Will the JGR Toyotas rise to the challenge at Michigan?
Two weeks ago at the Coca Cola 600, Martin Truex Jr. in his No. 78 Toyota dominated and won the race. When you look at the Joe Gibbs Toyota's however, they were a non-factor in our season's longest race. Now on Monday, Matt Kenseth in his Joe Gibbs Toyota did run upfront leading 31 laps but other than that, the Toyotas really weren't a factor at Pocono. Matt was the highest finishing of all the Toyotas in seventh.
So outside of Martin Truex's complete dominance at Charlotte, I think we got a hint of this back a few weeks ago. It's not that I think the Toyotas have lost anything but more the case where the Team Penske Fords plus the Chevrolets of Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have started playing catch-up.
I mentioned it the other day, but believe it or not, Mondays win at Pocono was Chevrolets first visit to victory lane since March 20th at Auto Club Speedway at California.
Back when I was a crew chief I always believed and told my team that there are three race tracks that are always a great measuring stick to see how you stack up. To me they have always been Pocono, Michigan and Indianapolis. The reason I always say those is it takes the whole entire package to win there. You have to have a great handling car, you have to have good aerodynamics and you need a ton of horsepower. On top of that you have to have a driver that fully understands those tracks, great strategy and a flawless pit crew.
Now sure that is the case at a lot of race tracks we go to, but to me, it takes it to an even higher level at Pocono, Michigan and Indianapolis. Now the other wild card heading into Michigan this weekend is the even lower downforce package that NASCAR has implemented for both Sunday and when we race at Kentucky.
Recent history seems to point that anytime a new aero package debuts it's the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing that seem to get their arms around it faster than the competitors. So that is a storyline I am going to be following all weekend to see if it plays out like that once again or can the Fords and Chevrolets continue their forward momentum.