Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: Pure Michigan 400

by Eric McClung on August 14, 2013 @ 16:35:00 PDT

 

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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, Aug. 16, at 12 p.m. EDT, 3:40 p.m. EDT; Saturday, Aug. 17, at 11 a.m. EDT
Qualifying: Saturday, Aug. 17, at 9:35 a.m. EDT
Race: Sunday, Aug. 18, 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 Austin Dillon
Dillon: a real crowd pleaser?

Since 2011 Bowyer has finished inside the top 10 in all five Michigan races. In fact he's finished seventh each of the last three starts. Perhaps most impressive is that Bowyer's average starting position was just 22.8 for those events.

Bowyer has remained second in points for each of the last five races this season with 17 consecutive top-20s. Ten of those results have come inside the top 10.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Best Buy/Geek Squad Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

After years of qualifying poorly at MIS, Edwards has started on the first two rows for the last two races. Edwards captured the pole back in June and finished eighth, giving him a dozen finishes of 12th or better since 2007.

Edwards has continued to qualify well, starting in the first three rows five of the last seven races.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch was a stout performer at Michigan back in 2011, finishing third in the spring and claiming victory in the summer. Things were uneven the next year, but Rowdy got back into the top five in June by finishing fourth.

Busch is coming of a win last week at Watkins Glen and has now recorded nine finishes of 12th or better the last 10 races.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Last year Earnhardt won the spring race at MIS with 95 laps led and returned in the summer to place fourth, pacing another 25 circuits. Earlier this season, he led 34 more laps but blew an engine to finish outside the top 35.

Earnhardt took a streak of six finishes inside the top 15 into Watkins Glen. He had a good chance to extend that mark but was involved in a wreck with 10 laps to go.

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Dollar General Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

After 12 years of running consistently well at Michigan while driving for Jack Roush, Kenseth looked just as good there earlier in the season under Coach Gibbs. From the eighth starting position he finished sixth. Kenseth has now recorded an average running position of ninth or better in five consecutive MIS events.

Since winning at Kentucky Speedway, Kenseth has fallen outside the top 20 three of the last five races and should welcome the sight of the Irish Hills.

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Ford | Penske Championship Racing

Last week's runner-up performance at Watkins Glen allowed Keselowski to jump from 12th to eighth in the standings. However, the Blue Deuce could really use a win for more postseason security.

Over the last four MIS races Keselowski has held an average running position inside the top 15 each time, with a pair of podium finishes.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Among all drivers, Biffle easily ranks the best at Michigan, with a career average running position of 8.2. Over the last six races he's led an average of 55.3 laps, with four finishes coming inside the top five. The Biff won this race last year and made it two in a row with another MIS victory earlier this season.

The seven races since have seen Biffle add two more top-10s and five results inside the top 20.

Austin Dillon | No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Michigan is the only track Dillon has raced on more than once in a Cup car. Back in June he set career bests by qualifying seventh and finishing 11th at MIS while driving the No. 33 for Circle Sport.

Tony Stewart is on the mend following a broken leg suffered in a dirt race and will be out for a while. Smoke selected Dillon as his replacement for Michigan and perhaps beyond. Stewart drove the No. 14 to a fifth-place result earlier in the season at MIS. In the Nationwide Series, Dillon won the pole each of the last two years at the site.

Temper your expectations

Kurt Busch | No. 78 Furniture Row/Serta Chevrolet | Furniture Row Racing

Despite driving for a single-car operation, Busch finds himself flirting with making The Chase. Unfortunately, he's crashed in two of the last four MIS races.

Back in June, Busch started on the outside pole and led 21 laps after building up a very large lead. On Lap 30, while in the fourth position, the No. 78 car spun out and would go on to finish 35th, down seven laps. Busch is more than capable at MIS, but his history of wrecks is alarming.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Hamlin won the spring race at MIS in both 2010 and 2011 but has struggled since. In the five races since he's finished 30th or worse three times.

Hamlin has now gone eight starts without a top-15 finish this year and has crashed three times in that span. He now owns five DNFs due to crash in just 18 appearances this season.

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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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