Brooklyn, MI. - This week NASCAR drivers set their sights on Michigan International Speedway for the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday afternoon. The drivers are coming off a wild finish at Watkins Glen International with drivers like Tony Stewart seeing his top-10 finish vanish when he spun out on the last lap. Stewart finished 27th dropping him to 10th in the point standings. David Ragan and David Reutimann where fortunate to escape injury when each slammed the guard rail head-on destroying the cars on the final lap.
This weekend at Michigan a fuel mileage race will likely bring the fans to the edge of their seats as the race winds down. In June, race winner Denny Hamlin was the recipient of great work in the pits from his team that put him in the lead under caution. Fuel mileage was not a problem for Hamlin as he held off a hard charging Matt Kenseth for his first win of the season.
Michigan International Speedway is a huge, wide 2.0-mile-D-shaped oval known for long green flag runs and plenty of passing. While the track presents plenty of wide-open action at speeds approaching 200mph, there are some challenges for teams on whether to go with a car setup for long green flag runs or short runs. Pit strategy is always something fantasy owners need to consider when it comes to racing at Michigan.
Jack Roush fell just short of winning a record 12th victory at Michigan in June, when Hamlin held off Kenseth for the victory by 0.281 seconds. Kenseth probably had the best car that day and likely would have passed Hamlin if there were just one more lap in the race. The Roush Fenway Racing teams are always strong here and I expect the same this weekend. The only question will be which or how many of the Roush Fenway Racing teams will be there at the end in a position to win. The trio of Kenseth, Edwards and Biffle led 115 laps combined of the 200 in the June race.
Check out my picks below for Sunday's showdown in the Irish Hills of Michigan and maybe they will bring you some luck. Take a few minutes to post your picks this week and see who chose the better team.
Matt Kenseth - Kenseth just feels like a safest pick from the Roush stable this week over Carl Edwards. We all know that Kenseth is known for his consistency and Michigan is one track that brings validity to that label. Kenseth has two wins here with 11 top-five finishes in his 24 starts. His average finishing position at Michigan is 9.5 despite his average starting position of 20th. With just four races left, including this weekend, before the Chase field is set, Kenseth is currently in fifth-place and has the luxury to gamble in search for his third victory at Michigan and the season on Sunday.
Alternate pick: Jeff Gordon - Gordon has proved this season that he can still win races and compete for a championship. Over his last eight races of the season, Gordon has finished no worse than 17th which just so happened to be at Michigan in June. Gordon has finished in the top-five in three of his last five races at Michigan and 23 top-10 finishes in 37 career starts.
Joey Logano - Logano has definitely had a rough season and not what was expected from the young, talented driver. There has also been some rumors late in the season with regard to his future with Joe Gibbs Racing. Logano has ran better of late with four top-10 finishes in his last seven starts. In his only two starts in August at Michigan, he has two top-10 finishes. In June, Logano finished 18th after starting from the 30th position.
Brian Vickers - This season is probably one that Vickers would like to forget. The tough part is the guy just hasn't seemed to get a break all season. If a meteor where to drop from the sky and hit one Sprint Cup car, it seems logical the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota would have a bullseye on its roof. One thing you can't ignore is the determination Vickers and his entire team have shown all season despite all the bad luck they have encountered. Even with all the sheet metal and debris the No. 83 has left on the track they have just one DNF. He finished with a top-10 here in June and without question can, at a minimum, repeat that performance. I started Vickers in June and going with him again this weekend.
Alternate pick: Clint Bowyer - As noted in June, Richard Childress Racing has improved on the 2.0-mile tracks over the last two seasons and Bowyer has shown the best improvement on the team. Bowyer finished in eight place in June for his third top-10 finish at Michigan. He is sitting 11th in the standings right now, but if the Chase were to start today he would not make the cut with the new wildcard system in place. The pressure is on and Bowyer needs a win.
David Ragan – Ragan was fortunate to escape any serious injuries last weekend on the horrific looking crash involving him and David Reutimann. He did say after the race that he was a bit sore, but watching the replay it could have been worse. Ragan has had some success at MIS early in his career, but in June he finished 20th and a disappointing 34th in last year’s August race. However, Ragan has seen his chance of making the Chase as a wildcard slip away over the last couple of races and needs a top-five to get back the momentum he had after his win at Daytona in July.
Alternate pick: Paul Menard – Menard has been terrible at Michigan for most of his career, but as mentioned all season he is a changed driver since joining Richard Childress Racing. He earned his first career Cup win at the Brickyard last month which resulted in him moving into contention for the wildcard spot in the Chase. Menard finished in fourth at Michigan in June and will enter the race on Sunday looking for a win to improve his position in the wildcard hunt.