Fantasy NASCAR preview: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400

by Eric McClung on June 9, 2010 @ 17:30:00 PDT

 


Perhaps no other track has produced more fuel-mileage races over the last two years than Michigan International Speedway. MIS 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. Michigan compares most similarly to Auto Club Speedway, which held the second race of the season, but features 4 more degrees of banking in the corners.

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

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Over the last several years, Michigan has been a site of Roush dominance. With fourth-place finishes in each race at the site in 2009, Edwards was the best Roush driver at MIS last year. In 11 career starts at MIS, Edwards has compiled an average finish of 6.1 with only one finish worse than 10th. Since loop data statistics were introduced in 2005, Edwards had never held an average running position worse than ninth until last year, when he ran 11th and 12th on his way to collecting his pair of top-fives. Edwards has been vocal about the lack of speed in the Roush cars, but this is one place the team has always nailed.

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

Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing
Carl dominates Michigan

Before he struggled in last year's August race at Michigan, Biffle had put together two very b runs at the site. In those races, Biffle had two top-five finishes with average running positions of fifth and fourth, while spending 98 percent or more of his laps in the top 15. Had he not run out of fuel, Biffle could have won this race last year. Biffle began this season with six straight top-10 finishes but has only compiled two such finishes over the last seven starts. The big three Roush drivers (Edwards, Biffle and Matt Kenseth) are two-time winners at MIS. Given the grumblings about their program, you may not want to double-down on Roush drivers, but one should certainly be in your lineup.

Mark Martin | No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

After taking the white flag in third place, Martin finished first in last year's spring race at Michigan. Teammate Jimmie Johnson and the aforementioned Biffle both ran out of fuel on that final lap, allowing Martin to take the checkered flag on the only lap he led. In the summer race, Martin actually compiled better numbers but ran out of fuel on the final lap. Martin's average running position improved from 10th to fourth; his laps in the top 15 improved from 85 percent to 97.5 percent; and he led a total of 26 laps. Martin finished fourth at Auto Club and has a great feel for the two-mile tracks.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Last year, Bowyer earned his first two career top-10 results at Michigan. After never finishing better than 16th at the site, Bowyer finished 10th in the spring race and eighth in the summer. His average running position improved from 12th to 10th. Bowyer has also run well in the recent events at Auto Club, finishing ninth in last year's fall race and eighth in this year's early-season event. The last two years have been productive for Bowyer on two-mile tracks. His teammates at RCR have gotten a lot of play in allocation formats; consider Bowyer as a capable change of pace this week.

Joey Logano | No. 20 Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Last year, in his first career Sprint Cup start at Michigan, Logano started 24th and finished 25th, running no higher than 18th at any point in the race. In typical Logano fashion, he fared much better in his return trip, starting eighth and finishing seventh. In that second start at MIS, Logano held an average running position of 11th and spent 93 percent of the race running in the top 15. Another encouraging sign is Logano's improvement at the similarly designed Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, Calif. Last year at that track, Logano finished 26th in his first start and 14th in his second trip. This season, Logano finished fifth at Fontana. After getting spun out by Kevin Harvick last week, Logano put his foot down and could have a lot more to say on the track this week.

Temper your expectations

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

While Stewart finished third last week at Pocono Raceway, it was by no means an indication he is coming out of his slump. Stewart was running mid-pack for the majority of the race and stayed out while the leaders hit pit road for fuel late in the race. Michigan has been a site of mixed results for Stewart. He finished fifth and seventh in the last two spring races. In the summer events, Stewart finished 12th and 17th. Stewart did finish ninth at Fontana but remains a risky start until he resembles last year's form.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

After winning two races at Michigan from 2003-2004, Newman has failed to record a top-10 finish over the last 11 starts at MIS. Last year, Newman held average running positions of only 23rd and 24th at Michigan. He spent only 26 laps running in the top 15 of a possible 400 combined laps in the two races. In recent years, intermediate tracks have not been Newman's b suit. Keep him in the garage in favor of a better matchup.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports
Willing to roll the dice on Junior?

It has been two years since Earnhardt won a race, a fuel-mileage gamble at Michigan. On that day, Earnhardt was the only driver to spend the entire race running in the top 15 and held the sixth-best average running position (sixth). Last year, Earnhardt's average running positions at MIS were only 16th and 17th, finishing 14th and third. Earnhardt has a history of staying out and taking risks at Michigan. With Junior only 86 points out of the final Chase spot, expect more of the same in a dicey boom-or-bust performance.

Jamie McMurray | No. 1 GE Reveal Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

Over the last two years, McMurray has been an overachiever at Michigan. He finished 10th in both events at the site in 2008, despite average running positions of 19th and 16th. Between the two races, McMurray only spent 31 percent of his laps in the top 15. Last year, McMurray finished 11th and 32nd at MIS with a combined 32 percent of the laps in the top 15. McMurray did win the pole at Fontana this year but did not lead a lap and finished 17th with only 33.6 percent of laps in the top 15. McMurray has been an all-or-nothing driver this season and looks very risky this week.

A.J. Allmendinger | No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

The bottom tier in allocation formats is a thin one, and Allmendinger is typically the top selection. In five career starts at Michigan, Allmendinger has an average finish of 27.8. Last year, his average running positions were only 31st and 26th. At Fontana, Allmendinger went down a lap early and finished 25th. He's yet to show much on two-mile tracks; look elsewhere when rounding out your lineup.

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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.

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