Time is Running Out for Bubble Drivers at Michigan

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has three races remaining in the regular season. The first of those three comes this weekend at Michigan International Speedway, as the 40 best stock car drivers in the word take to the two-mile asphalt track located in Brooklyn, Mich.

The Pure Michigan 400 will take place this Sunday just past 2:00 p.m. EST. The race can be seen on NBCSN and listened to via MRN Radio.

When the NSCS came to the Irish Hills earlier this summer, the race featured the new lower downforce package. It was the lowest downforce run by the NSCS to date. That will be changed this weekend, as NASCAR will experiment at MIS once again with the newest “super-ultra” lower downforce package. Removing downforce creates a tougher condition for the drivers to balance inside the race car. Handling is more difficult, with speeds increasing to upwards of 210 mph on the straightaways and decreasing by 20-25 mph in the corners.

Joey Logano grabbed the checkered flag earlier this season at Michigan in a dominating performance, leading 138 of the 200 laps. His Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski finished inside the top five, while rookie Chase Elliott finished in second place. Logano will also lead the field to the green flag on Sunday, as he won the pole (201.523 mph).

Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott round out the top five starting positions. Alex Bowman, who is racing the No. 88 Chevrolet this weekend as Dale Earnhardt Jr. still recovers from concussion-like symptoms, will start sixth. My pick to win, Martin Truex Jr., will roll off 14th when the green flag flies.

The competition will look to unseat Logano from his throne at Michigan, as that race that was dominated by the No. 22 earlier this summer and wasn’t all that compelling. There was no real passing and the racing itself lacked excitement. That is not what NASCAR wanted, as this aero package is a test for the 2017 rules package that will be tentatively used. MIS also took a page out of Bristol’s book.

When BMS applied VHT to the bottom groove, it improved the racing. MIS used a tire dragger and put down rubber in the top groove, creating more grip and a better racing line on the surface. Only time will tell if the racing improves this weekend

I took a closer look at the Chase bubble about a week ago, but let’s take a look at it now. Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray all have almost a full race’s worth of points ahead of the cutline. Ryan Newman has a 35-point buffer as well.

Trevor Bayne (-35), Kyle Larson (-39), Kasey Kahne (-39) and AJ Allmendinger (-58) currently sit below the cutline. Barring a win, I don’t see a way any of these drivers will qualify for the 2016 playoffs. It’s purely a case of too little too late. However, Larson has been knocking on the door of victory lane for the better part of a year, and Kahne has showed steady improvement throughout the summer. We’ve seen crazier things happen before, though.

 Also, we as Spartans should NOT root for Bowman (nothing against him), for one reason only. LOOK AT HIS CAR. I’ll be at the race, and I’ll be sure to boo him (and UofM). Go Green!