Saturday, October 16, 2021

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 Preview

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the Irish Hills of Michigan for their second stop at the Michigan International Speedway this season. With only three races left until the Chase is set to begin, all eyes will be on the drivers trying to claim the last few spots in the 16-driver championship hunt.

While drivers like Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson battle for the final open spots in the Chase, several others who have already won this year will be eyeing another race trophy.

One of the favorites heading into MIS is Team Penske driver Joey Logano. Logano’s a two-time winner at Michigan, including a dominant victory in June where he led 138 of 200 laps to score his only victory of the year. Four of Logano’s last five wins have come on track’s larger than 1.5-miles, so a third win at the two-mile speedway should be within reach on Sunday.

Coincidentally, one of Logano’s biggest rivals will be one to watch on Sunday as well as Matt Kenseth was the winner of this race last year. Kenseth’s win last year earned him his first win at Michigan for Joe Gibbs Racing, but his third win overall at the track, and first since 2006. Much like Logano, Kenseth also scored a dominating victory in last year’s race leading 146 of 200 laps, but if Kenseth wants to pull off another Michigan win, he has to do it with a different downforce package than what he raced with last year.

Although he’s fighting for a Chase spot, Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon has a very real possibility of scoring his first career win on Sunday. Over the past few races at Michigan, Dillon has encountered a bit of success  with a fourth-place finish last year, and an eighth this past spring. Dillon ran up front for most of last year’s race after qualifying fourth and even led 19 laps in the race. In addition to that, Dillon’s shown his strength on the big tracks. Dillon was in contention for the win at Pocono Raceway a few weeks ago until weather took its course, and he finished ninth at Indianapolis in July.

Returning to the seat of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet this weekend will be Alex Bowman. Earnhardt is still out with concussion-like symptoms and with Jeff Gordon unavailable for the weekend, the Arizona driver got the call to pilot the call. It’s tough to say whether or not Bowman could win, but in his only start this season at New Hampshire, Bowman was climbing the leaderboard and running inside the top-10 until a cut tire took him out of contention late.

Brad Keselowski is one driver who probably wants to win at Michigan more than many others. The Rochester Hills native grew up about an hour and a half away from the track, and calls Michigan his home. Despite having scored two XFINITY Series wins at the track, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion remains winless at his home track in Cup competition. After finishing fourth in June, a win for the Michigan native this weekend would be one of the biggest of his career.

It’s not often you talk about a last-place finisher in the last race at a track being a possible race winner, but when that last-place finisher was Kyle Busch, he becomes part of the conversation. Busch exited the June race early after an engine failure on Lap 52 of the race, but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is a past winner at MIS. Busch won at Michigan driving for Gibbs in 2011, and also owns a pair of trophies at the track from the XFINITY Series. Busch also has Camping World Truck Series win at the track, so he knows exactly how to find victory lane.


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