STATESVILLE, NC - The race dates are just two months apart, but the Sprint Cup Series' two visits to Michigan International Speedway are distinctly different. David Ragan cites the rise in temperature in August as the cause of a more challenging race for the second visit, so the No. 34 Taco Bell team is preparing for a hotter, slicker racetrack as they gear up for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400.
Ragan earned a top-25 finish in the June visit to the two-mile oval, despite windy conditions that kept blowing trash on the car's grille and forcing some unscheduled pit stops to prevent overheating.
In 13 Sprint Cup starts at Michigan, Ragan has one top-five, two top-10 and five top-15 finishes, and hasn't finished outside the top 25 in his last six starts at the venue.
Comments from Taco Bell team driver David Ragan heading to Michigan:
"I think the Michigan racetrack has aged a little bit. And Goodyear's found a good combination with the tire that allows us to be aggressive. We don't have any tire issues. But it's still fast. We saw some 200-mile-an-hour speeds there in the spring. The second race is always a little slower because it's hotter when you get into August in Michigan, and so it's always a little more challenging than the first weekend.
"We'll have to really be on our marks, see what we can take from that first weekend and adjust on our Ford Fusion a little bit. It was great to see Ford get that win in the spring, so hopefully another Ford can back it up this weekend. But again, that second race is a little slower, has a little less grip, and you just have to know that going in.
"The racing groove at Michigan has widened a little bit. We really haven't gotten up to the wall, but I think the bottom two, two-and-a-half grooves are very racy. A lot of guys were right on the white line running along the bottom. It's only going to get better with time. I don't think we're going to be in that third or fourth groove for this upcoming weekend, but I think in another year or so you'll see the four- or five-wide guys rim-riding around the top of that place before you know it."