Brooklyn — As I drove with my parents out of the business district, along County Line Road in the summer of 1967, a news broadcast interrupted a Tigers game.
The groundbreaking for the race track planned for a site two miles away would occur early that autumn.
At age 11, I thought: Man, a track!
Racing at Michigan International Speedway is now in its 50th year.
Here are my favorites, in chronological order.
USAC 250, October 13, 1968
The first race at MIS told everyone just about everything they would ever need to know.
The track featured massive speed. The slingshot effect of the 18-degree banking, 100 percent more than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, proved dramatic.
There would be yellow flags, lots of attrition and many surprises.
Like Ronnie Bucknum.
Only Bucknum beat Mario Andretti to the finish line.
“This is the first time I’ve driven a turbo-charged Offy,” Bucknum said.
“The only other time I’ve driven an oval course was at Indianapolis — and this track is more like Daytona than the Speedway.”
It was Bucknum’s only career win.
Michigan 500, July 18, 1982
Only Gordon Johncock, of Coldwater, and Andretti finished on the lead lap.
Both drove for Pat Patrick, of Jackson.
They dueled, often wheel-to-wheel, for 28 laps.
With Andretti driving a backup vehicle and in considerable pain after wrecking in the last practice, Johncock won by 15 seconds.
One more yellow flag and Andretti would have pitted for a wing adjustment that could have produced victory.
Michigan 500, July 22, 1984
With 70,000 people on their feet the last 10 laps, Andretti nipped Tom Sneva.
The margin of victory — .15 seconds — remained the smallest in history for several years.
Again, Andretti drove at considerable disadvantage. A dropped cylinder cost him a lap before swapping out a spark plug helped.
He drove skillfully, with huge elbows, blocking and seizing every advantage.
“He tried to kill us both, the last four laps,” Sneva said, amid a string of accusations.
“He’ll get over it by Wednesday,” Andretti responded.
Michigan 500, July 23, 2000
The lead, officially measured by track position each time the leader crosses the finish line, changed 52 times.
During the remainder of the laps, unofficial counters, tallied 162.
It seemed like madness.
At wild speed, with lap averages up to 230 miles per hour, Michael Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya battled for the lead for the last several laps.
They went door-to-door on the last lap beginning in Turn 3, nearly touching in Turn 4.
Montoya, on the outside, benefited from the draft of a slower car, to beat Andretti by .040 seconds.
Michigan 500, July 22, 2001
This one had 60 official lead changes, and an unofficial count of 167 elsewhere around the track.
With a cluster of four cars easily in contention on the last lap, after a late restart, Patrick Carpentier beat Dario Franchitti by .242 seconds, denying Franchitti the series lead.
Franchitti’s place had to be determined by photographs, which revealed his car about two inches ahead of Michel Jourdain Jr. in third.
Motor State 500, June 15, 1969
In the first NASCAR cup series race at MIS, Cale Yarborough beat Lee Roy Yarbrough in an classic.
For 150 laps, they dueled, often door-to-door.
On the final lap, they touched twice entering Turn 1, and Yarbrough scraped the wall.
Coming out of the final turn, Yarbrough spun out about 300 yards from the finish. Yarborough finally prevailed.
Motor State 400, June 7, 1970
Richard Petty swapped the lead with Bobby Isaac, Bobby Hamilton and Yarbrough, before falling off.
Then Yarborough and Hamilton dueled from lap 129 to the end, at 200, swapping the lead five times.
Door-to-door much of the way, Yarborough caught Hamilton at the finish line for the fifth and final lead change, and a 0.3-second win.
Yarborough earned $14,675 and Hamilton $7,120.
Petty, who led the most laps but finished 28th, earned $775.
Champion Spark Plug 400, August 20, 1978
Many great racers have driven MIS. None performed better than David Pearson.
Pearson won nine races in Brooklyn.
In his last victory, in a race with 34 lead changes, he held the lead and yielded it nine times.
On his 10th try, he seized P1 from Darrell Waltrip on the last lap and won by .32 seconds.
Miller Genuine Draft 400, June 19, 1994
The night before the race, Rusty Wallace saw his boss, Roger Penske, repairing cracks in the asphalt in Turn 3.
He wondered if they would race.
In first place, the next day, Wallace suddenly ran out of fuel. But a yellow flag flew, saving him.
Trying to restart the car, pit chief Buddy Parrott caught his belt buckle on the hood.
Accelerating, Wallace dragged him down pit late and flipped Parrott in the air.
In 12th, with 15 laps left, Wallace picked off cars one-by-one, until he reached Dale Earnhardt, who had inherited the lead.
“I caught him in Turn 3,” Wallace said. “I straddled that same portion of the track Roger repaired, and I went on to win.”
Wallace beat Earnhardt by .72 seconds.
“In the winner’s circle,” Wallace said. “Buddy’s standing there with his belt buckle off, glasses crooked, with one lens all cracked to hell.”
2017 Pure Michigan 400, August 13, 2017
Kyle Larson thrilled a declining fan base with a brilliant finish.
On a restart with three laps to go, Larson sat on the inside of the second row. With a bull rush at the green flag, he split Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones, who were on the front row with Matt Kenseth.
Risking a perilous four-wide, Larson shot the gap, won the race and kept himself within striking distance of Truex for the championship.
NASCAR at MIS
FireKeepers Casino 400
When: 2 Sunday
Support races: ARCA Series, 5:30 today; NASCAR Xfinity Series LTi Printing 250, 1:30 Saturday