NASCAR returns to Michigan International Speedway this week for its second race of the year. Since we’ve already given you our advice for tailgating at MIS, we’re focusing this week on five Fast Facts you may not know about the track itself. How well do you know one of the sport’s double-dip courses?
Michigan International Speedway served as the basis for Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California when that track opened in 1997. Both Michigan and Fontana are now owned by the same company, International Speedway Group. In addition, Michigan is sometimes referred to as a sister track to the soon-to-be-closed Texas World Speedway (not to be confused with Texas Motor Speedway), which hosted a NASCAR event from 1969 to 1973 and again from 1979 to 1981.
Yes, that Roger Penske, who oversees two of the premier teams in both NASCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series. Penske bought MIS in 1972, four years after it opened, and is credited with increasing its capacity from 25,000 seats to 125,000 (that’s five times the original number of seats!). Penske’s Motorsports International eventually merged with ISC, creating the current ownership. Meanwhile, Penske continues to be represented on-track by Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
Penske’s biggest rival, Chip Ganassi, also has history with Michigan. But unlike Penske, his is on the track. Ganassi and Al Unser, Jr. were involved in a massive crash at the 1984 Michigan 500 that is largely credited with cutting Ganassi’s IndyCar driving career short. Ganassi has gone on to be another of the titans of motosports ownership, including fielding cars for Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
Ernie Irvan’s final NASCAR victory also came at Michigan in June of 1997, after he crashed there twice in August 1994 and later in August 1999. Irvan, too, moved behind the scenes and created Ernie Irvan Racing, which fielded a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East entry for his son, Jared Irvan, in the first race of the 2015 season.
The Team Penske driver is the only person to hold multiple track records at Michigan International Speedway. Last year, he set the fastest qualifying lap for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a time of 38.370 seconds. Before this June’s Quicken Loans 400, he broke the qualifying record for the Sprint Cup Series at 37.157 seconds. Especially coming off his win at Watkins Glen last week, you might want to consider putting Logano on your NASCAR fantasy team.
Michigan made history when thanks to a downpour of rain, the 2007 Pure Michigan 400 became the first NASCAR race in the modern era to be run on a Tuesday. Since then, the 2011 AdvoCare 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was also shifted to Tuesday because of rain in that area. Races at Michigan have also been pushed or abbreviated due to rain in 1969, 1977, and 2001.
Thankfully, as of this writing, the forecast for this weekend is 86 degrees and mostly sunny, but we wouldn’t blame you for bringing an umbrella just in case – especially since thunderstorms are expected in the area both Friday and Monday.
The Pure Michigan 400 takes place at Michigan International Speedway this Sunday, August 16 at 2:30 p.m. ET.