Ryan: Three thoughts on Sunday’s race at Michigan

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1. High drag lacks high drama: It’s only a two-race sample size, but Indianapolis and Michigan didn’t offer enough evidence to endorse the rules package intended to put an emphasis on drafting. There were fewer lead changes in Sunday’s race than last year’s, and they mostly were the result of green-flag pit stops. The slingshot passes of yesteryear that were envisioned with the taller spoiler never materialized, and the excessive cockpit temperatures were an unnecessarily negative tradeoff for no benefit. Chalk this up to being a well-intentioned but failed experiment that shouldn’t be used again.

2. Toyota has the upper hand: That’s obvious given Joe Gibbs Racing’s run of five victories in six races. Michigan often can serve as a championship preview of what teams have for the 1.5-mile tracks in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The high-drag package qualifies Sunday’s race as somewhat of an anomaly, but there still were takeaways – especially given winner Matt Kenseth’s dominance. After struggling to marry the limits of its durability with horsepower the past two seasons, Toyota is setting the bar with its engines this season, and the championship battle seems to be shaping up as JGR’s Camrys vs. defending series champion Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet.

3. Richard Childress Racing quietly is making noise: Whether Austin Dillon’s career-best fourth (after starting from the rear), Martin Truex Jr.’s continued resurgence as a superspeedway contender at Furniture Row Racing (which uses RCR chassis and engines) or Ryan Newman’s impressive rebound for another top 10 (positioning him strongly to earn a Chase berth despite a 50-point penalty), RCR is heading squarely in the right direction. Sunday’s strong showing was in stark contrast to the struggles of Chevrolet counterpart Hendrick Motorsports, which usually garners all the headlines. With Truex and Furniture Row Racing apparently on the verge of a manufacturer switch for 2016, RCR’s results should help make a more compelling case for enticing a replacement.