There's no comparing notes from other tracks when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series goes to Michigan International Speedway these days. Since the track was repaved last year, David Gilliland says the two-mile oval is now unique in its racing characteristics.
One thing you can count on, though, is that the track will continue to produce high speeds. And with the new, lighter Gen-6 car, the series could see qualifying records broken once again.
Qualifying is an area where Gilliland and his No. 38 Long John Silver's team have shown significant improvement in 2013. The team, led by crew chief Frank Kerr, has qualified an average of five positions higher this season than in 2012. They'll look to bring another fast Ford Fusion to the Brooklyn, Mich., track this weekend for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400.
Gilliland has two top-20 finishes in 13 starts at Michigan, including an 18th-place result in his last visit to the track last August. His best finish was 17th in 2007.
Comments from Long John Silver's team driver David Gilliland heading to Michigan:
"Now Michigan is so smooth and so fast and has so much grip that it's definitely its own place. There really isn't another track to compare it to closely. You've got to attack it as Michigan now. You can't really look at any other track, in my opinion. The qualifying speeds last year were incredible.
"The jury is still out on how long it will take to get settled into a newly paved track surface. They changed the asphalt and the procedures they use in paving these tracks. Places like Charlotte - it's amazing how much grip it still has even after years and years. It's been quite a while since they repaved Charlotte. So each track is kind of different. This new material seems to hang on better and keep the grip longer, so the racetracks aren't wearing out as fast.
"I think weather has a lot to do with it. Especially a place like Michigan that has snow on it for months out of the year, it definitely takes its toll on the racetrack. We haven't been able to go test up there this year, but I'm sure it will be a little bit different but much of the same of what it was last year.
"We had a decent finish at Pocono last week. I think we were capable of better, but it was another top-25 finish for this team. We're just working hard at bringing better cars to the track to start with, and then getting consistent quality finishes. Frank Kerr has really helped in our approach to each track so that we're unloading better. And that's shown in our qualifying efforts this year. On average, we're qualifying a lot better this year than we were last year. As we approach the midpoint of the season and start to return to some of these tracks a second time, I think that's going to help us a ton, too."