The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads back to Michigan International Speedway this Sunday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Pure Michigan 400. The series was here in June and Kurt Busch played the fuel mileage game perfectly and Mother Nature as the field dealt with four rain delays. Busch scored his second win of the season and the 27th of his career after NASCAR called the race at lap 139, 61 laps short of the scheduled 200.
There are two factors that weren’t in play here in June. One is the heat which is expected to be brutal Sunday. The other is a completely different rules package NASCAR has for this weekend. This weekend teams will be using a higher drag rules package. The package will feature a 9-inch spoiler and 1-inch wicker bill; a rear fascia extension panel similar to that currently used for superspeedway events; a 2-inch leading edge on the splitter; and a 43-inch splitter extension panel. The rules are intended to increase passing, but the same package was used at Indy a few weeks ago without the results NASCAR hoped for. Despite this the field will still have a totally different feel than they had in June, and Brad Keselowski said Tuesday he doesn’t expect it to be much different than what they had at Indy.
“Perhaps the only difference could be between the two tracks is Michigan has a much wider groove in theory and the potential to run different lanes in the corners.,” Keselowski said during a media teleconference Tuesday. “The way the aerodynamics work specific to this high draft package certainly you want to be in line down the straightaway to get the maximum effect of the loss of drag, but you kind of want to be staggered in the corners to try to keep your downforce in the corner when you need it to keep the car going through the corners as fast as possible. At Indianapolis you don’t have a lot of width to really pull that off, but at Michigan I think there’s quite a bit more width to the track, especially down in turns three and four to where you could possibly pull that maneuver off.”
No matter what happens, there will still be a winner Sunday, and here are our best picks based on odds current as of Wednesday morning as well as past stats at Michigan for your fantasy racing teams or if you decide to bet on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400.
Kevin Harvick (9-2) Harvick remains a threat no matter where he races. He came within one corner last week of winning at Watkins Glen and should be a threat Sunday. Harvick won here in 2010; overall in addition to his one win he has seven top fives and 12 top 10 finishes and one pole. He has a Driver Rating of 91.5, ninth best.
Kyle Busch (7-1) has been hot and continues to be hot. There is no reason to believe he won’t be this weekend. He finished second last week. Busch crashed out here in June and is no doubt looking for redemption. He won here in 2011 and has four top five and six top ten finishes in 21 starts. He isn’t rated among the top 15 in the Driver Ratings, but expect Busch to be near the front of celebrating in Victory Lane Sunday.
Brad Keselowski (8-1) has never won here but has already shown this year he will do what it takes to win. Overall, he has three top fives, and five top 10 finishes and has a Driver Rating of 90.6, 12th-best.
Jimmie Johnson (8-1) Johnson has been struggling lately but still remains the threat to win at every track. Johnson won the June race last year and five top fives, 11 top 10s with a Driver Rating of 101.2, third-best.
Joey Logano (8-1) Logano won last week at Watkins Glen and won here in 2013. In addition to his win he has three top fives, eight top 10s and one pole. Logano has a Driver Rating of 91.9, eighth best.
Kurt Busch (8-1) Busch did win here in June and has two other wins to go along with it (2003, 2007). In addition he has five top fives and 10 top 10s in 29 races. He has a driver rating of 91.0, ninth best. Busch has 8 DNFs however so it may once again be all or nothing for him.
Martin Truex Jr. (8-1) Truex has never won here and has four top fives and six top 10s. He has a Driver Rating of 81.1 among the lowest of the favorites, so while he could win it all, it would be a surprise.
Matt Kenseth (8-1) Kenseth has two wins here and with the way all the Joe Gibbs Racing cars have been running this could be his weekend to score a third. Kenseth has 13 top fives, 19 top 10 finishes and a Driver Rating of 102.0, second best.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12-1) Earnhardt is a long shot, but does have two wins here the last coming in 2012. He also has eight top fives, and 13 top 10 finishes along with two poles. He has a Driver Rating of 98.9, fifth best, and was second here in June. He has seen some struggles since then but this could be the weekend he turns it all around.
Carl Edwards (15-1) Edwards is another long shot but does have two wins here along with nine top fives, and 15 top 10 finishes and one pole. He has a Driver Rating of 101.1, fourth best though and could pull off his second win of the season Sunday.
For the record, Greg Biffle has the best Driver Rating at 107.1 but he has 100-1 odds and for good reason considering the year he is having. Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 will get the green flag just after 2:30 p.m. ET with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.