Fantasy Preview: Pure Michigan 400

August 14, 2014 No Comments

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsBrian Wiggins, Senior Writer 

As the race to the Chase nears its conclusion, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the final time for this weekend’s running of the Pure Michigan 400.

In June’s Quicken Loans 400, it was Jimmie Johnson breaking through for his first Michigan International Speedway win. Recently, the No.48 team has hit a rough patch with a best finish of fourteenth at the Brickyard 400 in the past five races.

One thing Johnson has on his side this weekend is Hendrick Motorsports’ horsepower. In June, Hendrick powered Chevrolet’s made up for six of the top-ten finishers. While the bow-tie-brigade has been dominate recently at Michigan, this is typically a track that the Fords have turned into their playhouse.

In 2013, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano made it a clean-sweep for the Fords at Michigan International Speedway. However, the highest-finishing Ford in June was Brad Keselowski (third) for Team Penske.

After a disappointing showing in June, Roush Fenway Racing tested at Michigan International Speedway recently. One of the story lines to watch this weekend will be if Roush Fenway can turn it around in the Irish Hills.

‘A’ Drivers 

Kevin Harvick: After finishing second in the June race, Harvick has to be one of the favorites for this weekend’s race. Harvick won at Michigan back in 2010, so he knows how to work the strategy of the Michigan oval. The No.4 Stewart-Haas team is bringing the car that has gotten Harvick to victory lane both times thus far in 2014.  A win would be a great boost for the No.4 team as the Chase approaches.

Kasey Kahne: Like Harvick, Kahne is a driver in need of a win. Unlike Harvick, though, Kahne isn’t locked into the Chase. The driver of the No.5 Chevrolet has won at Michigan before back in June,2006. Thus far in 2014, Kahne’s strength has been the high-grip, fast ovals like this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway. It would be worth the gamble to put Kahne on your roster for the weekend.

‘B’ Drivers 

Joey Logano: The defending winner of the Pure Michigan 400, Logano is another driver that could use a win before the Chase starts to boost his team’s momentum. A ninth-place finish back in June, Logano’s strength thus far has been the big, fast ovals. With how well Team Penske has been this season at tracks like Michigan, you have to pick Logano.

Brad Keselowski: A rough outing at Watkins Glen a week ago, Keselowski returns to his home-state race track where he finished third back in June. Keselowski has yet to win a Sprint Cup event at Michigan International Speedway, however he does have two Nationwide Series wins at the two-mile oval. As stated with Logano, this is Team Penske’s strong spot. Y0u almost know they’re going to be in contention for the win.

Paul Menard: There’s only one driver that may need a better run at Michigan than Paul Menard (more on that later). Since his fourth-place finish at the June race, Menard’;s season has taken a turn for the worse. He’s fallen well outside the Chase Grid, and with only four races until the cutoff its time for Menard and the No.27 team to right the ship this weekend at Michigan.

Greg Biffle: To put it lightly, 2014 has been a disappointment for Biffle and the No.16 team. No victories and only a handful of top-five’s, Biffle is outside the Chase Grid with just four races to go. However, a test session recently at Michigan and two-straight top-ten finishes have Biffle carrying a bit of momentum with him to arguably his best track. He’s not going to win with his horsepower this weekend, but he could steal one with some crafty pit strategy.

‘C’ Drivers 

Austin Dillon: Like his Richard Childress Racing teammate Menard, Dillon needs a solid run at Michigan to put himself back in the Chase Grid. This is one of the tracks that Dillon has the most experience on in a Sprint Cup car and was having the makings for a strong run in the June race before finishing outside the top-twenty. A realistic run for the No.3 this weekend should be a top-ten finish.

Michael Annett: Wait, really? Michael Annett? You may not believe it, but if you look back at the results from the June race, Michael Annett posted a twenty-first-place finish. While that may not sound impressive, considering he’s a rookie for Tommy Baldwin Racing its an above average day. You’re more than likely running out of starts for Dillon, Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick so Annett provides a good alternate, value pick.

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