Once upon a time, Michigan International Speedway was Ford Motor Co.’s playground, and in today’s Pure Michigan 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, the Blue Oval Boys will be looking to dominate again.
When the 2-mile MIS oval opened in 1969, Ford and Mercury cars won 12 of the first 15 Cup races up through 1976, when David Pearson and the Wood Brothers Racing team swept both events.
In 1985 and ’86, Bill Elliott won four straight in the powerhouse No. 9 Ford Thunderbirds fielded by Harry Melling.
Fords won the second MIS race of 1990 (Mark Martin), both ’91 races (Davey Allison and Dale Jarrett) and the first race of ’92, again with Allison.
Fords would go on to sweep at MIS again in 1994, ’96, ’97 and ’02.
The most recent Ford sweep at MIS came in 2013, with Greg Biffle and Joey Logano coming up big.
Will the Ford teams step up again today?
There’s a good chance they will.
Michigan native Brad Keselowski will start on the pole in his Team Penske Ford, flanked by teammate Joey Logano, with Kevin Harvick third in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
For Keselowski, winning at MIS would be a dream come true,
“Any success you have at your home track is right there with having success in the biggest races of the year like Daytona for the 500 and the championship,” Keselowski said. “It’s a big deal for any driver, not just myself. Of course, this is my home track and to be able to have any kind of success here just really feels so darn good and I just hope we can keep it up this weekend.”
Logano, on the other hand, is in dire need of a victory in one of the next four races or else he’ll miss NASCAR’s playoffs.
“I love the pressure. I’m all right with pressure. It’s good,” said Logano. “I’d rather be in, but the pressure part is OK. You’ve got to get used to that, but that’s what this sport is, especially during the playoffs. We just have to turn into playoff mode a little bit earlier than everybody else to get in, but so far so good.”
As far as challengers to the Fords today, there are several of the usual suspects to watch out for: Cup points leader Martin Truex Jr. and is dominant Furniture Row Racing Toyota, two-time defending Michigan winner Kyle Larson in a Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Chase Elliott, who has finished second in each of his three MIS starts.
Expect a wide-open race and, as always at Michigan, fuel mileage could factor into who wins.