigan International Speedway tickets can fit anyone’s budget.
The speedway is hosting the ARCA RE/MAX Series on June 13, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Cool City Customs 200 on June 14, the NASCAR Nationwide Series Carfax 250 on August 16 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on June 15 and 3M Performance 400 on August 17. Tickets are available for all events, including qualifying days.
To order tickets, pit passes or hospitality packages, call the MIS Ticket Hotline at 800-354-1010 or visit MISpeedway.com.
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- Watch the DAYTONA 500 at Dacey’s Taphouse on Feb. 26