Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Manufacturer Wars Heat Up in Qualifying at Michigan

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into Michigan, the impetus for all three manufacturers to run well is accelerated as two of the three, Ford and Chevrolet, are located down the road in Detroit, while Japanese based Toyota always looks to steal the show from the hometown favorites.

On Friday, the manufacturer wars heated up ahead of Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 as all three manufacturers were well represented in the top-three of the lineup for the race.

Though Toyota gained the upper hand in the first practice session of the weekend with Martin Truex, Jr. putting down the fast time of the session, the scales looked to shift Chevrolet’s direction in the first two rounds of qualifying with fast times by Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson. However, it was Ford that would win the day in the manufacturer wars as Joey Logano would score a Michigan pole for the second time this season.

“I was surprised after the first couple of rounds when we weren’t as fast as the last time we were here. We were eighth going into the final round but great adjustments to find a little bit more speed out of this thing. I was down there waiting and Todd said, ‘Take it!’ So I said, ‘Yeah, I am going to take it.’ So I got pumped up and I had the attitude that we were going to grab it or we were going to crash. It worked out well,” said Logano.

With Logano and Ford on the pole, Chevrolet and Johnson will be joining them on the front row, as Johnson qualified .031 seconds back of Logano’s lap. The second place start for Johnson marks his best qualifying effort since winning the pole at Loudon five weeks ago.

“It was just an awesome day for this Lowe’s race car and this Lowe’s race team. We keep stacking pennies and making this car better and better. My hat’s off to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and all the hard work they’re putting into things. Great practice and great qualifying. We need some more practice sessions tomorrow and roll them into a good race,” said Johnson.

While the hometown manufacturers are on the front row, Toyota was not far behind with Denny Hamlin carrying the Toyota banner to a third place start. Hamlin was only able to score the 11th fastest time in practice, but when his No. 11 team shifted into qualifying mode, business picked up.  Hamlin was second fastest in the first round, fourth fastest in the second round, and third fastest in the final round.

“It was good and my runs were good – all of them were good. Just really, just a little off obviously. That was the closest we were to the fastest speed. We were one of the top cars in every session and can’t really complain, no real balance complaints, just a little off on speed really,” said Hamlin.

Heading into Sunday, eight of the top-12 starters belong to Chevrolet, two belong to Ford, and Toyota holds onto the other two. While the three are nearly even at this point, it will be interesting to see how things will shake out as the weekend progresses and which one will be the king of the mountain when the checkered flag flies on Sunday.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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