June 15, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Terry Foster

MIS requires delicate strategy at breakneck speeds

Brooklyn, Mich. — Joey Logano spoke a foreign language.

He is one of Roger Penske’s drivers and on Friday he talked about tiny racing grooves and slingshot starts and why on certain parts of the track it will be more difficult to pass than at a Formula One race because of invisible passing lanes.

Here is what I know about Michigan International Speedway: It is the fastest race on the Sprint Cup circuit and it is the most intimidating one I’ve seen. It is even intimidating to drive the family car off the track on those banked curves. There is simply no way a car can hug those curves without falling off.

The speed was evident Friday as 13 drivers averaged 200 mph or faster for qualifying for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 race. Carl Edwards (202.452 mph) took the poll. Even though the field was fast nobody matched Marcos Ambrose, who qualified with a speed of 203.241 mph last year.

This track has been a huge fascination ever since I covered my first race in the early 1980s. Indy Car racing was king then and Rick Mears was one of its fastest drivers. He was the first guy I ever saw run a lap here and it was amazing to see the speeds he generated.

Now NASCAR is the king of sports and the speeds they generate on these high-banked tracks is amazing. They can run laps of 200 mph and go about 215 in the straights. It isn’t the 232 mph Mears traveled, but it is still impressive.

These aren’t cars as much as rocket ships.

Are you looking for a little fun Sunday? Check out the restarts and the straights during the Quicken Loans 400. This is where all the action will be and as usual this race will probably finish in a near-dead heat with cars barreling down the winner’s neck. That’s the way these races usually finish but Michigan will provide more drama because this track has so many dimensions to it.

“What makes the track unique is because the track is narrower,” said Logano, who qualified his Ford sixth at 200.725 mph. “What I mean by that is the (passing) groove isn’t as wide as it used to be. That makes it difficult to find the right lane to pass. It makes it tough but it makes it a lot of fun on restarts. You will see a lot of passing on restarts.”

Here is something else to watch for: Do not be surprised if you see a dominant car for 350 miles that either falters or loses speed. If you factor in warm weather and some cars pushing it to the limits there could be a lot of casualties. So there will be that give and take between going for glory or holding back and waiting your turn.

“The one worry you have is you can have engines going at 9,000 RPMs or even higher,” Logano said. “You want to bring as much motor as you can but they need to last the whole race.”

Many won’t because they face a great track in MIS, the fastest around.


Drivers cross the start-finish line at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday. Thirteen drivers qualified with speeds in excess of 200 mph. / Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
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