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McREYNOLDS: As Elliott rolls into Michigan, NASCAR should take from Dodges, Fords

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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This week, the Winston Cup Series returns to the two-mile oval in Brooklyn, Mich, near Ann Arbor. We race there twice a year during the summer. Back in June, sat on the pole, and Roush Racing's won his third race of the year. Although the four Roush teams are based out of Charlotte, Roush Industries, the group that does so much research and development for the cars, is actually located in Livonia, Mich. So Michigan International Speedway is really Jack Roush¿s home track. But Michigan is also the home track for all of the manufacturers. Chevrolet, Dodge, Pontiac and Ford are all based in the Detroit so a lot of executives come to the racetrack. You'll see folks that you may not even see at the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400. It's a big deal for the manufacturer to gain the bragging rights that come with winning the Michigan race.

Lap with Larry
During qualifying, you want to be up against the wall at the start/finish line. Stay close to the wall all the way down the frontstretch. Stay out as long as you possibly can. Stay on the throttle, and arc the car down into the sweeping corner. The 18-degree banking is a little deceiving because around the bottom, it's a little flatter than that. Let off the throttle a little, take the turn around the bottom and pick up the throttle as soon as you can. You want to get in the throttle well before the center of the corner. Then take the car up high coming out of turn two. You¿ll want to be up against the backstretch wall so you'll have a tremendous amount of speed going down the backstretch. Turn three is a little sharper so you can¿t drive as deep in the turn as you would in turn one. Try to go as deep as you can though and arc the car down as you did in turns one and two. Run around the bottom and get back in the throttle quick. Turn four is probably the trickiest at this track because it seems like you run out of racetrack. You¿ll see cars actually hit or scrape the wall coming out of turn four. You have to be careful not to get the wall because if you do, then you'll have to let off the throttle, which will kill your speed for that fast frontstretch.
Suggestion for Stewart's out-of-control emotions
What a week and weekend with ¿s problems in Indianapolis with the reporter to being fined by not only NASCAR, but even his sponsor. It's the first time that I¿ve heard of a sponsor fining a driver, but The Home Depot, his sponsor, even fined him $50,000 for his behavior. Those funds will go to a charity in Indiana. But I guess Tony and the entire 20 team had their focus back for this past Watkins Glen. Through all the practice sessions, qualifying and pretty much dominating the second half of the race, they had it together. As I¿ve said, is an awesome racecar driver. He just needs to control his emotions. Maybe this past deal will be the one that gets his attention. You have to control your emotions. Just this past winter, I went to the Human Performance Group here in Huntersville, N.C. Their program teaches you how to put things in perspective and how to keep from getting so emotional about little things that don¿t really matter. I wouldn¿t want a driver who doesn¿t get upset if he doesn't win or if he tears up a racecar. At the Brickyard 400, Stewart obviously had the second-best racecar so when he didn't even get a top-ten finish, he was understandably frustrated. But you just have to control your emotions.

Fight aero push by taking away,
not giving in

Through track and wind tunnel testing, NASCAR decided to give the GM makes help with downforce. NASCAR has allowed the Chevrolets to pull their front air dam out another inch to three-and-a-half inches, and the Pontiacs can pull their front air dams out another half-inch to an inch and a half. When NASCAR feels that things are unequal among the manufacturers, I think it would make more sense to take away from the cars instead of giving and giving and giving some more as they've done all season. If NASCAR feels that the Dodges and the Fords have an advantage, then take away from those makes instead of giving to the teams that aren¿t doing as well. I firmly believe that aero push comes from the cars being so aero efficient. The teams work hard in practice to make the cars turn with as much downforce as possible which is great for qualifying, but when you get in traffic, you lose that downforce. You get behind a car, and you can¿t pass because with a car in front of you, you lose a lot of the benefits of downforce. Adding a kickout only adds to the aero push problem so NASCAR should consider scaling back the Fords and Dodges next time around.

Who to Watch: Elliott seeks eighth,
Newman's top fives to title quest

and the 31 team were among the few teams who tested at Michigan. Since we just raced there in June, and we are in the middle of a really tough stretch, it¿s hard for teams to do a lot of testing right now. They are running low on tests as well. The track doesn¿t change that much from June to August. Both Penske teams, and , should do well, and they've got an extra bit of incentive as car owner Roger Penske is the founder of this racetrack. The Yates cars will run well there, especially who finished second in June. The DEI teams should do well, . and especially. They qualified second and third respectively in June. You need to keep a close watch on those Roush cars as well. But, I think the guy to watch is the man who has won seven races at Michigan. And with the roll he¿s been on lately, definitely keep your eye on . There are a bunch more races -- 14 to be exact-- but boy, what a points battle we have! The top five drivers are only separated by 106 points. When you consider that we have run 22 races, that¿s pretty tight. ¿s team seems to be bobbling lately. They have lost three engines in the last two weeks. It seems that the 40 team is breaking valves. When valves break several weeks in a row, it¿s normally a bad run of parts. That's just my speculation, and I¿m sure the team is investigating it, but generally when you have motor problems -- boom, boom, boom -- all in a row, it¿s probably just a bad run of parts. If you look at the last five or 10 races, the guy who has been on a tear is . He moved to ninth in points, and he's had seven top-five finishes in the last 10 races he has had top-five finishes, including five consecutive top-five finishes heading to Michigan. Last Sunday was his first race at Watkins Glen, and up until they tested there a few weeks ago, he had never even seen that racecourse. He demonstrated his enormous talent by finishing second with people breathing down his neck all day long. If it were not for some engine failures at the start of the season, he would be up there beating and banging for the championship with , Marlin and . But by no means is Newman out of the championship hunt, and he has to be considered a threat to win this week.

What to Watch

Normally cars have problems and get together or out of control in the exits of the corners. As I said in the track tour, you¿re carrying so much speed, and you drive right up against the wall so you may pinch off cars on exit. And sometimes, you¿ll have single car wrecks because the cars just won¿t turn coming out of the corners. You can pretty much pass anywhere on this track. If you can get your car under the car in front of you and get in the throttle coming off the turns, you can make good passes in the corners. FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com.

Check out Larry's web site www.larrymcreynolds.com.

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