Crunching numbers after Michigan

August, 18, 2009
08/18/09
4:25
PM ET

I decided to watch the end of the PGA Championship live this week with some friends, and then that night caught the Michigan race on my trusty DVR. Hooray for technology!

So right after I watched Y.E. Yang outduel Tiger Woods down the stretch, to the chorus of "I bet Tiger ties him on this hole" coming from people across the country, I watched the Michigan race.

And, just like Yang in the the PGA Championship, it was Brian Vickers winning his second career race, outdueling the proven winner down the stretch. Even though fuel mileage played a big role in Vickers' win, there was no question that he had the car and ability to win.

Flash back several hours, when I worked on the 10 a.m. edition of "NASCAR Now," and after a discussion with Boris Said, we agreed that Vickers was due and this was the race for him to make a statement and have everything come together. Once again, hooray for spot-on analysis!

Which begs the question, well, maybe not in your head, but definitely in mine. If Vickers and Kyle Busch had thrown down on pit road after Saturday's Nationwide race, who would have had the better end of that deal? I have my own thoughts, but share yours in the comments section. And while you're at it, let me know who you think would win a total NASCAR rumble.

It may not be important, but it'll be fun to think about. Now, on to my normal stuff.

He's got wings

Overall it was a good weekend for Vickers. Second in the Nationwide race and a win in the Cup race. Remember Cup win No. 1 for Vickers? It was back with Hendrick Motorsports with the team that went on to become Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team.

And Junior, along with Jimmie Johnson, was also involved, as Vickers bumped his then-teammate Johnson as they made the move to pass Junior for the lead. Strange how these things come full circle.

But Sunday was also a big day for the Red Bull Racing Team. It was its first win as a team. Red Bull joins Stewart-Haas Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and (depending if you consider it a newly formed team) Richard Petty Motorsports as teams to pick up their first wins this season.

According to fellow researcher Chris Lees, the last time four teams got their first win was in 2001, when Andy Petree Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, PPI Motorsports and Evernham Motorsports all won their first race. And that brings me to …

Making a pass

In a week that saw some criticism about the racing provided by the new car -- formerly known as the Car of Tomorrow until it became used regularly on todays and yesterdays -- the action was great at Michigan.

Although the cars weren't side by side for the lead throughout the entire race, they were four-wide further back in the pack. Drivers were picking lines going from inches from the wall down to the apron.

If you thought there was a lot of passing, you're thinking correctly. According to NASCAR's Sultan of Stat, Mike Forde, there were more than 3,900 green-flag passes during the race, the second-most in a non-restrictor plate race since they started keeping track of the statistic in 2005. How about an accompanying list!

Most green-flag passes since 2005 on non-restrictor plate tracks
August 2008 Pocono -- 4,636
August 2009 Michigan -- 3,902
August 2009 Pocono -- 3,896
September 2009 California -- 3,753
August 2007 Pocono -- 3,529

Don't forget those Pocono races are 500 miles, while Michigan is just 400.

Trivia break: Which race set the record for green-flag passes dating back to 2005?

A Nice View

Sure there's some fun leftover nuggets from Michigan. Thanks for asking. It featured the 13th different winner in the past 13 Michigan late summer races, the longest active streak for any single race at any track.

Carl Edwards' fourth-place finish gave him a career average finish of 6.1 at Michigan, the best among any driver who's made at least five starts there.

But my favorite nugget took place on Lap 43. Jeff Gordon led that lap, the only lap he led that day despite finishing second. That was the 1,000th time he'd led in a Sprint Cup race, the only active driver who's reached that mark.

Trivia break: What active driver has led the second-most times?

Trivia Break Answers

1. Bobby Hamilton won at Talladega for Petree, Sterling Marlin won at Michigan for Ganassi, "NASCAR Now" analyst Ricky Craven won at Martinsville for PPI and Bill Elliott won at Homestead for Evernham.

2. The April 2007 race at Talladega featured 16,788 green-flag passes and was won by Jeff Gordon.

3. By leading four times at Michigan, Mark Martin has now led 751 different times in his career.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.

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