Mash The Gas – Michigan Preview

It’s newly repaved and it’s ultra fast. It’s Michigan this week for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this Sunday.

The Michigan International Speedway is the site of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series action this weekend for the Quicken Loans 400. As was the case last weekend in Pocono, the Michigan track was recently resurfaced and this will be the first event held on the new pavement which is making for record speeds. Michigan is a wide racetrack and three, four, and sometimes five-wide racing is commonly seen through the sweeping tri-oval. Michigan also historically produces periods of long green flag runs and many times the race has come down to fuel mileage strategy. The new pavement and higher speeds could have an effect on that fuel mileage and teams may be forced to recalculate how far they can stretch a tank of gas.

#17-Matt Kenseth
Dan Margetta: The Michigan track has been kind to the Fords over the years and Kenseth has had many strong runs here including two wins. His average finish here is ninth which is second best among active drivers and Kenseth was one of the drivers to conduct the tire test on the new Michigan pavement. The 17 team comes into Michigan with the point lead and I look to them to be the favorite on Sunday.

John Wiedemann: The Cup Series point leader comes into Michigan with a good chance to extend his point lead. That is if he can hold off his teammates. Michigan has been in the past and will be a Roush playground this weekend.

#99-Carl Edwards
JW: Carl Edwards has a great chance to get his first victory for the 2012 season. Currently 11th in the points, Edwards is in the danger zone if he doesn’t have any wins when the Chase comes around. There still is time for Edwards, but no time like the present.

DM: Edwards boasts the best average finish at Michigan among active drivers (8.2) and this team heads to Michigan in desperate need of a win to not only get back in the Chase but also to cure themselves of the 2011 championship run hangover they’ve been suffering from since the season began.

#16-Greg Biffle
DM: Biffle is behind the wheel of the third potent Roush-Fenway Ford and following their hiccup at Pocono where this team lost the point lead, they will have extra motivation to run well at Michigan. Biffle’s hard charging driving style however, may play havoc with the fuel mileage which could be crucial on Sunday.

JW: Any one of the three Roush-Fenway Racing drivers could end up in victory lane at Michigan. The race may feature a battle of the 17, 99 and 16 of Biffle in the top 3. Biffle lost the point lead last week and should be looking to get it back this week.

#55-Mark Martin
DM: Martin has come alive the past few weeks and finished second last week after ironically getting boogered out of the lead late by Joey Logano, the kid he brought into the series. Michigan is one of Martin’s strongest tracks as it fits his calculating driving style. His last win here was in 2009 but after strong performances in both Michigan races last year, we could see him standing with the trophy after all is said and done this week.

JW: Most drivers would be looking for payback after last week. Martin is content to just let his results do the talking. Michael Waltrip Racing is running well and Martin is one of the biggest ingredients in their success.

#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
JW: Almost every track the series has been at recently has been talked about as the possible site of Earnhardt’s next victory. Once again, Earnhardt is at a track that he can break the winless streak. Four years is a long time, it would be great to end this winless discussion.

DM: Jr. has been “Mr. Consistency” this season and historically when a team runs up front week in and week out, they eventually find victory lane. We’ve said this many times before with this team this year, but Michigan is a good place for it to happen as it’s the site of Earnhardt’s last victory as the winless streak officially hits four years this weekend.

#2-Brad Keselowski
DM: Michigan is the hometown track for Keselowski which should result in an extra effort to perform well here as many friends and family will be there watching. Keselowski doesn’t have the greatest stats at Michigan but after many mediocre starts, he clicked off a solid third place finish in the last race held here. Michigan is the place Keselowski wants to win at the most.

JW: On a fast track, Keselowski is the driver I would put my money behind. Past stats don’t seem to matter to the driver of the Blue Deuce as he is rewriting his stats book starting with the middle of the season last year. Look for him to make a charge toward a hometown win.

#18-Kyle Busch
DM: Busch was also one of the drivers to conduct the tire test on the new Michigan surface and this team enters this event in a funk that has seen them tumble down the point standings. The pressure is on for Busch to do well and he usually responds by getting the job done. Engine issues remain a concern however.

Long Shot
DM: My long shot pick this week is Jeff Burton who opened up on the Las Vegas odds charts at 100-1 for Michigan. Burton and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer have the ability to pull off a victory here and at those odds, they’re worth a look. Also, noticeably absent from the favorites list is Jimmie Johnson and while the 48 team is running well this season, Michigan is one of the few tracks Johnson has not won at as something always seems to come up to prevent them from reaching victory lane.

JW: My pick for the long shot is Trevor Bayne. Bayne hasn’t been able to find a full time sponsor commitment in either the Cup Series or Nationwide Series due to the sad state of the economy. The 2011 Daytona 500 winner could use a shot in the arm and this weekend would be a good time for it. Running with the Wood Brothers and with help for Roush Fenway Racing gives this kid a decent shot at winning again in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

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