NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
                 === This Week in Auto Racing June 15 - 17 ===
 
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 
 Brooklyn,  MI  (Sports Network) - The  NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series
 are  running at Michigan International Speedway this Father's Day weekend. The
 IndyCar Series will be at The Milwaukee Mile.
 
 
 NASCAR
 
 Sprint Cup Series
 
 Quicken Loans 400 - Michigan International Speedway - Brooklyn, Mich.
 
 After  finishing third in last Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway, Dale Earnhardt
 Jr.  is  hoping his momentum  continues this weekend at Michigan International
 Speedway.
 
 Michigan  has perhaps been Earnhardt's best racetrack since he joined Hendrick
 Motorsports  for the start of the 2008 season. In fact, it's the only track on
 the  Sprint Cup Series schedule where he's won a race in the past seven years.
 Earnhardt  picked up his  first victory with Hendrick in the June '08 event at
 Michigan,  but it took him 144 races to get back into victory lane when he won
 here one year ago.
 
 Richmond  is  the last track  other than Michigan  where Earnhardt has won. He
 claimed the victory there in the spring of 2006.
 
 Earnhardt's  latest  winless streak  now stands  at 33  races. He started this
 season  by finishing seventh or better, including second-place runs at Daytona
 and California, in the first five races. But it's been a bit of roller-coaster
 ride  for him  since  then. Earnhardt  finished a  season-worst  39th in  last
 month's race at Charlotte after suffering engine failure in the late going.
 
 "We  are going  (to Michigan) with a  lot more confidence, because we ran well
 there  last year," Earnhardt said. "I looked through the notes from last year,
 and  we didn't unload perfect. We had to work to get it right. You don't go in
 with  confidence that  you are going to  go there, and it will be perfect. You
 have the confidence to know that we will get it dialed in."
 
 When  the series  competed at Michigan in  June 2012, it was the first time on
 the  track's  new pavement. The repaving  began after the August 2011 race and
 concluded  in November,  giving the  asphalt enough  time to  settle and  cure
 during the winter months. The new surface on this 2-mile track produced record
 speeds.  Marcos Ambrose  won the pole at  Michigan one year ago when he easily
 shattered the track qualifying record with a lap at 203.241 mph. Forty drivers
 in  that qualifying  session posted  a faster  speed than  the previous  track
 record of 194.232 mph, set by Ryan Newman in 2005. Nineteen drivers topped 200
 mph.
 
 However, teams were faced with a huge tire issue in the days leading up to the
 race.  Several  teams experienced  tire  blistering  during Friday's  practice
 session  as well  as on  the extra  day of  practice on  Thursday. NASCAR  and
 Goodyear  made the decision  to use a tougher left-side tire for the race. The
 higher  than expected speeds at Michigan caused significantly higher left-side
 tire temperatures and therefore blistering.
 
 An  additional practice was held the day before the race. Teams had 75 minutes
 to  familiarize themselves  with the new tires and make further adjustments to
 their  race setups. Earnhardt  Jr. was one of those drivers who was limited on
 his practice time due to engine concerns. He complained that his car wasn't as
 good as he wanted it to be after completing just 26 laps in the last practice.
 
 But  Earnhardt put on a dominating performance in the 400-mile event. He led a
 total  of 95 laps and crossed the finish line ahead of his closest competitor,
 Tony Stewart, by more than 5 seconds for his 19th career Sprint Cup victory.
 
 Right  now, Earnhardt  sits fourth  in the  point standings.  He moved  up two
 positions after his top-five run at Pocono.
 
 "We  have been carrying  momentum for a good solid year now," he said. "We are
 alright, and we know what we need to do."
 
 Earnhardt  trails  leader and  Hendrick teammate Jimmie  Johnson by 82 points.
 Johnson  claimed his  third win of the  season at Pocono, placing him in a tie
 with Matt Kenseth for most victories in the series this year.
 
 Michigan  is one  of five  tracks  on the  current Sprint  Cup schedule  where
 Johnson  has yet to win. Chicagoland, Homestead, Kentucky and Watkins Glen are
 the others.
 
 Last June at Michigan, Johnson nearly ran out of gas but managed to pull off a
 fifth-place finish. But that was followed by a 27th-place result in August due
 to engine failure just before the finish.
 
 "The Michigan track surface has had summer and winter on it, and we'll see how
 much  grip is just  in the surface," Johnson said. "I would assume we'll go as
 fast  as we did (last year) if not faster, and with the flatter track, I think
 the  Gen-6  (new Sprint Cup race  car) will outperform the Gen-5. The question
 really  comes  down to how much  grip is still  in the asphalt. I would assume
 it's going to be high.
 
 "On fresh repaves, the grip is always at its highest. I'm not exactly sure how
 that  will play out, but I'm happy that a summer and a winter have been on the
 track.  It will make the racing wider for us, and that's what we're all hoping
 for.  We've had weird  things happen at Michigan, but one of these times it (a
 win) will happen for us. I hope it's this year."
 
 Greg  Biffle won  the most  recent Sprint  Cup race  at Michigan  last August.
 Biffle  is  coming off a season-best  second-place finish at Pocono. He is now
 10th in points.
 
 "I  couldn't  be happier  coming off  the run at  Pocono going into Michigan,"
 Biffle  said. "We finished fourth the first race and got a win there last year
 at  Michigan. We are  working hard on our cars, trying to get them better, but
 we still have a little work to do.
 
 "Michigan  is one of my favorite tracks. It's a big fast place and has lots of
 room to race. We can get strung out a bit, but there is always something going
 on, someone is always catching someone else. There is always a lot of strategy
 going  on.  Fuel mileage and pit  stops are very  important. I've had a lot of
 success  at Michigan in  the past, and I think this will be a good weekend for
 us."
 
 Forty-four  teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Quicken Loans 400.
 A.J.  Allmendinger  and  Bobby  Labonte  will  switch  rides  for  this  race.
 Allmendinger  is  scheduled to drive  the No.  47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota,
 while Labonte is slated for a ride in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.
 
 
 Nationwide Series
 
 Alliance Truck Parts 250 - Michigan International Speedway - Brooklyn, Mich.
 
 After  running its first  "stand alone" race of the season last Sunday at Iowa
 Speedway,  an event delayed one day due to rain, the Nationwide Series rejoins
 the Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
 
 A  record could  be set in Nationwide at Michigan. Austin Dillon currently has
 three  consecutive  poles. If  he wins Saturday's  qualifying for the 250-mile
 race  at  this track, he  will become the first  driver in series history that
 claimed four poles in a row.
 
 Dillon, the 23-year-old grandson of NASCAR multi-team owner Richard Childress,
 won  the  pole for  last year's Nationwide  race at Michigan  with a new track
 qualifying  record of 190.375  mph. He also earned the pole for the truck race
 here  in 2010. Dillon  is in his second full season in Nationwide, driving the
 No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
 
 "We're  out  here trying  to break  records and create  a name for ourselves,"
 Dillon  said.  "If we can go  out there and break  that six-way tie that it is
 right now in the Nationwide Series for poles it would be amazing. I've got the
 pole at Michigan actually twice. We're going to a track where I'm very capable
 of  setting the  pole. We've  got (Earnhardt-Childress  Racing) engines,  some
 great horsepower this year. Hopefully we can get it done this weekend."
 
 Dillon  put on  a dominating  performance at  Iowa, leading  207 of  250 laps.
 Trevor  Bayne passed him  for the lead with 12 laps to go and went on to score
 his second career win in the series. Dillon finished second.
 
 "Truthfully,  I  felt like  that was  the best  car we've  had all year long,"
 Dillon  said of his  performance at Iowa. "If the Cup guys were there, I don't
 think  the  outcome would have  been much different. I  think we were going to
 lead laps either way. I've raced against the Cup guys in a bunch of races this
 year. There's only been really one that's changed the outcome, and that's Kyle
 Busch. He's been tough. His car has been dominant at a bunch of these races."
 
 Regan Smith comes to Michigan with a 23-point lead over Sam Hornish Jr. Justin
 Allgaier is 44 points behind, while Dillon trails by 46.
 
 Busch, Joey Logano, and Paul Menard are those Sprint Cup regulars competing in
 this  race. Logano won  at Michigan one year ago. Busch has scored six wins in
 12 Nationwide races this season. He did not compete at Talladega and Iowa.
 
 Thirty-nine  teams  are on the  preliminary entry  list for the Alliance Truck
 Parts 250.
 
 
 IZOD INDYCAR SERIES
 
 Milwaukee IndyFest - The Milwaukee Mile - West Allis, Wis.
 
 Ryan  Hunter-Reay is probably looking forward to this weekend's IndyCar Series
 race at The Milwaukee Mile more so than any other driver.
 
 Hunter-Reay's summer push for the 2012 series championship began at Milwaukee.
 After  winning at this 1-mile oval one year ago, he went on to score victories
 in  the next two races -- Iowa and Toronto. He also won later in the season on
 the  streets of  Baltimore. Hunter-Reay edged Will Power for the title by just
 three points.
 
 Last  Saturday, Hunter-Reay gave his season a much-needed boost with a second-
 place finish at Texas. Right now, Helio Castroneves holds a 22-point lead over
 Marco Andretti, while Hunter-Reay trails by 27.
 
 At  this  point of  the  season  last year,  Hunter-Reay  was  seventh in  the
 standings  and  trailed then leader  Power by 75  points. His win at Milwaukee
 moved him up to fourth in the rankings (-41).
 
 Hunter-Reay  has  scored two  victories in  his seven  races at Milwaukee. His
 first win here came in the 2004 Champ Car sanctioned race. He led all 250 laps
 in that event.
 
 "There  is no place  like the Milwaukee Mile," Hunter-Reay said. "It is a hard
 place  to get right,  and when you do, it's so rewarding. It's been a place in
 my  career that  has meant  a lot  to me.  I've had  some pretty  breakthrough
 performances  in my  career there, and I've  also been on the other side of it
 where  we just couldn't get it right and struggled. So I have a lot of respect
 for it for that reason.
 
 "And  I think if you ask any other Indy car driver out there, they'll say it's
 probably  one of the most fun ovals you'll go to, and at the same time, one of
 the toughest to get right."
 
 The Milwaukee Mile is the oldest operating motor speedway in the world. It has
 hosted  auto  racing events since  1903. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway began
 hosting  races in  1911. In addition to IndyCar, Milwaukee has held open-wheel
 events in CART/Champ Car (1980-2003), USAC (1956-79) and AAA (1939-55).
 
 IndyCar  sanctioned  races at Milwaukee began  in 2004. This track was dropped
 from the series schedule in 2010 but rejoined the following year.
 
 "We'll  see a great race this weekend," Hunter-Reay said. "Milwaukee makes for
 some  of the best racing we have in the series. I think you'll see this is one
 of the most action-packed races that we go to. Texas is a completely different
 configuration  with the  downforce and running that we do there, trying to pin
 that perfect down force. It makes the cars light, but you put on a good show."
 
 Dario  Franchitti  and Tony Kanaan are  those drivers who have scored multiple
 victories  at Milwaukee.  Franchitti won  at this  track in  '04 and  '11, and
 Kanaan took the checkered flag there in back-to-back years (2006-07).
 
 Ryan  Briscoe scored  his maiden IndyCar win at Milwaukee in 2008. Briscoe was
 in  his first season with Team Penske at the time. He is driving the No. 4 car
 for Panther Racing in this weekend's race.
 
 Twenty-four teams are on the entry list for the Milwaukee IndyFest.
 
 06/13 17:46:29 ET

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