Kevin Harvick outpaced Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin to win at Michigan, and clinched a spot in the Chase in the process. Harvick also announced Budweiser as his 2011 sponsor. The night race at Bristol awaits, as the final Chase spots hang in the balance.
Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick won for the third time this year, conquering the Carfax 400 in Michigan while becoming the first driver to clinch a spot in the Chase For The Cup. Harvick stayed on the track during the final caution while most cars pitted for tires, and passed Denny Hamlin with 10 to go. Harvick’s closest pursuer in the points in Jeff Gordon, who is 293 out of first.
"That points lead is impressive," Harvick said, "if I must say so myself. Now everyone wants to call me the Cup favorite. After all these points, I’ve finally made a point."
"I can think of no better way to announce Budweiser as my 2011 sponsor than with a win. Regardless of what happens from now until Homestead in November, I’ll be wearing a ‘crown’ next year."
2. Denny Hamlin: Despite qualifying 33rd, Hamlin finished second at Michigan, site of his June 13th win, the last of his five victories this year. Hamlin battled Kevin Harvick after both opted not to pit during a late caution, but Harvick pulled away for this win after clearing Hamlin with ten laps to go.
"I really wanted this win," Hamlin said. "Not only for the ten bonus points, but also for the chance to see the cheesy headline ‘Mich-Again.’"
"Harvick was just too much for us. It was a mismatch on par with the Ryan Newman-Joey Logano argument after Sunday’s race. That was a Gillette Young Gun versus a Gillette Youngin.’ Newman looked downright peeved, while Logano was calm and collected, albeit with a tinge of fear that Newman was going to punch him. I imagine that’s exactly how Newman-Rusty Wallace conversations went when they were teammates.."
3. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson qualified second at Michigan, and, after a quick start on Sunday, was plagued afterwards by a loose No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy, as well as uncharacteristic mishaps in the pits, on his way to a 12th-place finish. He is fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 386 behind Kevin Harvick.
"It seems I’ve been relegated to an ‘also-ran’ in the Chase For The Cup," Johnson said. "Believe that if you like, but I think the more appropriate term would be an ‘also-run,’ because I won the Sprint Cup in 2006, also in 2007, also in 2008, and also in 2009."
"Right now, Kevin Harvick’s got everything going his way. He just won a race, his wife satiates his kinky role-playing desires by wearing his clothes, and he’s got a huge new sponsor for next year. Budweiser sponsorship is quite a coup. You know, Bud is brewed from the finest hops and barley in the world, and its alcohol content by volume is 5%, which is exactly the chance I give Harvick of winning the Cup."
4. Jeff Gordon: After a poor qualifying effort, Gordon started 36th at Michigan, but quickly marched to the front and had a top-10 in sight before a cut tire ruined his day. The flat tire caused right-side damage, and after repairs, Gordon restarted well back. He finished 27th, and although second in the points, he has yet to win this year.
"Winning isn’t everything," Gordon said. "In fact, for me, winning isn’t anything. We’re just suffering through a spell where nothing is going right. It’s like the old saying: ‘If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d never have been married to a woman named Brooke.'"
"Despite my slump, I have no intentions of hanging up the driving gloves anytime soon. It may remedy a flat, but ‘re-tiring’ has no appeal to me."
5. Tony Stewart: Stewart was leading with just over 30 laps to go in the Carfax 400 when a debris caution left him with a critical decision: pit for tires or stay out and maintain track position. Stewart chose the latter, as did Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, and Harvick made the most of it, taking the win after outdueling Stewart and Hamlin.
"I think heeding debris cautions should be optional for drivers," Stewart said. "I’m fairly certain not all debris cautions are necessary, particular those in which the clean-up crew uses a broom and a dust pan."
"I was impressed with Ryan Newman’s handling of the Joey Logano situation. He handled it in exactly the opposite manner that I would have—he listened intently, then shoved Logano. With me, it’s shove first, listen later, in the NASCAR hauler. But seriously, how can you keep your hands off Logano? He’s adorable."
6. Kurt Busch: Busch blew an engine 30 laps into Sunday’s Carfax 400 at Michigan, with a cloud of smoke and spray of oil heralding an early exit from the race. He finished 40th, only his second DNF of the year, and tumbled six places in the Sprint Cup point standings, from fourth to tenth.
"Yes, that was quite a free fall in the standings," Busch said. "So much so that I was tempted to yell ‘Geronimo!’ Take it from someone who’s been unceremoniously ‘dropped’ on a number of occasions, it was quite a fall. You could say I went down faster than beer out of a Miller Lite Vortex bottle."
7. Carl Edwards: Edwards led a parade of Roush Fenway Racing cars in the top 5 at Michigan, finishing third, followed by teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth in fourth and fifth, respectively. Edwards vaulted three places in the point standings to seventh, and is a comfortable 266 ahead of Mark Martin in 13th.
"Jack’s back," Edwards said. "And so is Roush Fenway. Just a few weeks ago, this team was all but written off. But things have changed. Usually, when I speak of ‘amazing turnarounds,’ it involves me sending Brad Keselowski spinning, or sailing, backwards down the track."
"And you’ve probably heard that I’ve said this team could still win the Cup championship. I refuse to acknowledge Kevin Harvick as the favorite to win the Sprint Cup, not because I don’t like him, but because I don’t think that team can sustain their consistency through the Chase. Take it from someone who knows---there will be another ‘choke’ in Harvick’s garage."
8. Greg Biffle: Biffle led 66 of the first 83 laps at Michigan, dominating early in the Carfax 400 before intermittent handling issues kept him from the front thereafter. After taking four tires during the race’s final caution, the 3M Ford picked off ten cars on the way to a fourth-place finish. He maintained the 11th spot in the standings, and leads Mark Martin in 13th by 193.
"I think I speak for everyone," Biffle said, "when I say that Saving Abel’s rendition of the national anthem was downright awful. It was so bad, it made ears bleed, which I’m sure brought back painful memories for boxing legend and race grand marshal Evander Holyfield."
9. Kyle Busch: Busch saw a promising day at Michigan quickly disintegrate when he nailed the wall on lap 159, damaging the right side of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Camry. Busch settled for a disappointing 18th and dropped one place in the Sprint Cup point standings to eighth, 425 out of first. With only two top-10 finishes in his last nine races, Busch knows he must find some momentum before the Chase starts.
"I think that accident would be called a ‘Battery’ ram," Busch said. "It’s a mishap that is certainly symbolic---it seems that each year, as we near the Chase, we ‘hit a wall.’
10. Jeff Burton: Burton plowed into Jeff Gordon when the No. 24 cut a tire on lap 154, damaging the front of Burton’s No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet. Burton restarted well back in the field and finished 24th, which set him back four places in the point standings to sixth, where he trails Kevin Harvick by 414.
"I think Budweiser and Kevin Harvick will form a great partnership," Burton said. "That was evident in Tuesday’s press conference when Kevin made the first of what will surely be many ‘Bud pole’ jokes."
"The Budweiser brand and colors will now be associated with Kevin’s smartly aggressive driving and take-no-prisoners attitude. Next year, if Kevin pisses someone off on the track, they’ll have no choice but to see ‘red.’"