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Busch feeling the speed at Michigan
How fast is too fast?
How about 220 mph-plus down the backstretch at Michigan Speedway?
Kurt Busch, who will start on the front row for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 and tested an IndyCar at the track earlier this year, says, “You don’t feel it.”
“Once you cross over that 200-mile-per-hour threshold, there’s a trust you have to put into the car to stick to the track,” Busch said. “Yes, 218 felt extreme because I had never been that fast. The track is so wide and so smooth you’re just ready about when you’re going to lift off the gas and how quickly you can get back to it. So you don’t notice the speed.”
Kevin Harvick posted Saturday’s top practice lap speed: 202.577 mph. The best lap of the weekend was the track record pole-winning speed of 203.949 mph set by Joey Logano on Friday.
On Saturday, Busch ran just 16 laps. He posted the sixth-quickest lap (201.568 mph) in the second practice and was fourth-fastest (198.451 mph) in Happy Hour. The 2004 Cup champ, who has two wins at Michigan, says the characteristics of each track dictate the sensation for the driver.
“There are some tracks that have sharper exits in the corner and some that are bumpier,” Busch said. “When you add all that together, that’s when you really feel the speed. I’ve been blessed. These guys (Furniture Row) have found a unique setup that is very stable and very fast.
“If I’m the guy that’s running 18th, slip-sliding around, that’s the guy you’d want to talk to because he’s not happy with his handling. He’s likely running 201 and he’s jacked up sideways.”
That’s exactly what happened to Jimmie Johnson prior to losing control of his car nine laps into Happy Hour. After he was evaluated in the Infield Care Center, Johnson acknowledged the No. 48 “just got loose.”
Michigan Speedway remains one of the five current Cup tracks where Johnson has yet to win. On Friday, the five-time champion said aerodynamic balance is critical with the high rate of speed the Generation 6 cars are traveling at on the newly paved surface. Prior to his wreck, Johnson posted the fastest lap in Happy Hour.
“We’re going to great lengths to get the right attitude in the car and the proper downforce and maximize the downforce that’s available,” Johnson said. “That’s really where we’re at right now.
“I think that leads to the troubles that we have on some tracks with passing because you’re so aero-dependent that when you lose the aero assistance you’re just sitting on the mechanical setup of the car that’s underneath it. The car isn’t ideal at that point. But that’s the world we live in. Aero is everything.”
Although Greg Biffle has won the last two races at Michigan, he finds the recent speeds mind-blowing. Biffle was third (198.725 mph) on the speed chart following second practice. Though the veteran anticipates speeds leveling off once the race begins, he has been surprised at how far they’ve climbed.
“I looked at the data yesterday — 222 miles per hour,” Biffle said with a laugh. “I don’t see it changing the complexion of the race, but 222 is pretty fast. It doesn’t actually feel that fast, but when you start looking at the data it’s pretty damn fast.”
READY FOR PRIMETIME?
Kyle Larson remains the favorite to fill the seat of the No. 42 Target Chevy.
But opinions are mixed on whether the phenom is ready to make the move to a full-time Sprint Cup schedule after a limited run in trucks and Nationwide.
Larson fell to eighth in the points standings last weekend following an engine failure. Still, he’s remained consistent throughout his rookie Nationwide Series season with five top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 21 starts.
“Kyle has a ton of talent, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be in the Sprint Cup Series, but it is a big step,” said Logano, who made the move at 18. “I know it is a big step, and I think he knows it is going to be a big step. I think he can handle it also.
“He is 21, which is a lot older than I was when I first started doing it, and he has a lot more racing experience than I had when I started. I feel like he has a shot at it. I think Kyle is an amazing talent that will make it someday, but at the same time I always tell people not to rush it because sometimes it isn’t quite worth it.”
Logano said he’s fortunate to have a second chance with Penske Racing this season after a rough start with Joe Gibbs Racing. Although Logano won two races in the Sprint Cup Series during his four seasons with Gibbs, the young driver was oversold and underproduced.
That wasn’t the case for Johnson. He scored just one win in the Nationwide Series in two full seasons prior to graduating to Sprint Cup at 25. After five seasons of acclimating to the Cup Series, Johnson produced five titles. He believes it’s hard to judge a driver before he actually gets in the series.
“When you look at Kyle’s background and he’s driving cars with far more power than grip, I think the Cup car will suit his style far better than a Nationwide car,” Johnson said. “But you do need that foundation of knowing these tracks because when we show up, our fastest lap we run all weekend will probably be our first lap right now.
“And if Kyle Larson wants to go to Cup next year, that’s tough to do. He’s going to need the whole session to get where he needs to, and then you’re five or six adjustments behind the fast guys. And that’s when the Nationwide Series is so good. You can learn the tracks and understand some things there. But you’ve just got to be careful to not stay there too long.”
Brad Keselowski dropped in on his hometown baseball team Friday night and threw out the first pitch at the Detroit Tigers game.
5 — Career Trucks series wins for defending series champion James Buescher.
23 — Trucks that remained in Saturday’s race after the first 25 of 100 laps.
51 — The size of Matt Crafton’s trucks series points lead over second-place rookie Jeb Burton.
Although Danica Patrick hasn’t visited bossman and teammate Tony Stewart since he was released from the hospital following surgery to repair a broken leg sustained in an accident at Southern Iowa Speedway on Aug. 5, she keeps up with him via text.
“I’ve heard he’s kind of getting back in the game, you know,” Patrick said. “He wants to know everything that’s going on. He wants to be able to hear what we’re doing. He’s off the meds and back to life again.”
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