Will weather impact today’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan?

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BROOKLYN, Mich. — Today’s Pure Michigan 400 is scheduled to go 200 laps around the two-mile Michigan International Speedway — but will Mother Nature allow NASCAR to go the scheduled distance?

The forecast from the National Weather Service calls for a 60 percent chance of showers this afternoon. (From a personal note, while driving up to the race this morning from Chicago, there were off-and-on showers — mostly light — from about Benton Harbor, Mich. until past Battle Creek, which is approximately 50 miles or so due west of the racetrack).

At Lap 10, there was a large band of storms just east of Grand Rapids and moving east, about 100 miles away from MIS.

NASCAR has already called for a competition caution on Lap 20.

Jeff Gordon started from the pole after setting a track record in qualifying on Friday of 2o6.558 mph. It was the seventh-fastest qualifying speed in NASCAR history and the fastest since restrictor plates were implemented by NASCAR in 1988.

The race had its  first mishap just three laps into the event when Kyle Busch hit the wall coming out of Turn 4 and caused substantial damage to the right side of his car. He took his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry directly to the Sprint Cup garage instead of going to pit road.

Four cars were sent to the back of the field prior to the green flag.

Two were solely for driver change (Trevor Bayne into the No. 21 and Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 78), a third for both driver change and engine change (J.J. Yeley in No. 83) and a fourth solely for a motor change (the No. 40 of Landon Cassill).

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F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.