Friday Notebook: Michigan Speedway
FAST FORD — Michigan International Speedway is in team owner Jack Roush’s backyard, and Ford Motor Co.’s, too, so it’s fitting that Carl Edwards earned the first pole for Roush Fenway Racing this year and the first for Ford during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session for the Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
Edwards blistered the track with a lap of 202.452 miles per hour, which gave him the pole over Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.
Afterwards, Edwards paid homage to former NASCAR racer Jason Leffler, who was killed in a sprint car crash Wednesday in New Jersey. “Before anything else, I’ve go to say we’re thinking about Jason Leffler’s family,” said Edwards. “It’s such a tragedy. He is the man. I was a fan of his, watching the USAC racing back in the late ‘90s and I got to know him a little bit. Just an awesome guy.”
MAN OF STEEL — Dale Earnhardt, the defending winner of the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, is hoping that riding with a superhero pays off a second time. Last year, Earnhardt won this race with a Batman-themed The Dark Night Rises paint scheme on his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. This time out, he’s got Superman Man of Steel colors, and NASCAR’s perennial most popular driver is geeked about the new look.
“We are excited about the car. The car looks great,” Earnhardt said Friday morning at MIS. “It’s not difficult to come up with a cool paint scheme when you are working with Superman and like we did last year with Batman and all that. It’s pretty simple to come up with something really cool and fun. Definitely makes that kind of a job easier.”
SAFETY FIRST — In the wake of the tragic death of Jason Leffler Wednesday night, reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski said Friday that he deliberately shies away from racing on a local level because of driver safety, or the lack thereof.
“I don’t run those races for a reason,” Keselowski said. “There are a handful of drivers that run at the local level. I don’t very often. I’m not gonna say I never have, but I don’t very often because they don’t have SAFER barriers and they don’t have the safety standards that we have here in NASCAR. That said, that’s not to say that all tracks in NASCAR have it right, either. There are quite a few, and I think Jeff Gordon so eloquently pointed that out a couple weeks back, that could use some serious upgrades and facelifts, but it’s even 100 times worse at the local level.”
OLD SCHOOL — Now that he’s past 40, Jeff Gordon gets asked about retirement more and more these days. But Friday at Michigan International Speedway, he laughed out loud when he was asked why more retired drivers don’t become crew chiefs.
“That’s funny,” Gordon said. “Let’s see. Where do I begin? One is race car drivers don’t work hard enough to be crew chiefs. We don’t get up early enough to be crew chiefs. I definitely think there are some drivers out there that could be crew chiefs. I do. I wouldn’t say it’s any of the top drivers, though.”
AIN’T LOVE GRAND? — Last week at Iowa Speedway, Trevor Bayne won his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race since Nov. 2011. But even more important for Bayne was the fact that four days earlier, he tied the knot with longtime love interest Ashton Clapp.
“Getting married is bigger than winning any race because it’s a lifetime commitment and I got to marry a girl that I’ve dated for a long time and is my best friend and now she’s my wife,” Bayne said Friday morning at Michigan International Speedway. “To have her there in Victory Lane, that was the first time that she’s ever got to do that.”
Clearly, the 22-year-old Bayne has his priorities in order.