|Engine change for Johnson|
Point leader Jimmie Johnson’s Saturday is off to a lousy start.
After qualifying third at Michigan International Speedway Friday afternoon, smoke from under the hood of Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet has prompted the team to change engines prior to Saturday morning’s first practice session.
The change will force Johnson to start from the rear of the field in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.
After the opening 10 minutes of practice, resurgent Regan Smith is atop the leader board with a fast lap at 193.960 mph. Kyle Busch is second, followed by Landon Cassill, Greg Biffle and polesitter Mark Martin. Teams experienced minimal tire wear in yesterday’s practice rounds, causing concern that blistering could occur due to an excess buildup of heat. In order to avoid a repeat of June’s race weekend, when blistered tires forced Goodyear to truck-in replacements for Sunday’s race, the tire maker has released all 400 race tires a day on advance, allowing teams to run them through a short heat cycle today, making them less likely to blister.
...Martin’s fast lap yesterday afternoon earned him his fourth pole of the 2012 season and 55th of his 845-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, placing him in a tie with Bill Elliott for seventh on the all-time list. It is his first pole at Michigan, though he did start first in June of 1990 after qualifying was canceled by rain. Martin is now the oldest pole winner in the history of MIS, at 53 years, 7 months, 8 days. Harry Gant holds the record for oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole winner at 54 years, 7 months, 15 days, set at Bristol in August of 1994.
…With every passing day, it appears less likely that Joey Logano will return to Joe Gibbs Racing next season. Team owner Joe Gibbs said told ESPN this week that "everything is up in the air'' with Logano, and that the team continues to aggressively seek sponsorship to keep the 22-year old in a JGR Toyota in 2013 and beyond. No backing has yet been found, however, and Logano admitted recently that he has another full-time Sprint Cup Series offer on the table. The offer is believed to be with Penske Racing, which has an opening to fill in its Shell Pennzoil-sponsored No. 22 entry, currently being driven by Sam Hornish, Jr.
|JV is no Danica fan|
…In a related story, multiple sources say Matt Kenseth’s long silence regarding plans for 2013 is nearly over. Without mentioning Kenseth by name, Joe Gibbs said he hopes to announce some of the team’s plans for next season in two weeks, when the Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Atlanta is the hometown of Home Depot, longtime sponsors of the No. 20 Toyota that Kenseth is widely expected to drive next year.
…Jacques Villeneuve minced few words in his assessment of Danica Patrick yesterday, saying Patrick gets favorable treatment because she is a woman. The former F1 star was roundly criticized after wrecking Patrick in the final laps of a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America on June 23, and has steadfastly refused to accept blame for the wreck, or any of the other incidents that have punctuated his brief Nationwide career.
"If it hadn't been Danica, no one would have said anything," said Villeneuve, while preparing for the circuit’s annual race in the Montreal road course that bears his late father’s name. "It's never her fault. When Danica knocks out another driver, it's the fault of the driver who was knocked out, and when a driver knocks out Danica, it's the other guy's fault. That's part of the game, I guess."