A C-141 flies over the Michigan International Speedway to start the ARCA event. The jet's noise shook the grounds, but the average race speed was 112.518, second-slowest in MIS history.
BROOKLYN, Mich. - For today's DHL 400 Nextel Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, you can get most of the top NASCAR drivers to sing the same chorus. They love this place.
By the end of the day, only one of them will finish in front, however, and Jeff Gordon gets the distinction of starting there. Gordon, the four-time series champion sits on the pole after posting a top average speed of 190.865 miles an hour.
"I'm not just saying that, when I tell people I love this track," Gordon said. "I always come here confident. And when the car is getting through the corners and down the straightaway like it has, it really makes my life easier. It's just a matter of fine-tuning it for the race."
Mark Martin, whose 24 top-10 finishes at Michigan are the most for any active driver, has won at MIS four times. His confidence is understandably high since he has been in the top 10 in four of his last five races at MIS.
"We've been really good at Michigan in the past," said Martin, who won two weeks ago at Dover. "We've had such good cars in the last several races that it gives you confidence going into each track. We just have to make sure that we finish races, and we'll be fine."
Dale Jarrett has started 34 races at MIS and won four times. With 18 finishes in the top 10, Jarrett also comes to Michigan with a spring in his step.
"Obviously, I'm always partial to a track where I got my first win, and that is always going to make Michigan special," Jarrett said. "But I think more than that, it is a track that offers all of the things a driver looks for in racing. The track is extremely wide and there is plenty of room for side-by-side racing, and the track surface is conducive for that type of racing. I've won races here running up high on the track, and I've run races right along the bottom of the track, so it offers a lot of options to a driver."
Tony Stewart, with three top-10 finishes in his last four races, comes to MIS with an emphasis on finding the right balance in his car.
"You need to have an aerodynamic car, but you've got to have the horsepower to pull it, too," Stewart said. "You can't have one and not the other, and expect to go to Michigan and win the race."
Stewart added that MIS allows the driver to have more influence on the outcome than the car.
"It is nice to come here knowing that as a driver you can help yourself and you're not relying so much on the car," Stewart said. "Regardless of what everyone else is doing, you can find a way to help yourself out. It makes you feel good knowing that because this place is so wide you can move around, and basically earn your money that day."
Kevin Harvick says MIS is his kind of track, and in his last three races here he has been in the top five twice, including a runner-up finish in last year's August race.
"For whatever reason, Michigan is one of those places that fits my driving style," Harvick said. "You can drive into the turns down on the bottom in the flat, or in the middle, or right on the wall. Depending on handling, you can move up or down to make your car work. It's a lot of fun to race on and it usually boils down to some sort of fuel mileage. It's one of those tracks where we've always, always been competitive."
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