Friday/Saturday Events Kick-off the Race Weekend at Michigan International Speedway

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It’s the weekend at MIS and a full slate of events were scheduled to get the NASCAR action started leading up to Sunday’s FireKeeper’s Casino 400. As promised the Lasco Press is on-site to bring you not just the on-track excitement but keep you abreast of what’s happening behind the scene.Friday On-TrackThe Sprint Cup cars hit the track for a practice session that started at 11:00am. Air temperatures were comfortable and the cool track temperature allowed for some fast times to be recorded as 12 drivers exceeded 200 mph. Chase Elliott put up the fastest lap of the morning session at 201.630 mph. Two Ford drivers, Brad Keselowski at 200.674 and Ryan Blaney at 200.200, scored laps among the group of speed leaders.The Xfinity Series practice featured an uninvited guest as a groundhog made an appearance on the backstretch causing a 10-minute delay as track safety crews rounded him up for transportation to a safer environment. The critter is now an internet sensation with the Fox video of the incident garnering over 1 million hits already. Groundhog Day at MIS features the little guy making several runs to escape capture before succumbing to the 5-gallon bucket, only to make one more dash for freedom before ending up in a 55-gallon prison transport trash can.By the time Sprint Cup qualifying rolled around at 4:15 in the afternoon the lap times and top speeds were far different. The new aero package for this week’s race combined with a sunbaked track produced slippery conditions reducing qualifying speeds to the sub-200 mph level. Driver’s reported, after the morning practice, that the lack of down-force on the car resulted in the need to lift off the throttle in the middle of the turns. Fans could be in for a real treat Sunday if the body configuration changes produce tight pack racing. Joey Logano captured the pole with a speed of 199.557, the Wood Brother’s Ryan Blaney will start 5th and Ricky Stenhouse Jr will roll off 12th, the only Fords that made it through to the final round of elimination qualifying.Friday’s on-track activities wrapped up with the Corrigan Oil 200 ARCA series race. At the drop of the green flag, two cars quickly showed their dominance over the remainder of the 32-car field. Chase Briscoe in the Cunningham Motorsports Ford lead the first 30 laps. A caution on lap 28 brought the field to pit road for gas and tires, Briscoe stalled his car when the jack dropped allowing Brandon Jones in the Valvoline-Menards Chevrolet to assume the lead. Briscoe fought back to the front on lap 37, only to be passed by Jones on the next circuit. Jones surrendered the lead while pitting on lap 79 and Kyle Weatherman in the St Charles Glass Ford took over the top spot. Weatherman tried to stretch his final fuel fill-up past the normal 40 lap range in hopes of stealing the victory, unfortunately running dry on lap 96 and finishing 12th. Jones, benefitting from Weatherman’s misfortune, led the final four laps to take the checkered flag.Friday in the Media CenterWith only practice and qualifying on Friday’s schedule, a number of Sprint Cup drivers were made available to the media for briefBrad Keslowski MIS Nascar June 2016question and answer sessions throughout the day. Given the controversy of the previous week, Brad Keselowski’s remarks were the most anticipated of the drivers scheduled to make an appearance. During the Pocono race, the jack man for the number 2 Miller Lite Ford appeared to use his hip to dent the side of Keselowski’s car. NASCAR officials captured the episode on their pit monitoring cameras and issued Keselowski the black flag, telling his crew the car had to return to pit road for the damage to be repaired. Fox announcers Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon were quick to point out the aerodynamic advantage the dent could afford Keselowski an advantage in side drafting other cars. Gordon was quit vocal in his criticism of the “unapproved body modification” and suggested the need for NASCAR to impose penalties for such activities, noting the unfair advantage Keselowski would have over his fellow competitors. After the race Keselowski took issue with Gordons comments noting that Gordon is listed as the car owner for Jimmy Johnson’s number 48 Lowes Chevrolet. Keselowski, defending his crew, voiced the opinion that it was inappropriate for an announcer who was still involved in NASCAR competition to lobby NASCAR for specific actions to be taken against another team.Keselowski, a Michigan native, opened his press conference by paying homage to Gordie Howe after his passing Friday morning. However, it did not take long to get to the Gordon controversy. Fox taped an interview with Gordon and Keselowski for their Sunday broadcast and the press were anxious to hear what was discussed. Brad was asked if he and Jeff hugged it out at the interview. His response “no hugs….. there were some handshakes.” Brad went on to say; “Yeah, we talked at length. I think there are certainly some different opinions. I don’t think that is going to change, but it is nice to be able to have those conversations in a one-on-one format.”Keselowski went on to talk about the changes in the aero package and how they will affect Sunday’s racing. All the drivers seem to feel the race will be more competitive than events held at MIS in the past.Friday and Saturday at the Music FestivalKudos to Michigan International Speedway for giving fans something to do in the evenings other than set around the campfire and roast marshmallows. The Keloorah (Celtic for celebration) music festival held Friday and Saturday evening adjacent to the track outside of turn three featured GROUPLOVE, Third Eye Blind, Fitz and the Tantrums, The Neighbourhood, Elle King, as well as Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers. Keloorah returns again for the August race weekend with Chase Rice, Chase Bryant, Kip Moore and Tim Dugger as headliners.MIS President Roger Curtis said. “Keloorah is a completely unique concept – a true music festival taking place at the same time as a NASCAR race weekend to attract new fans to MIS who may not otherwise be aware of, or come to see NASCAR, as well as provide a great new experience for our NASCAR fans. Keloorah will be an entertainment experience unparalleled at any other NASCAR event.”Saturday On-TrackSaturday’s Xfinity race, the Menards 250 presented by Valvoline, produced a rarity for MIS. A last-lap pass for the win brought fans in the grandstand to their feet as second-year driver Daniel Suarez outdrove Kyle Bush for his 1st career NASCAR national series win. It was also the first win for a Mexican-born driver in one of NASCAR’s premier circuits. Bush led 88 of the of the 125 laps while Suarez only led twice for 4 circuits of the 2-mile track. But, Suarez led the most important one, overtaking Bush just past the start-finish line after the white flag was displayed and pulling away to be the first to the checkers. If Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 holds the same amount of drama it will be a great weekend of racing at MIS.