Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Quicken Loans 400
Michigan International Speedway is a long, wide track which allows the action to spread out. This produces long green flag runs and a lot of tough decisions to make in the late stages of the race. Just like last week at Pocono Raceway, the drivers will encounter a newly repaved surface. Two testing sessions and two pre-qualifying practice sessions will offer a lot of data for fantasy managers to evaluate before making their final selections. Auto Club Speedway, which held the fifth race of the season, is the only other D-shaped, 2.0-mile oval on the schedule and has four more degrees of corner banking.
Testing sessions: Thursday, June 14 at 8:00 am ET, 1:00 pm ET
Drivers to keep an eye on
In the two MIS races held last year, Kenseth was excellent both during qualifying and in the race. He started third in the spring and finished as the runner-up, matching Kyle Busch with an average running position of fourth - the top mark of the day. In August, Kenseth captured the outside pole, set a race-high average running position of third and finished 10th. Sitting atop the Cup standings, Kenseth has finished 11th or better in 11 of the 14 races held thus far and is tied for the series lead with seven top-five finishes.
Even though he's only tallied one top five, Biffle has led the most laps in each of the last three races at MIS. In those events he has posted impressive average running position figures of fourth, fifth and seventh. In fact, since loop data was introduced in 2005, Biffle leads all drivers with an average pace of 8.6 on the Irish Hills. Coming off his worst finish of the season - a 24th-place showing at Pocono - the Biff heads to a great venue for him to stage a quick turnaround.
Prior to finishing 35th last August at MIS due to an oil leak, Hamlin strung together five straight top-10 finishes at the site. That run is highlighted by a pair of wins in the last two spring races in addition to two other podium finishes. Over the last seven races of 2012, Hamlin has tallied five top-five finishes with one victory and two runner-up performances.
After stumbling through 25th-place finishes at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway, Stewart scored a third-place result at Pocono, his first finish inside the top-five over the last six races. Smoke heads to MIS, where he owns four straight top-10s and has amassed 11 such results over the last 14 starts with half a dozen coming as top-fives. Earlier in the season, Stewart won at Fontana, the only other 2.0-mile intermediate track on the schedule.
Despite poor qualifying efforts in both MIS races of 2011, Bowyer managed to pull out eighth-place finishes each time. He's been a consistent fixture in the past six races this season, scoring the fourth most points during that time thanks to half a dozen consecutive results inside the top 15. While typically not challenging for wins, Bowyer has remained near the front of the pack and makes for a solid middle-tier selection.
Following two straight wins at MIS which came during the 2003-04 seasons, Newman went 13 straight races without a top-10 at the site until last year. In June, he finished sixth with an average running position of ninth and led three laps. Newman qualified third in the August race and finished fifth with an average running position of 10th. Coming off three straight top-15 finishes, Newman hasn't been setting the world on fire but did finish seventh at Fontana earlier in the season.
Last week at Pocono, Kahne had a good run going until crashing into the wall with 21 laps to go. He heads to MIS where he owns four finishes inside the top 15 over the last five events. In the last four, Kahne held an average running position of eighth or better on three occasions. Prior to last week's mishap, Kahne had compiled seven straight top-10s and won for the first time in a Hendrick machine.
After this week's race, Martin will skip the next four dates on the schedule until returning to action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late July. Thankfully, Martin can leave owners with a useful performance before his summer hiatus. He finished ninth and fourth, respectively, at MIS last year and won here most recently in June of 2009. Martin has been an excellent qualifier with three poles in 11 starts this year and is coming off a season-high second-place finish at Pocono.
Temper your expectations
Over the last seven starts at MIS, Edwards has started 19th or worse each time but scored five top-fives and one victory. Edwards has finished 11th or better in seven of the last nine races this season but is still seeking his first top-five since scoring one back in March at Fontana. A return to a 2.0-mile track could end that spell, but Edwards appears to be a step or two behind the other elite drivers in the series.
Since 2009, Harvick has just one top-10 at MIS in half a dozen starts. However, that one happened to be a dominating victory in August of 2010. Even considering that, Harvick has been up and down in recent weeks with four finishes of 14th or worse in the last six races. Harvick did finish fourth at Fontana but is not running consistently right now to trust he can duplicate that effort.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. Follow @EricMcClung
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