Each race weekend, SRT Motorsports Engineer Howard Comstock gives his insight on the ‘Keys for Success’ for the upcoming race. This week’s focus is on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Track: Michigan International Speedway (Race 23 of 36 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series)
Race: Pure Michigan 400 (200 laps / 400 miles)
Trivia Question: What driver has the best all-time average starting position at Michigan International Speedway? (Answer Below)
HOWARD COMSTOCK (SRT Motorsports Engineering)
Tires: “Obviously, the tire has been changed since June and the teams had a chance to run the new tire at the test and a lot of people predicted this tire and a combination of the track wearing in a little bit would be about six miles per hour slower. But if you look at qualifying results and maybe qualifying results isn’t a true test but really qualifying results we’re only off four miles per hour from what we saw in June. So whether teams are holding a little back in the test or they’ve figured out what it takes to make this tire work, it looks like the fall off in speed is not going to be as drastic as some people thought it was going to be. That’s okay as long as we’re still in some kind of safety zone on the tires. In June we had terrible problems in the race in June with blistering. This tire was supposed to cure that and slow the cars down. It didn’t slow the cars down as much as was predicted so I think that’s something we’re going to have to watch for.”
Temperature: “The good news is it keeps the track temperature down which is easier on the tires. The bad news is it makes more horsepower so the cars go faster which is harder on the tires. It’s kind of a sliding scale but you don’t slide very far because they’ll be good grip and the cars will go fast. They go plenty fast on the straightaways. That’s not the part that hurts the tires. It’s that good grip in the corner that makes ‘em go fast through those corners. If they do have good grip and aren’t sliding around, they should be okay.”
Track Surface: “There’s always that process. You can look at the track and just see that from the time the track is paved it’s a beautiful black color and every day after that it tends to gray more and more and more as the sun evaporates the oil that’s in the asphalt and we’re left with stone. When the track is first paved you’re actually seeing the oil and as the track wears you’re beginning to see the stone. Maybe that’s too molecular for this discussion (laughs). You can just look at it and tell it’s beginning to age and it’s been a hot summer here that ages it faster and causes more evaporation.”
The Challenge of Qualifying: “The format has a lot to do with it. We’re using what I call a traditional format this weekend where we practice for one session on Friday and then qualify. That compartmentalizes the qualifying effort. You can really focus on that all day Friday and then we get two practices on Saturday and you can switch over and worry about your race stuff.”
TRIVIA ANSWER: Bobby Isaac, who averaged a 3.12 starting position. Isaac made eight Cup starts at Michigan from 1969-1972 in the No. 71 Dodge owned by Nord Krauskopf. He won one pole and started sixth-place or better in each of those races.