Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: Quicken Loans 400

by Eric McClung on June 12, 2013 @ 14:45:00 PDT

 


Michigan International Speedway is a long, wide track that allows the action to spread out rather easily. This produces long green-flag runs and some tough decisions to make in the late stages of the race. If there are a limited number of pit stops, then the track position earned in qualifying may play an important role in the outcome. Auto Club Speedway, which held its lone race of the season in late March, is the only other 2.0-mile track on the schedule but is a little flatter than MIS.

Practice sessions: Friday, June 14, at 11:30 a.m. EDT; Saturday, June 15, at 9:30 a.m. EDT, 12:30 p.m. EDT
Qualifying: Friday, June 14, at 3:35 p.m. EDT
Race: Sunday, June 16, at 1 p.m. EDT
Location: Brooklyn, Mich.
Shape: D-shaped oval
Length: 2.0 miles
Laps: 200
Turns: 18 degrees
Front stretch: 12 degrees
Back stretch: 5 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman
Newman looking good for MIS

Back in 2011, Bowyer left the two MIS events with a pair of eighth-place performances despite qualifying rather poorly each time. Last year's move to MWR saw his starting positioning improve and yielded a pair of seven-place finishes. Though Bowyer's average finish jumped only one spot, his average running position between the two races shot from a pedestrian 15.0 to a sizzling 3.5.

Earlier in the season Bowyer was doing all right at Fontana before blowing an engine. He hasn't suffered a DNF in the nine races since while picking up three top-fives and eight top-15s.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard "Man of Steel" Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Last week's third-place finish at Pocono Raceway marked Earnhardt's first top-five since a runner-up performance at Fontana. The two most recent victories for Earnhardt on the Cup circuit have come at MIS in the spring races of 2008 and 2012. Earnhardt led nearly 48 percent of last year's victory and held an average running position of seventh, his best mark at the site since the summer of 2008.

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Over the last two years at MIS, Kenseth leads the series in both average starting position (3.8) and average running position (3.5) across the four races. He's been particularly sharp in the spring time, with a pair of podium finishes. Kenseth would likely own five consecutive top-10s at the site if not for a flat tire suffered in last year's summer race with just 50 laps to go.

Back in March, Kenseth finished seventh at Fontana and is now more than ready to halt a run of recent bad luck. Despite qualifying and running well in his last three starts, he took damage in two wrecks and blew an engine in the other.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

In 2011, Busch finished third in the spring and won the summer event at MIS with an average running position of 4.5 while spending more than 95.8 percent of the race running in the top 15. Rowdy qualified poorly last spring but was working this way through the field successfully until blowing a tire early on lap 86 and went to the garage.

Busch has now finished sixth or better in eight of the 14 races held this season but fell outside the top 20 in the other six with three DNFs.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M/Give Kids A Smile Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Since 2010, Biffle has recorded an average running position of 10th or better in all six MIS races with more than 25 laps led in five straight. The Biff ran into misfortune in the 2011 set but finished fourth last spring and won in the summer.

At Fontana, Biffle qualified on the onside pole and finished sixth during a solid start to the year. He returns to MIS coming off a season-high second-place finish last week at Pocono.

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Prior to blowing an engine last summer, Stewart had placed inside the top 10 in five straight MIS races, with a runner-up performance last spring. After a painfully slow start to the season, Smoke has started to do his driving-well-in-warm-weather thing once again, with four straight top-15s. The last two weeks have been highlighted by a victory at Dover International Speedway and a fourth-place performance last week at Pocono.

Joey Logano | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford | Penske Championship Racing

Logano has finished outside the top 20 in three straight MIS starts and has recorded an average running position better than 15th only once in eight career starts. The reason for optimism is a third-place finish recorded earlier this season at Fontana, where only Logano and winner Kyle Busch spent all 200 laps running in the top 15, with Jo-Lo leading 41 of them. Logano is riding a streak of three straight top-10s and looks primed to correct his MIS struggles.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Over the last four MIS races, Newman owns four top-10s and has finished eighth or better three times. He matched a season-high fifth-place finish last week at Pocono where he also led 19 laps. Newman now owns half a dozen top-15s in the last eight races of 2013 and continues to be a solid middle-tier offering.

Temper your expectations

Marcos Ambrose | No. 9 Stanley Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

Ambrose was impressive in each trip to MIS last year. In the spring he captured the pole and finished ninth after leading 15 laps. He returned in the summer to finish a career-best fifth but doesn't look like that same driver right now. Ambrose owns just two top-10s this season and only one over the last eight races.

Mark Martin | No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

With a blown engine in the spring and a crash in the summer, Martin performance was a nightmare last year at MIS. He was pretty good at the site in 2011, but those two top-10s remain his only such finishes over the last seven MIS events. Martin has also had a rough go of it lately, finishing 19th or worse in four of his last five starts.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's 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. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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