NASCAR: Live from Michigan

Updated: August 16, 2013, 6:17 PM ET
ESPN.com

Pure fun at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- You couldn't order up better weather at Michigan International Speedway, and if you believe in awards, you won't have a better fan experience either. The track was voted the best in NASCAR in 2012 for the fan experience, and the improvements in recent years are noticeable, from cleanliness to food to the friendliness and professionalism of security and staff.

But it's about the racing come Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), and with qualifying set for 3:40 p.m. ET on Friday, knowing what we will have to look at in the race is only a few hours away.

What do the drivers think?

"I think this is one of our favorite race tracks," said Carl Edwards. "For me, this is the site of my first start so it is real special for that reason. It is just a fun place. It seems the weather is always great and the race is great and the fans are into it.

"The infield here is like none other. It is pretty amazing out there. I think it is a good experience overall and we all enjoy coming."

And at a track so close to the heart of the American automobile industry -- Detroit is less than an hour away -- the classic-car eye candy isn't too bad either, particularly if you like muscle cars. And with the city recently filing for bankruptcy, the folks here could use all the morale boosting weekends they can get.

"All I can say is that in 2008 when [Ford executive vice president of global marketing] Jim Farley brought us all in and explained to us how Ford was in big trouble and that they were going to have to make some tough decisions to make it through it, that was really sobering to hear him speak that way about the company, our company, Ford," Edwards said. "To see how they came through that, making tough decisions, was inspiring.

"I can only imagine the decisions being made in Detroit and how tough they are. At the end of the day, if the tough decisions now come out better in the end and make things viable for more people, then it is the right thing. I only have read about it and understand it from a distance."

-- K. Lee Davis

Logano makes early pole run hold up

Logano
Logano

Joey Logano set the pole speed at Michigan on Friday early in the session, watching it hold up as driver after driver made a run at him. It's the sixth pole of his career.

"The lap wasn't bad, good enough to get the pole, so that's good," he said of his 35.303-second lap around the 2-mile track, setting a record of 203.949 mph. "Having clean air here is huge, so I have that going for me to start on Sunday."

Kurt Busch will line up second, with Jimmie Johnson third, Mark Martin fourth and Jeff Burton rounding out the top five.

"I thought it would be good enough for the pole, but Logano hit it perfect," Busch said.

-- K. Lee Davis

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Speed's the thing

The track record at Michigan was set by Marcos Ambrose in qualifying for last season's first race, the first event after the track was repaved in 2011.

That speed, 203.241 mph, is likely in serious jeopardy as the Gen-6 race car onslaught on the record books continues. The car has posted a track record 12 times this season already.

Count Martin Truex Jr. as a driver who didn't think that would be the case.

"It does surprise me, yeah," said Truex. "Definitely the speed of the racetrack surprised me today. I think evolution of this Gen-6 race car, I know the setups are totally different than what we ran here as far as our group goes -- a lot different than what we ran here in the spring race.

"That wasn't that long ago -- June. The things are changing so fast in the garage. Week to week, I don't think you really know who's going to step up and find something new that's really working. That's exactly what we're seeing here this weekend. Maybe it's a little bit cooler than June, but it's not by any means cool out. The sun is on the race track. The track temp is pretty warm. I was definitely surprised to see the speeds we are running in practice today."

-- K. Lee Davis

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Figuring out the Gen-6 car

It's already deep into the first season of the so-called Gen-6 car in the Sprint Cup Series, and while development of any car never stops, there have been challenges figuring this one out for many drivers and teams.

Greg Biffle was asked how much from the previous generation car has been transferrable to this one. And as good as his Roush Fenway Racing team has been here in past seasons, he said it's difficult to carry over that momentum, despite his win at Michigan in June.

"I think that we start with a modified setup of the old car, but one thing we have learned over the last little bit about the car is that it is much more finicky than the old car was," he said. "At least that is my opinion. If we are off a tiny, tiny bit with this car it goes from running the top five or top eight to running 25th. There is a really fine line."

-- K. Lee Davis

Kurt Busch sweating a Chase spot

There are only four more chances for a driver not in the Chase to work his way into it. Kurt Busch is one of those drivers, currently sitting in 11th but without a victory to get him in the Chase as a wild card.

It's now or never for Busch, but at least he likes looking at the road ahead from a competition standpoint. He had top-10 finishes earlier this season at two of the upcoming tracks before the Chase, Bristol and Richmond. He started second and led 21 laps at Michigan in June before finishing a disappointing 35th.

"You always want your strong tracks to be when you need them," he said.

That last win for Kurt Busch? It came on June 26, 2011, at Sonoma. Or, in other words, two teams and more than two years ago.

-- K. Lee Davis

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Johnson rolls in first practice; engines get taxed

Engine durability -- or the lack thereof, always an issue at Michigan -- reared its head early in Friday's first practice when Marcos Ambrose's Ford had an oil-line leak, oiling down the track and delaying practice. Ambrose was only able to get in 11 laps. He was 21st fastest in the session.

Jamie McMurray's Chevrolet then let loose, and he also got in just 11 laps. His best lap was more than 9 mph off the lap Jimmie Johnson laid down to lead the session.

Johnson ran a lap at 203.355 mph, one of only two drivers along with Juan Pablo Montoya's 203.132 to run 203 mph or faster. Kyle Busch was third at 202.634 mph.

-- K. Lee Davis

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Kyle Busch is positive?

Busch
Busch

Kyle Busch may have been the most frustrated driver in NASCAR in 2012. He couldn't find a way to run up front consistently, missed the Chase and spent the last 10 weeks of the season wondering what might have been.

Things have been better in 2013, where he has three victories, is fifth in the standings and gunning for bonus points as the Chase looms next month at Chicagoland Speedway.

"A year ago, this day is entirely different to today," he said. "Being able to have three wins and be fifth in the standings, you feel like a solid lock in the Chase. I think we are and there are some things we can do now that can help us maybe get a couple wins before the Chase starts, maybe get a couple more bonus points.

"... You try not to dwell on the things that knock you back as much as you can focus a little bit more on the positives. Seeing as how there's so many of each all the time, it's a lot easier to have the positives keep you positive and keep you motivated moving forward."

-- K. Lee Davis

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