Dale Earnhardt Jr. is always a threat to win on both restrictor plate tracks at Daytona and Talladega.
But recently, he’s actually becoming a bigger threat at winning on the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway oval.
Since Earnhardt joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, he’s won twice. Both victories happened to be the June race in Michigan.
Last year, Earnhardt ended his career worst string without a win with a victory on Fathers Day at Michigan. It got the crowd going into a frenzy and helped NASCAR tremendously in the upcoming races as Junior nation fans were flocking to the box office now that they knew their driver was back and a championship contender.
With him being so good at Michigan and the perfect storm that’s in his favor, I would be shocked in Earnhardt didn’t win again this Sunday.
First lets look at how good Earnhardt has been at Michigan. He won there last year and finished fourth in the August race. Five of his 10 starts at MIS since he’s been with Hendrick he’s finished in the top 10.
Factor that and the Ford and Toyota teams in a bit of a struggle right now and he’s going to be right at the front.
Ford engines are typically strong at Michigan. The top three drivers in driver rating there are all or former Roush-Fenway Racing drivers. Greg Biffle won the last race there in August and him and Carl Edwards are always near the top of the leaderboard. For some reason Michigan just suits Ford cars better over the years.
But Ford has struggled getting a grasp of the new car and making it handle well and that could be a big problem this weekend. The grill on the front of the Ford cars is so big that trash has been seen getting stuck there. It’s causing the handling of these cars to go out the window as they’ve not been a factor in winning races much at all this year.
In addition, Toyota on the other end is struggling as well. After losing many of their engines over the course of the 2013 campaign and seeing their lead guy step down, they’ve decided to go in a different direction over the last couple of weeks. At Pocono, they decided to turn back the engine a bit to make sure they can last the whole way.
With Michigan being like Pocono as they’re both high speed high RPM tracks, Toyota decided to keep the engines dialed back again this weekend which means lack of horsepower and lack of speed. That surely means Toyota teams will be fighting just to make it in the top 10 this weekend and likely won’t be in the mix for a win.
Three of the last four and five of the last seven Michigan winners were Ford or Toyota teams. With both of them being down this weekend, Chevrolet is primed for a good run. The top Chevy driver at Michigan has been Earnhardt.
Do the stars need to align any more?
Eric Smith is the Lead Motorsports Writer for Race Review Online. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru
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