Michigan Consumers Energy 400
Kevin Harvick took his son, Keelan, for a ride to get the checkered flag in the August 2018 version of this race at Michigan International Speedway. Can he repeat that success this year? On paper at least, he’ll be one of the favorites heading into the weekend.
Michigan is a 2-mile D-shaped oval. The banking in each corner is 18 degrees, with variable banking on the front and backstretches. The frontstretch banking is 12 degrees and the backstretch banking is five degrees. Sunday’s race will feature the 2019 baseline rules package with the smaller tapered spacer, so engines will run with horsepower of about 550. Aero ducts will be used this week, along with the radiator pan, splitter and spoiler from the baseline rules package. There are 150 dominator points available in this 200 lap event, and you can expect 2-4 dominators from a points perspective.
Chase Elliott, who won last week at Watkins Glen, has the best average finish among all-time drivers with three or more starts at Michigan: 7.43. Denny Hamlin has the most points scored since Chicago with 229. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones is second with 212 points in that span. Vegas has (a throwback to last season) all too familiar 3-headed favorite at the top this week in Truex, Harvick, and Kyle Busch all sitting at 5-1.
Past winners entered this week are Kurt Busch (3), Larson (3), Logano (3), Hamlin (2), Harvick (2), and Newman (2). Bowyer, Kyle Busch, and Johnson have one win each at the track.
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Erik Jones has been on fire lately and is finally turning heads all over Nascar’s top series. Since Sonoma, minus Daytona, his average finish is an impressive 4.5. At Michigan, Jones has looked promising, and minus an event filled spring race, his average finish is 11th and he’s finished in the top fifteen every race. Last summer, Jones finished 13th despite spinning twice. In spring 2018, Jones started in the rear of the field and finished 15th. In August 2017, Jones had a very strong car and was a contender to win. When the checkered flag waved he finished 3rd. In spring 2017 he had a respectable MIS debut, finishing 13th. At the two intermediate tracks visited since Michigan in June, Jones has results of 3rd and 7th.
Larson is a three-time winner at Michigan and a solid bet to finish up front on race day. His team seems to have turned a corner lately, and are peaking at the right time. Earlier this year, Larson finished 14th but he earned the 8th best driver rating. He ran in the top 5 most of the day, and was as high as 2nd at one point. In the three Michigan races spanning summer 16 thru summer 17, he raced his way to victory lane. At the last two high-speed intermediate tracks visited, Larson has run well and has results of 2nd (Chicagoland) and 4th (Kentucky).
Busch has run exceptionally well here and is one of Nascar’s best at 2.0 mile ovals. Since 2018 at tracks of this length he has the best driver rating, the best average finish (3.2), the best average running position (6.6), and he’s finished in the top five every race while leading the most laps (218). Busch currently has five straight top tens. Since 2018 at Michigan, Busch has a 4.0 average finish and a 9.3 average running position. In spring 2018, Kyle Busch failed inspection and had to start in the rear of the field. Despite that, he raced his way to a 4th place finish when the checkers waved. Rowdy slipped in qualifying and starts 22nd. He’s a big pill to swallow from a salary standpoint, but take your medicine, it’s good for you.
Dillon hasn’t run well recently, but he’s typically one of the better drivers on high speed “drafting” tracks, and Michigan is no exception. Over the last eight races he has 4 top tens and has only twice has he finished lower than 16th. In the combined races over that stretch he has a 13.3 average finish. Late summer races here have been especially good for him and over the last four he has 3 top tens and an 8.5 average finish. This spring at Michigan, Dillon had a tough race and finished a misleading 26th after tagging the wall. Last summer, Dillon finished 4th. In spring 2018, Dillon finished 14th. In summer 2017 he finished 7th. Dillon was fast in practice this week and qualified near the front of the field. Like his teammate (Hemric), his qualification time was disallowed due to unapproved equipment, and he was moved to the rear.. He’s a solid play rolling off from 37th when the green flag waves on Sunday.
Earlier this year at Michigan, Hemric ran well and had one of his better performances of the year. When the checkered flag waved he finished 12th, had a 14th place average running position and earned the 14th best driver rating. Over the last five races at high-speed intermediate tracks, Hemric has an 18.8 average finish and an 18.6 average finish. Hemric showed speed in practice this week and qualified better than his starting spot, but was bumped to the rear due to an unapproved alternator violation. He’s a great opportunity for positional points and a near lock in most of my lines this week.
Logano is a three-time winner who’s finished in the top ten in 12 of the last 13 races. He won the spring race this year in easy fashion, leading 163 laps on his way to victory. He and his teammates drive for Penske Racing, who just happens to own Michigan International Speedway. They all do well here, and it’s never a bad idea to perform well on your owner’s home track. Last summer, Logano had a solid showing. He finished 10th. Last spring he was slightly more competitive. He finished 7th, and earned the 6th best driver rating. Logano has been performing well at high-speed intermediate tracks this year. Over the last four races on this track type, Logano has a 3.3 average finish and the best driver rating. I’ll note that average finish underrates him because he almost won at Kentucky but finished a misleading 7th.
Kevin Harvick has been a near lock at Michigan in recent events, and with good reason. He’s the defending champion of this particular event and over the last three Michigan races he has the best driver rating by a wide margin, the best average finish (3.3), the best average running position (5.0) and he’s led the most laps (172). Earlier this year at MIS, Harvick had a great performance and finished 7th despite his race not being incident free. Despite falling a lap down early due to a tire issue, he battled back and had a 10th place average running position. In 2018, nobody was better than Harvick at Michigan. He dominated in the summer, and in the spring if the race wasn’t rain shortened he probably would’ve won that race too. In spring 2018, Harvick finished 2nd while leading a race high 49 laps. Harvick has been spectacular in practice all week, and his qualification effort reflected that. He’ll need a lot of dominator points to justify rostering him, but he’s in position to get them.
Other drivers I like are Keselowski, Truex, Buescher, Elliott, and Newman.
Salary-savers (sub-7k) this week are Hemric, DiBenedetto, and Wallace.
Dominator potentials this week are Keselowski, Harvick, Truex, and Logano.
Movers this week are Austin Dillon, Hemric, and Kyle Busch.
Fades for me this week are Bowman, Bowyer, and Ragan.
My pick to win the race this week is Kevin Harvick. He’s showing all the signs of having a dominant weekend.NASCAR