The upcoming race at Michigan this weekend marks the 42nd season that NASCAR's premiere division has visited the 2-mile speedway. Though the track isn't regarded as an historic track on the level of Daytona, Darlington or Martinsville, Michigan has produced several memorable moments throughout the years. The following is 10 of the races I felt were the best of the June events that have been held.
10. 1987 Miller American 400
Michigan was Bill Elliott's personal playground for a couple years. In fact, Elliott went undefeated at the speedway in 1985 and 1986. However in 1987, Dale Earnhardt put an end to that streak with an exclaimation point. Earnhardt dominated, leading 152 laps, easily his best career performance at Michigan. The win didn't come easy though as he had to hold off a young up and coming rookie driver by the name of Davey Allison.
9. 1983 Gabriel 400
27 lead changes and a late race duel that involved Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip, two drivers who didn't exactly get along on or off the track. Yarborough had the dominant car in the race leading 85 laps while Waltrip led only three, yet the margin of victory was only a half second.
8. 1995 Miller Genuine Draft 400
Jeff Gordon dominates but Bobby Labonte steals the win by almost three-tenths of a second. However, events after the race likely overshadowed the events that happened on the track. Michael Waltrip was unhappy with how Lake Speed raced him in the closing stages. After the finish as all of the cars came to the pits, Waltrip blocked Speed, got out of his car, pulled down Speed's window net and threw two punches at Speed. Fortunately for Speed, he was still wearing his helmet.
7. 1991 Miller Genuine Draft 400
While this race only had one caution flag for a period of four laps, there were a huge number of lead changes, 31 in all. There were 23 lead changes in the first 100 laps alone. Davey Allison went on to win by a margin of nearly 12 seconds over second place, Hut Stricklin. Even though the finish wasn't great, the race itself was definitely action packed.
6. 2000 Kmart 400
This rain plagued event might be more a story of what could have been instead of what happened. Jeremy Mayfield appeared to be the class of the field on this day but his engine gave out in the closing stages. As the race neared its conclusion, it looked as though sophomore driver, Tony Stewart was going to have to battle Dale Earnhardt for the victory. However rain and darkness shortened the event and the possiblity of Stewart and Earnhardt racing side-by-side for the win didn't come true.
5. 1990 Miller Genuine Draft 400
Like Mayfield in the 2000 event, Bill Elliott was in top form in the 1990 race. However Elliott like Mayfield had engine problems in the final laps of the race. This opened the door for Dale Earnhardt who had to fight off a number of cars, most notably Ernie Irvan. Even though Elliott dominated, this race was very competitive and is one of my personal favorites.
4. 1984 Miller High Life 400
The final 10 laps of this one saw four different leaders, but it was Bill Elliott coming home with the trophy. Through Elliott was fast leading 64 laps, Cale Yarborough led 67 but had late race trouble. This was Elliott's first of seven wins at the track.
3. 1986 Miller American 400
This race proved to be ultra competitive at the front with 34 total lead changes. Harry Gant looked poised to break Bill Elliott's steak of two wins in a row at Michigan but couldn't close the deal. With five laps left, Elliott took the race lead and the eventual win away from Gant. Elliott only led 28 laps, but he led the most important one.
2. 1997 Miller 400
The 1997 Miller 400 looked to be Ted Musgrave's chance at getting his first ever Winston Cup win. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be for him, it was meant for Ernie Irvan. Irvan took the lead with 21 laps to go and won his first race after coming back from a serious injury that occurred at the same track nearly three years earlier.
1. 2008 LifeLock 400
Best remembered as (up to this point) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s last NASCAR Sprint Cup victory, what's forgotten is that this race was very competitive and very entertaining at the front. Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards all led a good portion of the race while Earnhardt was right near the front the entire race. In the end, Earnhardt had better fuel mileage and was able to take the victory. This was likely the first real competitive race with the CoT, other than at Talladega.
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