NASCAR Picks for Michigan
Length: 2.000 miles
Shape: D-shaped Oval
Location: Brooklyn, Michigan
The Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the first of two races at the 2.0-mile, D-shaped oval. The track routinely produces speeds in excess of 200 mph, but it is the wide racing surface and multiple grooves that MIS is best known for. Drivers will run up by the wall, down by the apron and just about anywhere in between if they can find some grip, and as a result, side-by-side and even three-wide occur with relative frequency. Of course, the same wide racing surface that allows drivers room to maneuver in traffic also tends to create long green flag runs, and fuel mileage often becomes a factor in deciding the outcome at Michigan.
From a fantasy standpoint, this weekend's race could provide a nice opportunity to score a lot of points while utilizing some sleeper options. Not only have big names like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch been up and down at MIS, but several drivers that are average picks most weeks have been very reliable at the track. In Yahoo! leagues specifically, fantasy owners will have some much-needed new blood to work with among the C-List drivers. Not only is Trevor Bayne in the field this weekend, but Juan Pablo Montoya will make his 2014 Cup Series debut in a third Team Penske entry. I strongly recommend taking advantage of the quality part-time options to save starts from the reliable regulars in the C-List.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although there have been some pit road mistakes and mechanical problems that have resulted in some bad finishes, Harvick has routinely had one of the fastest cars on the track in 2014. Now, he heads to a Michigan track where he has been on a roll lately. Harvick has five top-15s in his last seven starts at MIS, winning the August race in 2010 and finishing second in both races at the track last year.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He is the defending winner of this weekend's race and a four-time winner at Michigan overall. More importantly, no driver has been better at the track than Biffle the past two years. In the last four races at MIS, his 3.8 average finish is the best in the series, and his two wins and 172 points scored are also tops among all drivers.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
An engine failure and a cut tire cost Junior a shot at a couple of victories at Michigan last year, but in 2012, he finished first and fourth in two starts at the track. More importantly, his 174 laps led at MIS the past two years are by far the most in the series. Don't let his bad luck last year fool you. Junior has had a car capable of winning the last four races at Michigan.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Kenseth offers fantasy owners the always-coveted blend of reliability and upside this weekend. Since 2004, his 9.8 average finish at Michigan is the second best in the series, and in 20 starts during the stretch, he only has one finish outside the top 20 and only three outside the top 15. Meanwhile, Kenseth heads into Sunday's race with finishes of sixth, third and second in his last three starts in the June race at MIS.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
He has improved overall as a driver since joining Team Penske last season, but Logano has really seen a boost in his numbers at the 2.0-mile tracks. He had a 4.3 average finish in three starts at 2.0-mile tracks in 2013, winning the August race at Michigan and leading at least 20 laps in all three starts. Expect him to at least contend for a top-five finish Sunday and possibly a win.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Stewart has been one of the most dependable options at Michigan over the years, and he has a 10.7 average finish in the last 20 races at the track and a 10.0 average finish in the last 10 races. He also has six top-10s in his last seven starts at the track and has four finishes of sixth or better during the stretch.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
After a rocky start to his career at Michigan, Keselowski has turned things around the past couple of years. He has an 8.4 average finish in his last five starts at MIS and hasn't finished worse than 13th during the stretch. More importantly, Keselowski has a pair of top-three finishes in his last five starts at the track (so has some upside, as well).
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
No driver has been more consistent at Michigan than Edwards. His 8.3 average finish at the track is the best in the series, and in 19 starts, he only has two finishes outside the top 12. Edwards is also a two-time winner at MIS, and he has finished 11th or better in his last four starts at the track.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His performance at Michigan the past three years is a microcosm of his up-and-down performance at the track. In his last six races at MIS, Busch has three finishes outside the top 10, including two outside the top 30. On the flip side, he has three top-four finishes during the same stretch, including a win. If you are willing to gamble a bit, Busch's ceiling is as high as any driver in the field.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He heads into Sunday's race with a series-leading six straight top-10s at Michigan. In fact, Bowyer hasn't finished worse than eighth at the track since 2011, compiling a 7.0 average finish during the stretch. It is worth noting that he only has one top-five finish in 16 starts at MIS, but he still has plenty of value in fantasy formats because of his reliability and consistency. Bowyer should make a great complementary piece to any roster.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
There aren't many tracks on the schedule where Johnson hasn't been to victory lane, but Michigan is one of them. In fact, he has had more than his share of bad luck at MIS, especially recently. Johnson has a 20.2 average finish in his last 10 starts at the track and finished outside the top-20 six times during the stretch. You can never count out Johnson completely, but I certainly wouldn't take a chance on him in Yahoo! leagues (or in any format that limits the number of times you can use a driver).
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he has finished outside the top 15 in his last three starts at Michigan, he does have some potential this weekend. After all, Gordon has five finishes of sixth or better in his last 10 starts at the track, including a pair of second-place finishes. Given his recent slump at MIS, he should probably be avoided in Yahoo! leagues this weekend, but he is worth considering in any format that doesn't cap the number of times a driver can be used.