Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Neff · Thursday August 13, 2009
The Sprint Cup Series heads from the road course of the Glen back to the ovals, and the Irish Hills, this weekend as the race to the Chase continues to take shape. For teams like Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing, scoring a top 10 run this weekend is imperative, while those whose playoff berths look solid may well be looking to test intermediate packages on the two-mile circuit that is the Michigan International Speedway. Whatever the strategy for the teams you’re looking at picking, rest assured the racing this weekend will feature long green flag runs and likely come down to one thing: fuel mileage. But if you’re agonizing over who to put on your roster, don’t despair; the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider will make sure your team doesn’t run out of gas.
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Michigan International Speedway (since 2005, active drivers)
Carl Edwards, 9 starts, 5.9
Tony Stewart, 9 starts, 9.8
Matt Kenseth, 9 starts, 10.6
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 9 starts, 11.0
Greg Biffle, 9 starts, 11.6
2008 3M Performance 400 Top 5 Finishers
Carl Edwards, 84 laps led
Kyle Busch, 34 laps led
David Ragan, 3 laps led
Greg Biffle, 1 lap led
Matt Kenseth, 0 laps led
Carl Edwards has not had the dominating season he had last year, but has been running consistently, never finishing outside the top 20 in the last 11 races. He came home in third last weekend at the Glen, and was fourth when the series headed to Michigan earlier in the year. With 10 career races at the track, Edwards has the best average finish among active drivers with a 6.3; that’s also more than three full places ahead of the second place driver on the list. Add to all of those stats the fact he drives for Roush, who is always strong at Michigan, and this weekend very well could wind up with Edwards’ first win of the season. Mike
Jimmie Johnson was a few laps short on fuel from a perfect run at MIS back in June. But prior to running out of gas with less than five miles to go, the No. 48 was competing as if they were already in a Chase race, leading nearly three-quarters of the event while constantly winning the race off pit road. They had the field covered…and considering this is the return to MIS, I feel safe in saying that Chad Knaus will have found a way to improve the fuel mileage for this weekend. Johnson and Co. are already running at a Chase-quality level, and they’ll get the W that escaped them in June on Sunday. Bryan
Mark Martin is coming off of another disappointing performance that has him on the verge of not making the Chase. But he still leads the series in wins, and one of his four actually came at Michigan earlier this year. In the last 20 races at the Irish Hills, Martin’s average finish is 15.7, which is 10th among active drivers. Expect to see him run a aggressively conservative race and come home with a top 5 finish, one he needs to get himself back in a more comfortable position within the top 12. Mike
Denny Hamlin has a solid, if not spectacular, record at Michigan, having finished outside the top 15 at the facility only once in seven starts (thanks to a blown motor). But what gives him the leg up on the rest of the field this weekend is the big mo…momentum. Backing up his first win a long time with another top 10 run at Watkins Glen, Hamlin and the No. 11 team are gearing up for a darkhorse charge in the Chase, and after their run at Pocono they’ll be raring to get back on an oval. Look for the No. 11 to carry the banner for JGR on Sunday. Bryan
Bill Elliott leads all drivers in wins at Michigan with seven. He’s also taken very well to the limited schedule approach that the Wood Brothers have employed this year, using the off time to effectively prepare for the races his team does run. Elliott has a past champion’s provisional to fall back on if there is a problem in qualifying, but the Woods are doing very well in that department this year so that should not be a problem to begin with. Expect to see Awesome Bill put in a solid run this weekend for a very low price in most leagues. Mike
Unlike Hamlin, Marcos Ambrose has a decidedly unspectacular track record at MIS… he’s never cracked the top 30. And I’m saying he should start this weekend? Absolutely. Ambrose and the No. 47 bunch came very close to Victory Lane this past Monday, and the fiery Aussie has perhaps never been as fired up as he will be when the Cup cars take back to the track Friday afternoon. Ambrose is well worth the gamble this weekend for a lower-tier driver, thanks to his confidence level. Another lower-tier candidate with potential is Sam Hornish, Jr.; but unlike Hornish, Ambrose has the advantage of not being shaken up in a violent wreck less than a week ago. Bryan
The Last Word
Michigan is a wide open track with multiple grooves that afford drivers a lot of options to make their car run well. Despite a 400-mile distance, keep an eye on teams with a history of mechanical problems; engines can take a serious pounding at MIS due to the extended amount of time on the throttle. The drivers who run well on intermediate tracks will most likely run well at Michigan, but if you’re looking for a team in particular that’s ahead of the game … check out Roush Fenway. Fords in general have always been very competitive at MIS, and RFR has put at least one team in Victory Lane here every year since 2002.
Results of our Experts in the Frontstretch Fantasy games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 6058
Mike – 5615
Bryan – 4486
Mike – 4418
Bryan – 11405
Mike – 10482
In order to help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers they pick every week, as well as their total for the season.
Bryan – 454 7814
Mike – 474 7491
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