Could we hear "200 mph" at Michigan Speedway?

There have always been a few ‘givens’ in automobile racing. Things like a driver always wanting a stronger engine, a crew chief always wanting a smarter driver, cautions breeding cautions, race fans eventually pulling for the underdog even if they don’t like him or the make of car he is driving, and one of the truest facts among some of those givens in the world of racing is that new pavement on a race track equals new track qualifying records.
That given was shown to be very true this past weekend with the quick lap that Joey Logano laid down during qualifying at the Pocono Raceway. The former track record was in the 172-mph range. Logano and his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota were flirting with the 180-mph barrier with his lap of 179.598.
The old bumpy surface at Pocono was replaced with a silky smooth surface that both the drivers and the racecars love, but a racing surface that produces top end speeds causes the toughest engine builders to get a little faint.
The front-stretch at Pocono is the longest in NASCAR.  Add to that, the back stretch that connects turns one and two is even longer than the backstretch at the Daytona International Speedway.  This gives drivers a lot of room to build up speed heading off into relatively flat corners.
Pocono has the longest straight-a-ways in NASCAR but those high-speed producing sections of racetrack spill into some of the sharpest and flattest turns on any of the racetracks on any of the three NASCAR National Series schedules. Those flat corners eliminate the need for restrictor plates as the driver’s built-in restrictor plate, otherwise called his right foot, activates by lifting off the pedal to get his car through the corners. But next weekend’s race, the Quicken Loans 400 at the Michigan Speedway, could produce speeds not seen in NASCAR in many years.
Back in November of 1997, when the Atlanta Motor Speedway was reconfigured to look more like the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Geoff Bodine blistered that freshly paved mile-and- a-half of track at an average speed of 197.478-mph. The Michigan Speedway is two miles in length with wide sweeping corners and an arched front-stretch that has always tested valve springs, crankshafts, connecting rods and pistons in race engines. Throw in a smooth batch of new pavement, and the Michigan track record for stock cars could jump from the current 194.232 to something near and perhaps beyond 200-mph.
If one or two cars can break the 200mph barrier, a mark first eclipsed by Buddy Baker in 1970 driving a Hemi-powered Dodge Daytona prepared by the late Cotton Owens, it could be something to help sell tickets and also boost television ratings. But if it is more than a couple of cars, maybe 20 to 30 cars that break that threshold, NASCAR officials could look at ways to slow the cars down, with the most obvious choice being the implementation of the dreaded restrictor plates.
I personally hope the restrictor plates do not come into play at Michigan, because the built in restrictor plates responsible for dropping the hammer on race day should activate as the tires get a few laps on them. Yes, corner speeds will be high, but the race pace will slow somewhat from qualifying.
As race time draws near for the Michigan race, I hope someone can lead-foot it around that track at an average speed better than 200mph. It has been a long time since we have been able to hear broadcasting legend Barney Hall use the words ‘two hundred miles per hour’ while running down the lineup during a MRN radio broadcast.
If Barney gets to say 200 miles per hour, I am sure that many of us race fans will be quoting Bill Cosby as he read the speedometer on his Cobra just after it was delivered to his house by the folks from Carroll Shelby’s factory, “Oh wow!!!!!”