DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan going into the Pure Michigan 400 on August 16 (NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET). MICHIGAN -SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Ford) · Four wins, ten top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 12.048, fourth-best · Average Running Position of 10.093, series-best · Driver Rating of 103.8, series-best · 311 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 179.305, third-fastest · 3265 Laps in the Top 15 (80.1), series-most · 920 Quality Passes, series-most Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · Three wins, five top fives, ten top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 20.286, 13th-best · Average Running Position of 14.669, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 91.0, 10th-best · 184 Fastest Laps Run, series-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 178.517, 12th-fastest · 2620 Laps in the Top 15 (64.3), eighth-most · 682 Quality Passes, ninth-most Dale Earnhardt Jr (No. 88 MICROSOFT Chevrolet) · Two wins, eight top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 12.143, fifth-best · Average Running Position of 12.173, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 98.9, fifth-best · 202 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 179.174, sixth-fastest · 2808 Laps in the Top 15 (68.9), seventh-most · 868 Quality Passes, fourth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 ARRIS Toyota) · Two wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 9.810, series-best · Average Running Position of 11.123, second-best · Driver Rating of 101.1, fourth-best · 214 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 179.223, fifth-fastest · 3099 Laps in the Top 15 (76.0), third-most · 887 Quality Passes, second-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 PEPSI Chevrolet) · Three wins, 19 top fives, 27 top 10s; six poles · Average finish of 15.667, 11th-best · Average Running Position of 13.660, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 93.3, seventh-best · 233 Fastest Laps Run, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 178.486, 13th-fastest · 2615 Laps in the Top 15 (64.1), ninth-most · 696 Quality Passes, eighth-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet) · One win, seven top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 12.333, sixth-best · Average Running Position of 13.934, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 91.5, ninth-best · 170 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 178.883, ninth-fastest · 2279 Laps in the Top 15 (55.9), 13th-most · 675 Quality Passes, 10th-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · One win, five top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 15.429, 10th-best · Average Running Position of 11.955, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 101.2, third-best · 415 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 179.598, second-fastest · 2909 Laps in the Top 15 (71.4), sixth-most · 776 Quality Passes, fifth-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet) · One win, eight top fives, ten top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 17.000, 12th-best · Average Running Position of 15.213, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 89.5, 13th-best · 184 Fastest Laps Run, second-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 178.966, seventh-fastest · 2357 Laps in the Top 15 (57.8), 11th-most · 772 Quality Passes, sixth-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · Two wins, 13 top fives, 19 top 10s · Average finish of 11.286, third-best · Average Running Position of 11.319, third-best · Driver Rating of 102.0, second-best · 174 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 179.234, fourth-fastest · 3125 Laps in the Top 15 (76.6), second-most · 873 Quality Passes, third-most Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) · Three top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 14.083, eighth-best · Average Running Position of 13.687, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 90.6, 12th-best · 55 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 178.856, 10th-fastest · 1478 Laps in the Top 15 (63.1), 10th-most · 379 Quality Passes, 12th-most Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) · One win, three top fives, eight top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.154, ninth-best · Average Running Position of 14.207, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 91.9, eighth-best · 82 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 178.951, eighth-fastest · 1445 Laps in the Top 15 (56.8), 12th-most · 410 Quality Passes, 11th-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) · One win, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s · Average finish of 11.053, second-best · Average Running Position of 13.103, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 94.1, sixth-best · 104 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 178.751, 11th-fastest · 2635 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7), fifth-most · 746 Quality Passes, seventh-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 10 at Michigan Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 29 1 1 7 12 1 13.6 91.5 2 Joey Logano 13 1 1 3 8 1 14.2 91.9 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr 32 2 2 8 13 3 15.2 98.9 4 Jimmie Johnson 27 0 1 5 11 3 16 101.2 5 Brad Keselowski 12 0 0 3 5 0 14.1 90.6 6 Martin Truex Jr 19 0 0 4 6 1 17.2 81.1 7 Matt Kenseth 32 0 2 13 19 1 10.5 102.0 8 Kurt Busch 29 2 3 5 10 8 20.6 91.0 9 Jamie McMurray 25 0 0 1 5 2 18.7 72.5 10 Denny Hamlin 19 0 2 5 8 2 15.1 87.9 * – Based on last 21 races at Michigan International Speedway (2005 – 2015). Michigan International Speedway Data Season Race #: 23 of 36 (08-16-15) Track Size : 2-miles Banking/Turn 1 & 2 : 18 degrees Banking/Turn 3 & 4 : 18 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 5 degrees Banking/Backstretch : 2 degrees Frontstretch Length : 3,600 feet Backstretch Length : 2,242 feet Race Length : 200 laps / 400 miles Top 10 Driver Ratings at Michigan Greg Biffle ................................ 107.1 Jimmie Johnson ........................ 102.5 Matt Kenseth ............................. 101.2 Carl Edwards ............................ 100.5 Dale Earnhardt Jr . ....................... 98.0 Tony Stewart ............................... 95.8 Jeff Gordon ................................ 93.6 Joey Logano .............................. 91.8 Kevin Harvick .............................. 90.2 Kurt Busch .................................. 89.9 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2015 races (21 total) among active drivers at Michigan International Speedway. Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet 206.558 mph, 34.857 secs. 08-17-14 2014 race winner : Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet 141.788 mph, (02:49:16), 08-17-14 Track qualifying record: Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet 206.558 mph, 34.857 secs. 08-17-14 Track race record: Dale Jarrett, Ford 173.997 mph, (2:17:56), 06-13-99 At Michigan International Speedway: History · Michigan International Speedway sits on more than 1, 400 acres in the "Irish Hills" of Southeastern Michigan . Ground-breaking took place on Sept. 28, 1967. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan was held June 15, 1969 – won by Cale Yarborough at a speed of 139.254 mph. · The track was known as Michigan Speedway during the time Roger Penske was the primary owner (1996-99). · The first race was 500 miles in length; the second was scheduled for 600. The track was re-measured to 2.04 miles for the last race in 1970 and both races in 1971 – with the race distance being 402 miles. All other races have been scheduled for 400 miles. · The 2-mile speedway underwent a repave in 2012. Starts · There have been 92 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway since the first race there in 1969. Other than 1973, which had just one race, there have been two races each season since 1969. · 377 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway; 275 in more than one. · Bill Elliott leads the series in starts at Michigan with 61. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 45 starts. · Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Michigan with a 9.556. · Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver have posted their first career start at Michigan International Speedway: Carl Edwards (8/22/2004) and Landon Cassill (6/13/2010). Poles · Donnie Allison won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Michigan in 1969 with a speed of 160.135 mph. · 46 drivers have Coors Light poles at Michigan , led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six. · Six drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Michigan . David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Michigan with five; fall 1976 through 1978. · Youngest Michigan pole winner: Joey Logano (08/16/2013 – 23 years, 2 months, 23 days). · Oldest Michigan pole winner: Mark Martin (08/19/2012 – 53 years, 7 months, 10 days). · One active driver has posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Michigan International Speedway: J.J. Yeley (6/17/2007). Wins · 36 different NSCS drivers have won at Michigan International Speedway, led by David Pearson with nine wins; Greg Biffle leads all active drivers with four. · Eight drivers have posted consecutive wins at Michigan International Speedway, including four consecutive by Bill Elliott (1985 sweep and 1986 sweep). · Youngest Michigan winner: Joey Logano (08/18/2013 – 23 years, 2 months, 25 days). · Oldest Michigan winner: Harry Gant (08/16/1992 – 52 years, 7 months, 6 days). · Roush Fenway Racing has the most wins at Michigan in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 13: Mark Martin (four), Greg Biffle (four), Carl Edwards (two), Matt Kenseth (two) and Kurt Busch (one). · Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Michigan ; led by Ford with 34 victories; followed by Chevrolet with 23. Toyota has four wins at Michigan . · 18 of the 92 (19.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jeff Gordon last season. · The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (18) than any other starting position at Michigan International Speedway. · 26 of the 92 (28.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from the front row: 18 from the pole and eight from second-place. · 69 of the 92 (75%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Seven of the 92 (7.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Michigan is 32nd, by Mark Martin in the spring of 2009. · All active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Michigan International Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart won at Michigan in his third appearance, the fewest previous starts among the active NSCS winners. · Kevin Harvick competed at Michigan International Speedway 19 times before winning in the fall of 2010; the longest span of any the active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. · Among the active NSCS Michigan winners Kevin Harvick (19), Dale Earnhardt Jr . (17) Kyle Busch (13), Jeff Gordon (11) and Joey Logano (10) all made 10 or more attempts before their first win. Additional Finishing Position Stats · Jeff Gordon leads the series in runner-up finishes at Michigan with eight; followed by Darrell Waltrip with seven and Kevin Harvick with five. · NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough leads the series in top-five finishes at Michigan with 21; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19. · Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Michigan with 31; followed by Bill Elliott with 29. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 27. · Carl Edwards leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Michigan with a 9.818. · Jamie McMurray leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Michigan without visiting Victory Lane at 25; followed by Casey Mears at 24. Track/Event Specific Stats · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway was the June 10, 2001 race won by Jeff Gordon over Ricky Rudd with a MOV of 0.085 second. · There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Michigan International Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2011 (200/203); and fall of 2012 (200/201). · Five of the 92 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 6/14/2015. · Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway four times; most recently the spring of 2008 race. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Michigan with 1,058 laps led in 45 starts. Female Competitor Stats · Four female drivers have competed at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Robin McCall, Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick . Of the four female drivers to compete at Michigan , Guthrie has the best finish (10th). Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Danica Patrick 19 16 6/14/2015 Danica Patrick 14 18 8/17/2014 Danica Patrick 27 17 6/15/2014 Danica Patrick 28 23 8/18/2013 Danica Patrick 37 13 6/16/2013 Patrick Averages 25.0 17.4 Shawna Robinson 32 34 6/10/2001 Robinson Averages 32.0 34.0 Robin McCall 29 33 8/22/1982 Robin McCall 35 29 6/20/1982 McCall Averages 32.0 31.0 Janet Guthrie 18 27
Check out the best in-car audio from the Pure Michigan 400 as Matt Kenseth grabs his third win of the 2015 season at Michigan International Speedway.
Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz talks with Matt Kenseth at Michigan International Speedway after winning his third Coors Light Pole of the 2015 season.
RELATED: Practice 3 results " Practice 2 results Martin Truex Jr . shuffled to the top of the leaderboard in Saturday's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, a 55-minute session marked by an early crash by Kyle Busch . Truex drove the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Chevrolet to a best lap of 191.729 mph on the 2-mile track. In Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, he managed to secure just the 22nd starting spot for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Joey Logano claimed the second-fastest spot on the leaderboard at 191.215 mph in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford. Carl Edwards backed up his third starting spot with the third-fastest lap in final practice, clocking 191.189 mph on the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota. Kyle Larson was fourth-fastest with fellow Chevrolet driver Austin Dillon completing the top five. Dillon, who made a strong showing Friday by qualifying fourth, lost power on his Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet with six minutes left in final practice. Busch, tied for the series lead with four victories this season, lost control of his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota off Turn 4 just five minutes into final practice. The car slid sideways toward the infield, digging its nose into the grass and causing significant damage as it skidded to a halt. "You're leaking. Shut it down," crew chief Adam Stevens told Busch, who was evaluated and released at the infield care center. The JGR team unloaded the backup No. 18 car, which made two runs toward the end of practice. "I was just running along, everything was fine and I was actually feeling pretty good about it," Busch said. "Just started to get a little free up off of (turn) four. It started stepping out like it did here in the spring. I over-corrected and hit the wall so this time around I just kind of made it keep rotating and head down towards the infield. I think we need more grass at these race tracks, I think the apron should be full of grass." Those comments echoed the sarcastic remarks he gave to NBC Sports Network: "I think we should have more grass and it should be taller." Matt Kenseth , winner of the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was 16th-fastest in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. Kurt Busch , the most recent Michigan winner in June's rain-shortened Quicken Loans 400 , was 15th-fastest in Stewart-Haas Racing 's No. 41 Chevrolet. Jeff Gordon , the defending race winner, was 21st-fastest in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet in preparation for his final Michigan race as a full-time Sprint Cup competitor. Harvick tops Saturday's early practice Kevin Harvick was up and at 'em early Saturday morning, leading the day's early-morning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Michigan International Speedway. His speed of 194.784 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet was enough to top the speed charts, including pole-starter Matt Kenseth . Kenseth, the Coors Light Pole winner for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), was the top Toyota on the board Saturday, coming in second at 194.411 mph in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20. Kyle Larson (194.013 mph), Kyle Busch (193.976 mph) and Jimmie Johnson (193.934 mph) rounded out the top five at the 2-mile track. In an effort to further test the high-drag rules package and simulate race conditions, teams communicated via radio about working together for a few laps of pack racing -- and at 9:10 a.m. ET, with 15 minutes remaining, a large contingent of cars left pit road together. Kurt Busch , the series' most recent Michigan winner in June, was 14th-fastest. Jeff Gordon , the defending race winner prepping for what's expected to be his final Michigan start, was 17th-fastest. Saturday's final practice is slated for 11:30 a.m. ET, with TV coverage on CNBC and live online streaming via Live Extra .
RELATED: See all 43 cars " Full starting lineup The pit stall assignments are out for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, and Coors Light Pole Award Winner Matt Kenseth got to pick first on where he will pit. Kenseth chose pit stall 1 to service his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota; which is the first pit stall off pit road leading into Turn 1. Second-place qualifier Denny Hamlin , in the No. 11 Toyota, has the pit stall just in front of the start-finish line at the 2-mile track. Carl Edwards (starting third) will pit in the 22nd pit stall, just past start-finish line. Austin Dillon 's No. 3 Chevrolet (starting fourth) will be pitting in the second pit stall, right behind Kenseth while Tony Stewart (starting fifth) chose the fourth pit stall. Kenseth, Hamlin and Kasey Kahne (starting 11th) all have openings in front of them on pit road. The Pure Michigan 400 (200 laps, 400 miles) on Sunday, Aug. 16 at 2:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Live Extra, MRN, SiriusXM)
NASCAR's new high drag package gets its second shakedown of the season this weekend as Sprint Cup Series teams return to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's running of the Pure Michigan 400 . The rules configuration debuted last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and produced mixed results. While much data was accumulated, the competition on the relatively flat, 2.5-mile track appeared to be generally unaffected by the changes. Changes included a 9-inch spoiler on the rear deck (increased from six inches) with a 1-inch wicker bill; a rear fascia extension panel similar to those used for superspeedway events, a 2-inch leading edge on the splitter and a 43-inch splitter extension panel (radiator pan). "The original (aero) package ... was for Michigan ; we had built this package specifically for Michigan and then worked to implement it into Indianapolis," Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for NASCAR, told NASCAR.com on Tuesday. "We feel comfortable with the package we have set up ... but we certainly learned some things at Indy. "If we can improve the car in a more efficient manner, then we're going to do that. We've talked to teams about what gear ratio should be implemented, and we'll have some adjustments potentially for Michigan , and then that dialogue will continue Friday (at the track)." Four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon expects the combination of speed and less front-end downforce on a trailing car, created by the taller spoiler on the lead car, to create excitement as well as uncertainty. "I can promise you if you get in the corner behind somebody it's going to be a white knuckle experience," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. "It was at Indy so I know it's really going to be one at Michigan . You are going to be really searching for clean air." Gordon called the aero package "great if you are in a straight line." "It offers some really cool drafting opportunities and if you have some momentum that you carry off the corner it's really cool," he said. "As soon as you get behind a car and you need downforce, it takes it all away. "A big wide track like Michigan , as long as we can get away from the cars in the corners I think that it has the potential to create that big draft and momentum down the straightaways which is what we are all hoping for." Former series champ Brad Keselowski said cars will need to be "staggered" to run different racing grooves through the turns at MIS "to try to keep your downforce in the corner when you need it to keep the car going through the corner as fast as possible." "At Indy," the Team Penske driver said, "you don't have a lot of width to really pull that off, but at Michigan I think there's quite a bit more width to the track, especially down in Turns 3 and 4 to where you could possibly pull that maneuver off." Ray Evernham, the former crew chief who helped guide Gordon to three of his four titles, said the narrow racing groove and tighter corner radius at Indy led to more off throttle time but presented less room to make a move. At Michigan , "it's multiple grooves and pretty wide. "So I think they'll get more of the passing they're looking for," he said. Evernham said he doesn't believe the current configuration is a "fix-all" as officials seek to dial in different aero packages for several venues hosting Sprint Cup Series events. "I understand they have to have drag to keep the cars from running 200-plus mph and flying through the air, but I think if you take enough downforce off them they’re not going to be going that fast anyway no matter how big or how fast the motors are," he said. "You've got to have drag. I get that. But, if you can't get to that throttle, you’re not going to use that ... horsepower. I would like to see them continue to take more out. I think these guys are spending a lot of time and I know a lot of money doing nothing but wind tunnel and CFD and I just don't think that's healthy for the sport." NASCAR also debuted a low downforce package earlier this month at Kentucky Speedway. That package is scheduled to be used once more this year -- when the Sprint Cup Series travels to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway for next month's BoJangles' Southern 500. Neither the high drag nor new low downforce package is currently scheduled for use in any of this season's final 10 races that make up the Chase for the Sprint Cup . Goodyear: Same for Cup but NCWTS gets a tweak Goodyear officials say the same tire combination used earlier this year at MIS will be used this weekend in the Sprint Cup Series. It will be just the second time this particular right-side tire has been provided at the 2-mile track. Competitors in the Camping World Truck Series will see a change in the right-side tire, which should improve wear. It is the same combination used earlier this season at Kansas Speedway. At Mid-Ohio, site of the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 , XFINITY Series teams will use the same build of tire used there since 2013. The tire was also used this past weekend at Watkins Glen and will be used when the series travels to Road America later this month. Wet weather tires will also be provided in case of inclement weather at Mid-Ohio, one of three road-course venues on which XFINITY Series teams will be competing during a four-week span.
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Hot, sticky, and slick all described Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 as the high-drag package and heat both gave drivers challenges. But this rules setup was deployed at Michigan International Speedway, a vastly different track than the where the aero package debuted at Indianapolis. After Kyle Busch wrecked in practice and David Ragan spun on the first lap, the "it will be interesting" prediction of many drivers seemed apt. And restarts caused headaches, but some of the anticipated problems did not come to fruition. Front-runners found plenty of power without pushing engines past their limits with the high RPMs created by the setup. Predictions of mass attrition failed to materialize. Still, many remained mum post-race rather than offer, at best, mixed reviews. No. 22 Team Penske driver Joey Logano , who finished seventh, simply said passing was difficult -- "really, really, really hard." But some statistics offered a counterargument, as the 3,886 green-flag passes from Sunday's race were second to 2009 event in the Irish Hills that saw a track-best 3,902 green-flag passes. The handling didn't bother race-winner Matt Kenseth at all, who joked, "I gotta be honest, I didn't see much of the race, which was totally fine with me. We were up front. "I got in a lot of different traffic situations with pit strategies and we raced around a lot of cars and we had a really strong car. You know, it's hard to say how far we could have fell back and still won. We had the fastest car by a fair margin for today's day and age, so I'm glad I didn't mess that up." "Everyone at JGR has attacked this package really hard and it shows," said Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet. "It's just execution from the time we unloaded. I would say Friday was a huge part of our weekend, getting that No. 1 pit stall. Starting on the front row and keeping that track position obviously was key." Austin Dillon , who had his second top-five finish of his career and first top-five of the season, said hot conditions didn't hinder him from staying up front to finish fourth, as teams figured out how to attack the race with this aero package. Dillon was credited with the fastest lap of the race just above race winner Kenseth, his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet propelling around the speedway at 189.549 mph at Lap 26. Starting from the back of the field after changing out an engine after losing horsepower in practice Saturday, Dillon had plenty of opportunities to see the high-drag package around other cars and in passing situations. "If I had to do it over again, I would probably start freeing it up a little earlier," Dillon said. "I seemed to be able to make passes and make moves and pass people. It wasn't that awful. I'm glad the heat was out today. I think if it was cooler, it would have been a tougher day to pass because everybody would have been a little better." As for the effects the heat had on drivers, opinions varied widely. Dillon downplayed the heat, and veteran Jeff Gordon found it to be nearly unbearable. "I need ice water, ice bags whatever you got. It's hot as (expletive) in here," Gordon radioed to his team shortly after the halfway point in the 400 -mile race. The weather was 84 degrees and partly cloudy at the race's start on Sunday, with 65 percent humidity -- high enough to curl Michigan fans' hair and push cockpit temperatures up to 150 degrees. "I don't think we can blame it on the package," Dillon said of the heat concerns aired by drivers at Indianapolis, where several were treated post-race for heat-related issues. "New Hampshire, I got really hot and Kentucky was really, really bad. But the past two races my team worked really hard to insulate the car." Teams have the options of using 14 NACA ducts to improve airflow in the cars, which run hotter with the high-drag package because air is trapped under the car. But teams didn't want to give an aerodynamic advantage to competitors, so NASCAR required three NACA ducts be used after several drivers were treated for heat issues at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard was the first race run with the high-drag package and had similar weather conditions, partly cloudy skies and temperatures around 90. "I was fine. The only thing that got hot on me was my heels," Dillon said. "If we just put some more insulation there I would have been fine. Body wise we've done a lot to cool my car, and what NASCAR did to put in that duct in the right side really helped. I thought a lot of air was flowing, and I wasn't too bad." The package for Michigan includes a 9-inch spoiler on the rear deck (increased from six inches) with a 1-inch wicker bill; a rear fascia extension panel similar to those used for superspeedway events, a 2-inch leading edge on the splitter and a 43-inch splitter extension panel (radiator pan).
RELATED: See all 43 cars " Starting lineup for Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Matt Kenseth 's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota crew woke a sleeping giant just in time for qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Michigan International Speedway. But Kenseth jokingly credited a sleepless night -- brought on by worry over teammate Denny Hamlin 's lack of punctuality -- for his pole-winning effort in Friday's time trials at the two-mile track. Getting the most out of the high-drag aerodynamic package in force at the event at Michigan , Kenseth covered the distance in 36.458 seconds (197.488 mph) to win his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at MIS and the 16th of his career. Hamlin (196.990 mph) was second fastest, and Carl Edwards (196.276 mph) claimed the third starting spot, as Joe Gibbs Racing swept the top three positions on the grid for the 23rd Sprint Cup race of the season. Austin Dillon (195.918 mph) qualified fourth as the top Chevrolet in the field, followed by Tony Stewart (195.477 mph) in a Chevrolet and Kyle Busch (195.450 mph) in the fourth JGR Toyota. Joey Logano , last week's winner at Watkins Glen, qualified 10th as the only Ford driver to crack the top 12. Based on practice speed, Edwards was a favorite to win the pole, but Kenseth, who was 10th on the speed chart in the opening practice session, closed the gap in time from qualifying. "We were a long ways off Carl in practice, and I don't even know what changes they made, but they changed a lot of stuff that really woke this thing up and had some speed," Kenseth said. "I knew I got through (Turns) 1 and 2 good, but Denny put up such a fast lap, and I got into (Turn) 3, and I was bound and determined that I was going to make it wide open. "I had the first half of the corner. It was the second half that was starting to get exciting. I got sliding up the track and bogged down a little bit. I wasn't sure that we were going have it, but I have to say thanks to those guys (the crew). They gave me a car with a lot of speed." In Hamlin's view, Busch's return from an injury has achieved a critical mass of four talented, veteran drivers at JGR who can benefit from each other's expertise. "When you have drivers that you can feed off of, like the three teammates that I have, it makes a difference, and so that's where you're seeing the results," Hamlin said. That didn't prevent the driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry from throwing a barb toward the 43-year-old teammate who beat him for the pole. "Matt was probably too old to remember to lift there," Hamlin said of Kenseth's qualifying run. Kenseth provided a different perspective. "I could say it's because I didn't get enough sleep," Kenseth said. "I flew up with Denny today, and he likes to come to everything at the last minute. I didn't sleep last night thinking that we weren't going to make it up here, so it's really just for lack of sleep. I get to credit Denny for the pole." Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Logano completed the top 10. Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field.
RELATED: Full practice results Carl Edwards rose to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard in Friday's opening practice at Michigan International Speedway. Edwards drove the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota to a fast lap of 196.046 mph on the 2-mile track. He set the time with a mock qualifying run in the last half-hour of practice. Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick was second-fastest with a 194.858 mph lap in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet. Austin Dillon , Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin completed the top five in preparation for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). The 2-hour, 25-minute practice session marked the Michigan debut for the high-drag aerodynamic package, which was used last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The rules package, which features an extended rear spoiler among other aerodynamic tweaks, did not receive much of a trial run for race conditions as teams focused on single-car laps. Aric Almirola sat out the bulk of Friday's opening practice, battling what his Richard Petty Motorsports team hoped was a 24-hour virus. Two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton filled in for the early portions of the practice in the RPM No. 43 Ford. The car wound up 29th-fastest on the leaderboard. RELATED: Sick Almirola will miss portions of practice Defending race winner Jeff Gordon , scheduled to make his last Michigan start Sunday, was 15th-fastest in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. Kurt Busch , the most recent Michigan winner in June, was 12th-fastest in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. Busch also had the best 10-lap average, running 188.212 mph on his 21st to 30th laps in the session. Joey Logano , last week's winner at Watkins Glen International, was 11th-fastest in the Team Penske No. 22, the fastest Ford on the leaderboard. The 44 cars that hit the track in the opening session participated with commemorative decals to honor NASCAR legend Buddy Baker, who died Monday at 74.
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings " SHOP: Kenseth gear BROOKLYN, Mich. -- From Matt Kenseth 's point of view, the competition package NASCAR used at Michigan International Speedway could well have had a big, bright bow on it. The Coors Light Pole-sitter for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, Kenseth quickly exhibited his mastery of the high-drag aerodynamic package, leading 146 of 200 laps in winning for the third time this season, the third time at Michigan and the 34th time in his career. The 2003 premier series champion had to survive a restart with 13 laps left, after Jimmie Johnson spun off Turn 4 to cause the eighth and final caution of the race. With a push from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin , Kenseth cleared Kevin Harvick after the Lap 187 restart and went on to win by 1.722 seconds. "Denny did a spectacular job pushing me," Kenseth said of the last run. "From the restart zone to about Turn 2 was like a superspeedway race -- whoever got locked up -- and those Chevys could really hook up. "Denny did a heck of a job giving me a good push there to get by. Honestly, the toughest one was with the 3 (Dillon, with the two drivers swapping the lead after a restart on Lap 131). We went back and forth a few times and made some contact there, and it was hard to get away from him. My car took about five laps to get going, but once it got going, it was pretty stellar." Harvick ran out of fuel under green on Lap 114 but recovered to finish second. Martin Truex Jr . ran third, followed by Austin Dillon (who started from the rear of the field after an engine change) and Hamlin. Kenseth's victory was the fifth for Joe Gibbs Racing in the last six Sprint Cup races but Kenseth stopped short of declaring the JGR cars the favorites for the series championship this year. There are three regular-season races left before the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs start at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 20. "It's early to talk favorites -- there's so much racing to do, and there are 16 teams (in the Chase) that are capable of winning races on a weekly basis as well as a championship," Kenseth said. "It's one week at a time like always. "It's been a great week, and we've had a great couple months. We definitely have some momentum built. The guys gave us a rocket today and gave us rockets the last couple months. We're just going to work hard to try to keep it rolling." Harvick, the reigning series champion, has finished second in five of his last six starts at Michigan , and he notched his seventh runner-up result since winning his second race of the season at Phoenix in March. "We had an up-and-down day, that's for sure," Harvick said. "The first half of the race or so (we) really struggled with the handling of the car. The guys did a great job of getting that, and then ran out of gas and came back and didn't lose a lap and were able to have a good enough handling car to drive back up through there. "Just really proud of my team and everything that they did. I didn't have anything for the 20 (Kenseth) today, but for everything that we overcame, it was still a good day." Despite starting from the rear of the field, Kyle Busch finished 11th, solidified his position in the top 30 in points and moved closer to a spot in the Chase. Now 29th in the standings, Busch leads 30th-place Justin Allgaier by 18 points and 31st-place Cole Whitt by 23. A four-time winner since returning from an 11-race injury absence, Busch must be in the top 30 after 26 races to lock up a spot in the Chase. Clint Bowyer 's Chase hopes took the hardest hit on Sunday. After running consistently in the top five, Bowyer's No. 15 Toyota bounced off the outside backstretch wall on Lap 126 -- the result of contact with Ryan Newman 's Chevrolet -- and careened into the inside wall. Bowyer finished 41st and dropped one position in the standings to 15th, 23 points ahead of Aric Almirola in 16th and 26 ahead of Kasey Kahne in 17th. Bowyer currently is in the final Chase-eligible position. If the next three races produce one or more unique winners, however, his Chase spot could be in serious jeopardy.