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Fantasy NASCAR rankings: Pure Michigan 400
Michigan International Speedway hosted its first Cup Series event in 1975, and the first 33 races at the 2.0-mile track were won by drivers starting inside the top 10. In fact, 26 of the races during the stretch were won by a driver starting inside the top five. The trend began to change in the early 90s, and several drivers have gone to Victory Lane at MIS after starting outside the top 10. That being said, qualifying in the top half of the field is still recommended, and only seven drivers have ever won at the track after starting outside the top 20.
Looking at the starting grid, fantasy owners won't have to scroll too far down to find several strong options for Sunday's race. Mark Martin led the way, winning his first career pole at MIS. He won at the track in 2009 and has finished in the top 10 in two of his last three starts, including a fourth-place run last August. He may not be the favorite to win, but he can certainly be a solid addition to any fantasy roster.
Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five, and there is a good chance the winner could come from this group. Edwards is a two-time winner at the track and leads all drivers with an 8.4 average finish, while Johnson has finished second and fifth in his last two starts at MIS and enters the race as one of the hottest drivers in the series. Kenseth is a former winner and has four straight top-10s at Michigan. Kahne is a former winner, as well, and has finished second on three other occasions.
Lurking outside the top 10 are Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. Biffle is a two-time winner at Michigan, and he finished a strong fourth at the track in June. Stewart, on the other hand, finished second at MIS in June and has been one of the most consistent drivers in the series at the track. "Smoke" has five straight top-10s at Michigan and has an 8.0 average finish in his last 10 starts at the track.
Dropping outside the top 20, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch are two drivers that could power their way to the front. Junior led 95 of the 200 laps in the June race earlier this season, and he is going for a season sweep after powering away from the field in the final laps to snap a four-year winless drought. Busch is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he has finished third or better in two of his last three Michigan starts.
Fantasy owners looking for a sleeper pick may want to consider Trevor Bayne and Landon Cassill. Bayne qualified sixth, and he was running in the top 10 in the June event at Michigan before losing an engine. Meanwhile, Cassill qualified ninth, and MIS has easily been his best track in his young Cup Series career. He has finished in the top 20 twice in his last three starts, including a 12th-place effort in 2010.
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