Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rating the Carfax 400: 4 Stars ****

The second race at Michigan this season brought with it another good old fashioned fuel mileage race. Just like the race in June, things set up perfectly for a nail-biting race to the finish. In typical Michigan fashion, there were not many wrecks, and lots of green flag racing with several teams on different strategies at the end. The reward for a good strategic race with major Chase implications is a 4 Star Rating.

The man who was able to outlast them all in the final run to the checkered was none other than Brian Vickers, and man did he work a long time to make it happen? Vickers showed early on in his Nationwide career that he could run well in NASCAR by winning the Nationwide Championship in 2003. However, once he made the step up to the Cup Series with Rick Hendrick in the #25 car he found himself battling to stay relevant in the sport. After one win in three years with Hendrick, Vickers moved over to the newly formed #83 Red Bull program that was starting from scratch along with Toyota in 2007. Now, after two and a half years with the #83 team, Vickers was finally able to pull off the long-awaited victory at Michigan.

This was not really a fluky win like some fuel mileage victories turn out to be. Vickers was right on Johnson’s tail during most of that final run, a move that may have lead to him winning the race because of the draft he was able to use down the straightaways. But, if both Johnson and Vickers did have enough fuel to run like normal in the final laps I think Vickers may have been able to pull off the pass for the win. Plus, Mark Martin would have been right in the mix.

As for the Chase standings, Martin took a big hit, while Vickers was able to pull within just 12 points of the final transfer spot. The great thing about how this battle is shaping up is that it’s not just the driver in 12th that has to look over his shoulder in the final three races. With Biffle, Kenseth and Martin all within just 32 points inside the Chase, there are many drivers that are still not sure if they will make the Chase or not. The past couple of years it has seemed like there was really just a one-on-one battle for that final spot. Not this year. Kurt Busch in fifth is probably safe, but with three races to go in the regular season anyone from sixth on down could still miss the Chase come Richmond.

With the final regular season fuel mileage race out of the way, next up is the great short track in Bristol, TN. Fuel will not be a factor there. Instead, keeping the fenders on the car will go a long way towards victory lane and the all important bonus points. 13 drivers have been to victory lane this year, surpassing the total from a year ago. I would actually expect a few more different winners yet this season as there are still good drivers and good teams that have not yet won a race. Have a good week!


  1. Agreed 4 stars for the finish...the beginning was a bit too much HMS for me but you cant have everything! At least we raced on Sunday, in the rain...LOL

    Kurt is in 6th I think...less safe than before but pretty safe.

  2. klvalus - I was afraid Martin and Johnson were going to dominate all day. Thankfully fuel mileage came up and changed things around.

    Kurt is in sixth, my bad. I think I meant to say that Montoya in seventh and on down were still in the hot seat.


  3. Nice blow by blow j

    A big thumbs up for Vickers and the 83 team. Their slow and steady progression has them running with the big boys and it paid off BIG.

    Another thumbs up for Jimmie Johnson with his gracious remarks congratulating Brian after the race. JJ showed alot of class after tanking the race finishing down in the running order.

  4. RLGuido - I think even if Vickers has a small incident at Bristol or Richmond he will make it up with a good run at Atlanta and will be right there at the cutoff. It's good to see the long hard work pay off.

    As for Jimmie, he did say the right things after the race. You know he had to be burning up inside. But, it was probably a little easier to take knowing that he was so high up in the points. Would have loved the bonus points though!

  5. Nice write-up as always. Sorry for commenting so late!

    This points race IS getting really exciting! Wouldn't it be shocking if Martin failed to make the Chase having four wins???

  6. gonger93 - If Martin fails to make the Chase I'm afraid everybody would start complaining that wins still don't count enough. I kinda like that consistency is a large part of the equation.