NASCAR Picks for Michigan
Length: 2.000 miles
Shape: D-shaped Oval
Location: Brooklyn, Michigan
The Cup Series will head to Michigan International Speedway this weekend for the second of two races at the 2.0-mile oval. Depending on the temperature difference compared to the June event, track conditions could be substantially different this weekend. However, the track's wide racing and multiple racing grooves will remain unchanged, and drivers with be running all over the track in an attempt to find grip.
Another trend to watch this weekend will be pit strategy. As is the case with many of the high-speed, downforce-dependent tracks, track position is crucial at Michigan. Crew chiefs are going to try a variety of tire and fuel strategies to try to get their drivers out front, and for their part, drivers are sure to be plenty aggressive on restarts to try to pick up as many spots as they can.
Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the June race from a fantasy standpoint was the struggles of Roush Fenway Racing. The organization has dominated MIS over the years, but all three team drivers finished 20th or worse in June. Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports placed four drivers in the top-seven spots after traditionally struggling with consistency at MIS. It remains to be seen if it was a true changing of the guard at Michigan or simply a one-race fluke, but either way, it is a bit of a curveball to deal with this weekend.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He picked up his first win at Michigan in August of 2010, and Harvick has been on the doorstep of a return trip to victory lane in each of the past three races at the track. In fact, he has finished second in the last three races at MIS, and during the stretch, he has scored more points than any other driver and led the fourth-most laps.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Keselowski has been enjoying a strong stretch of racing at Michigan recently. He has reeled off six straight Top-15 finishes at the track, compiling a 7.5 average finish in the process. During the same stretch, he has three Top-3 finishes, including a third-place run earlier this year.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He is gunning for a season sweep at Michigan after finally reaching victory lane at the track earlier this year and leading 39 laps in the process. Dominating performances at MIS are nothing new for Johnson, but sealing the deal was. Prior to his win this season, Johnson had numerous mechanical problems and fuel mileage strategy rob of victories on numerous occasions. With the monkey off his back, Johnson could be busting out the broom this weekend.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Logano is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he has been on a roll at Michigan since joining Team Penske in 2013. In three starts at the track with the organization, he has posted a 6.3 average finish and has yet to finish outside the Top 10. Meanwhile, Logano has led more laps than any other driver at Michigan in the last three races.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He has been one of the most reliable drivers in the series throughout the year, and while he hasn't been great at Michigan the last couple of years, Gordon did finish sixth at the track earlier this season. In fact, he has finished sixth in three of his last six starts at MIS. As well as he has run in 2014, Gordon should challenge for a Top-5 this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
After finishing first and fourth at Michigan in 2012, mechanical issues robbed him of potential wins in both races at the track in 2013. However, Junior bounced back earlier this year, notching a seventh-place finish in the June race at MIS. He is a safe bet to finish in the Top 10 this weekend, and he also offers plenty of upside.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Kahne is a former winner at Michigan, and he has been on the mark at the track in recent years. He has seven Top-15s in his last 10 starts at MIS, notching five finishes of seventh or better during the stretch. Kahne finished seventh at Michigan last August and fifth earlier this season, and he has legit Top-5 potential this weekend.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has been one of the steadiest performers at Michigan lately, and Bowyer has reeled off seven straight Top-10 finishes at the 2.0-mile oval. During the stretch, he has compiled a 7.4 average finish, and he is one of the safest options available this weekend.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
While he hasn't been a threat for the win in his last two starts at Michigan, Kenseth has managed to crack the Top 15 in both starts. Meanwhile, he has nine Top-15 finishes in his last 10 starts at the track, including five Top-10s. To top it off, Kenseth has just one finish outside the Top 20 in his last 20 starts at MIS.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has been a little hit and miss at Michigan throughout his career, but Busch is a former winner at the track, and he always has plenty of upside. In his last seven starts, he has three finishes of fourth or better, including a win. Busch isn't the safest pick among the big names, but he could certainly end up in victory lane Sunday.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Edwards is one of the tougher drivers to evaluate this weekend. On one hand, he is a two-time winner at Michigan, and his 9.1 average finish in the last 20 races at the track is the best in the series. On the flip side, Edwards was totally uncompetitive at MIS in June, finishing 23rd. As bad as he looked earlier this year, a wait-and-see approach wouldn't be the worst idea.
Paul Menard, #27 Menards, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Michigan is quickly becoming one of Menard's best tracks. He has reeled off four straight Top-15s ay MIS, compiling a 7.8 average finish in the process. Perhaps more importantly, Menard has finished fourth in the last two races at Michigan. Consider him one of the top sleepers this weekend in any format.