BROOKLYN, Mich. — The rivalry between team owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi may not be as intense in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing as it is in IndyCars — but it's getting there.
Benefitting from a relatively early draw (12th), Penske's Kurt Busch streaked around the 2-mile racetrack in 37.898 seconds (189.984 mph) to claim the top starting spot Friday at Michigan International Speedway. Ganassi's Jamie McMurray, who was the first driver to make an attempt after rain delayed time trials, will start on the outside of the front row after turning a lap at 189.788 mph.
On May 30, Busch won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, with McMurray running second. A week later at Pocono, Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. and EGR's Juan Pablo Montoya ran 1-2 late in the Cup race.
"It's always been a genuine rivalry between Ganassi and Penske," Busch said.
"It's just coincidental that we were running good, and the Ganassi cars are running good, whether it's my teammate and Montoya or myself and McMurray. It's good to be on that competitive side, whereas we see the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) cars and the Gibbs cars running into each other a lot — that's just coincidental as well."
"We joked around a little bit on top of the hauler that Kurt ... certainly, if we could get rid of him, we would have won Charlotte, and we'd be on the pole here," McMurray said. "They're just running really well right now. I think that's great that we get to have that same competitiveness between the Penske and Ganassi teams that they've had in IndyCar racing for years.
"It's exciting, I think, for the NASCAR team to be able to perform as well as we have, and the same thing for the Penske team."
Busch won at Michigan in 2003 and 2007, the second triumph coming at the end of one of the longest weekends in NASCAR history after rain pushed the race back to Tuesday.
Busch spent most of that weekend camped out in the motor home and joked the event should have been renamed "the 72 hours of MIS."
It could be a repeat this weekend. The forecast for Sunday is iffy at best, with showers likely at any time.
Hall of Fame attendance lags in first month
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The NASCAR Hall of Fame had 30,000 paid visitors in its first 21 days, a figure that could make it hard to meet its first-year attendance goals.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority had estimated 800,000 visitors in the first year. The $195 million facility opened May 11, which was followed quickly by its first induction class ceremony and two weeks of NASCAR racing activities at nearby Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Hall of Fame officials put a positive spin while releasing the attendance figures Friday, saying the feedback they've received on comment cards from May 11-31 exceeded expectations.
But the hall had expected larger crowds in the first month.
"'Concerned' is not the word I would use," Hall of Fame executive director Winston Kelley said of the May figures. "But we are very aware, cognizant and diligent in learning about those numbers and who we market to and how we market to them to draw guests in."
Kelley said his team has been focused on ensuring the quality of the hall of fame and its interactive exhibits, not on the quantity of visitors.
"It's a very, very solid start," he said. "We're not going to get overly excited in one direction or another after just three weeks."