By Bob Priddy, contributing editor
Columbia NASCAR driver Carl Edwards continues his late-season surge with his fourth top-ten finish in the last five races, finishing sixth in the Michigan 400. Edwards, who had the fastest speed in the first practice session at the speedway, started third behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. Kenseth dominated the race, leading 146 of the 200 laps on the two-mile track. Hamlin finished just ahead of Edwards, who led briefly twice.
Joplin native Jamie McMurray continued his year of consistent runs with a 16th place finish, holding his tenth place in the overall standings and continuing the be the driver with the most points who has not won a race this year. With three races left in the regular NASCAR season, McMurray is in the field for the ten-race run for the championship. The top sixteen drivers in wins and points qualify for the championship run-off.
Emporia, Kansas driver Clint Bowyer’s chances of staying in Chase contention took a blow when he crashed. Although he returned to the track after extensive repairs, Bowyer finished 41st, thirty-six laps down. We’ll be following Bowyer’s fortunes for the rest of the season because we consider him a quasi-Missourian who competed on a number of local Missouri tracks on his way up the NASCAR ladder and because he has a home at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The race was run using NASCAR’s high-drag aerodynamics package that met less than warm reactions when it was used at Indianapolis. Drivers interviewed after the Michigan race showed no enthusiasm for it and a columnist for NASCAR.com, Brendan O’Meara, wrote that the race, “was, to put it mildly, a bit of a snore.”
NASCAR says it will review the data from the race and talk to the drivers about the future of the high-drag package, most noticeable because of the bigger rear spoiler topped by a wickerbill facing forward that is designed to increase wind resistance as the car moves forward. Several drivers have complained at Indianapolis and at Michigan that the package makes it hard to pass. Preliminary numbers from NASCAR indicate there were sixteen lead changes during the race, lower than usual.