MIS pole-sitter Logano: ‘These cars are out of control'
Brooklyn — There was plenty of drama on the NASCAR Sprint Cup scene prior to qualifying Friday afternoon for the Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Multiple cars failed to get through the technical inspection line prior to the scheduled 4:15 p.m. qualifying session around the two-mile superspeedway. In fact, Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota had to go through the line three times before making his way for his shot at the pole.
After a 15-minute delay, the cars took the track and Joey Logano circled the track with a lap of 199.557 mph in his No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford to win his second pole of the season. Truex regrouped and qualified second (199.016), followed by Tony Stewart (198.950) in the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet.
The reason for the problems? Well, NASCAR put in new rules to the aerodynamic package to further reduce downforce and sideforce with the spoiler shortened an inch from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches and the splitter reduced from five inches to two to ultimately promote more passing opportunities. However, the cars also get loose, making it more of a challenge for drivers to handle their cars.
“Overall, these cars are out of control,” Logano said. “It’s a lot of fun. You’re booking down in the corners at 200- and-something and you have your hands full trying to figure out what you’re going to do. It’s a fun challenge for the drivers, and it’s equally big of a challenge for the race teams. Hats off to Team Penske and their engineering department and simulation department to come to a race track without any practice with this package at all and be able to be the fastest car on qualifying day.
“We have a couple of practices tomorrow to get it a little better in race trim. The one thing that we do know for sure at this point is that we have a good starting spot and a good pit stall and everything after that is still a big unknown I think with this race. I’m really excited about it.”
Truex, Greg Biffle and Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski — Logano’s Team Penske teammate — were the final drivers to pass inspection. Biffle (sixth), Truex (seventh) and Keselowski (22nd) were among the top 24 drivers to advance past Round 1 of qualifying, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick weren’t as fortunate and will have to start 27th and 29th, respectively, in Sunday’s race.
Keselowski failed to advance past Round 2 and will start 15th with a lap of 197.569 mph, nearly two mph slower than Logano.
Obviously, Truex was thrilled with his starting spot.
“It was definitely an exciting one, that third round and we freed the car up quite a bit,” Truex said. “Sunday it’s going to be a blast. We’ll get that race set-up in the race cars and that sun being on the race track all day, it’s going to get slick and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“We had to work hard on it today. We had trouble getting through tech. Our first run was pretty bad, our second run was a little better and our third run was pretty good so I’m proud of the guys on the Denver Mattress Furniture Row Toyota. We came out with a good results so it was a good day, just keep digging and never give up.”
Kyle Busch, who has a series-high three wins, will start ninth.
Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition was surprised by the multiple cars failing inspection.
“It kind of surprises me that we’ve actually had this trouble because everybody did have the opportunity to go through this morning to go through and fingerprint what they had,” Smith said.
NASCAR has made numerous moves to find the right formula of putting on better races, giving drivers a better chance to have passing opportunities while also putting the car in the driver’s hands with more of a challenge with cars getting loose due to the changes.
Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR senior vice president of innovation and racing development, talked of the changes.
“In 2014 we had on the car 3,000 pounds of downforce and in 2015 we took it down to 2,700,” Stefanyshyn said. “The ‘16 rules package was at 2,000 and the package we’re running here at Michigan will be 1,500, so it’s been a journey over three or four years we’ve been taking the downforce down.
“The other change this year is we’ve also taken sideforce out of the car to the tune of about 110 pounds, and the reasoning for taking the downforce and the sideforce off the car, obviously we take the aerodynamic forces off the car, it makes the car a bit more difficult to drive for the drivers. But, in taking those aerodynamic forces off, we do clean up the amount of the air or turbulence around the cars so the cars should be able to move around each other better and pass. That’s kind of the theory.”
And in the end, drivers like Logano feels Sunday’s race will be entertaining for the fans and a thrill for the competitors.
“Today, I was able to really let it hang out into Turn 3 a few times, I had my hands to the right, hanging on to it and really didn’t slow down,” Logano said. “It’s weird. It’s almost become more forgiving which is kind of a weird way of looking at it because it’s a lot easier to make mistakes and a lot easier to slip up and go out of the grove. But, it seems like you can recover a little bit better without losing as much speed which is interesting as I think about it up here.
“It seems like that’s kind of how it’s going to be, but I think that’s what’s also going to make the racing better is there’s going to be more mistake and that’s what creates passes in my opinion.”
Logano, who won at MIS in August of 2013, will be in search of his first win of the season. Drivers with a win are automatically locked in to one of the 16 spots for the Chase, the run for the championship during the final 10 races of the season. Nine drivers have already earned victories.
Firekeepers Casino 400
1 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: (800) 354-1010
8 a.m.: Gates open
9 a.m.: Sprint Cup practice FS1
10 a.m.: Xfinity qualifying FS1
Noon: Sprint Cup practice
1:30 p.m.: Xfinity Menards 250 FS1
Entertainment: Elle King, 5:30 p.m.; after party, 11 p.m.-3 a.m.
8 a.m.: Gates open
1 p.m.: Sprint Cup FireKeepers Casino 400