Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Pure Michigan 400

by Eric McClung on August 17, 2011 @ 13:16:05 PDT

 


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. Several winners have received an assist from the leader running out of fuel in the closing moments. 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.

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

A quick review of nearly any statistic makes Edwards an automatic start in nearly every format. In 14 career starts at MIS, his 6.2 average finish is the best among all active drivers. In addition, Edwards also leads the field with a career average running position of eighth. Over the last several weeks, Edwards has been consistent but has not flexed his muscle with a dominant performance in a while. Look for things to quickly turn around. Michigan is considered the house of Roush and Edwards is lord of the manor.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Kroger Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Back in June, Kenseth finished as the runner-up at MIS, his second consecutive top-five at the site, while matching his career-best average running position of fourth. Over the last seven races of the season, Kenseth did not finish outside of the top 20 with another runner-up performance and two other results of sixth or better. Kenseth owns a career average running position of 11.2 at MIS, fifth among the field, and makes him another Roush driver to strongly consider.

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

After years of subpar performances on 2.0-mile tracks, Newman has been impressive lately. He's finished fifth in his last two starts at Fontana and registered a sixth-place result in June at MIS, his first finish better than 15th since 2005. With three top-fives in his last five starts, including a win from the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Newman is riding a strong wave while seeking more 2.0-mile success.

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

After a disappointing finish at Watkins Glen International, a site he typically dominates at, Stewart has an excellent opportunity to rebound this week. Smoke owns three consecutive finishes of seventh or better at MIS with nine such results in 13 starts since 2005. Currently sitting on the Chase bubble, Stewart is in desperate need of a victory to help ensure his place in the postseason.

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

The argument could be made no one benefits from winning this race more than Hamlin. Currently sitting 12th in points with one win, the June race at MIS, Hamlin needs to capture another checkered flag to virtually lock himself into the Chase. Hamlin has won two of the last three races at the site with a runner-up performance in between. Since 2009, his average running position has not dipped below 10th.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 Pure Michigan Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Over the last six races at MIS, Biffle has posted an average running position of fifth or better in four starts. After finishing seventh at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and eighth at Pocono Raceway, the Biff tangled with road course ringer Boris Said last week at The Glen where he finished back in 31st. Overall, things seem to be clicking with new crew chief Matt Puccia. A big progress report will come this week at one of Biffle's top tracks.

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

After finishing 13th earlier this season at MIS, Allmendinger has added four more identical results or better in the last seven races. Back in June, he posted a career-best average running position of 11th while spending 71.5 percent of his laps in the top 15. Allmendinger has finished 17th or better in three straight at Michigan and matched a career-best finish of 14th in March at Fontana, another good sign he's improving on 2.0-mile venues.

Brian Vickers, Red Bull Racing

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Since 2007, Vickers has six straight top-10 finishes at MIS while winning three consecutive poles at one point. During that time, his average running position has not dropped below 13th and was fifth or better in three of the last five. Vickers finished eighth at Fontana but has not seen another top-10 since June at MIS. Those struggles should only drive Vickers in dark horse status.

Temper your expectations

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

Although Martin finished ninth at MIS in June with an average running position of 12th, he remains a risky start this week. In the seven starts since, Martin has only one top-10 finish with four results outside of the top 20. Also, Martin struggled at MIS last year with finishes of 16th and 28th.

Kasey Kahne | No. 4 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Running out of fuel cost Kahne a good finish at MIS in June, but that's not the reason to avoid him this week. Despite some good runs at this site and his teammate's success here, Kahne's team has really struggled making the right adjustments to keep his car up front. Despite qualifying on the outside pole at both Indy and Pocono, Kahne finished outside of the top 15 in each race.

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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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