The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway for the Consumers Energy 400. There should be some new contenders in the race this week. The Chevy’s seemed to have found some speed and now the three manufactures are closes together with only four races until the playoffs. The 2018 season has produced some great racing and it should continue in the Irish Hills of Michigan. The race can be seen Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
We are back to a normal schedule this week! Thank God! The MENCS cars will practice Friday at 12 PM ET (NBCSN) and qualify Friday evening at 5 PM ET (NBCSN). The cars will be back on the track Saturday for two practices. The first is at 8:30 AM ET (NBCSN) and final practice at 11:30 AM ET (NBCSN). This means I will once again be able to provide my DraftKings Xfinity Series picks and more detailed content for the other games. Our Driver Group Game picks need to be submitted by 8 AM ET Friday.
The last race at Michigan was dominated by Stewart-Haas Racing. Kurt Busch won the pole and led 46 laps. Kevin Harvick took the lead with 12 laps left in Stage 2 and he dominated most of the race. Harvick led a race-high 49 laps. The No. 4 car was not able to hold off Clint Bowyer when the rain started to fall. Bowyer led the final 8 laps on his way to a very wet Victory Lane. Stewart-Haas Racing finished #1 (Clint Bowyer), #2 (Kevin Harvick) and #3 (Kurt Busch). Kyle Larson ran well but blew a tire while running 8th. Kyle Busch started last for failing inspection and finished 4th. Martin Truex Jr. had his worst race of the season. The No. 78 qualified 17th and finished 18th.
Race Rewind at Michigan: FireKeepers Casino 400 (2018)
We usually see a shift in power in NASCAR after the first race at Charlotte. It is starting a lot later this season. Chevy is using a new engine and made some changes to the chassis that gained them some speed in the recent races. Dale Jarrett talked about it on NBC NASCAR America. You can read about his thoughts here: Hendrick Motorsports New Equipment. I expect the gap between Toyota, Ford and Chevy to close even more as we approach the NASCAR playoffs. This will give us some more options for our Fantasy NASCAR teams.
Here are my picks for Michigan…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Kevin Harvick (3): Harvick had the most dominant car in the last race at Michigan. He qualified 4th, had a 2.43 average running position, led the most laps (49) and finished 2nd. It was the 4th time Harvick finished 2nd at Michigan while driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. I wanted one of the “Big Three” on my team this week and Harvick is the best choice. He should be a threat to win the pole, lead the most laps and finish in the top 3 Sunday.
Kyle Larson (7): Will the real Kyle Larson please stand up? Larson is the best driver at Michigan but he did not show up in June. He started 26th, worked his way to the 8th spot before he got a flat tire and tore up his car in the wet grass. Larson has won 3 of the last 4 races at Michigan. He has also led more laps than any other driver over the last 3 seasons. I mapped out my allocations for Group A and I really need to use Larson this week so I hope Larson can be Larson Sunday.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kevin Harvick 2) Kyle Busch 3) Kyle Larson 4) Martin Truex Jr. 5) Joey Logano 6) Denny Hamlin 7) Brad Keselowski 8) Jimmie Johnson
Driver Group Game B Picks
Clint Bowyer (2): Bowyer won the race at Michigan in June. He had a really fast car. Bowyer qualified 12th, had a 3.59 average running position, led 8 laps and held of Kevin Harvick for the win as the rain poured down. Michigan has not been the best track for Bowyer but it is hard to ignore what he did two months ago. I am low on allocations with the No. 14 car but if they show up with the same speed this week, I will be glad I had him on my team.
Kurt Busch (2): Busch came close to winning the last race at Michigan. He won the pole, had a 3.02 average running position, led 46 laps and finished 3rd. Busch has won 3 times at Michigan so he knows how to turn some fast laps at the high-speed track. Busch has some momentum entering the race this week. He has finished the last 4 races in the top 10. He should easily finish in the top 10 again this week.
Chase Elliott (4): People say the hardest race to win is your first. Elliott checked that box last week with his win at Watkins Glen. It took him a while to find Victory Lane but I would not be surprised if he won again this week. Hendrick Motorsports made some changes to their cars and they have more speed than they had in the first race at Michigan. This tracks ranks as the No. 1 track for Elliott. He has finished 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 8th and 9th in his 5 races. Now that the monkey is off his back, anything can happen with Elliott this week.
Jamie McMurray (6): I thought about going with Erik Jones at his home track but I think this is the week to try and use an allocation with McMurray. Michigan ranks as the No. 1 track for McMurray. He has finished 5 races in a row at the track in the top 10. In June he qualified 24th, had a 9.22 average running position and finished 10th. McMurray has a 8.2 average finishing position at Michigan since 2015. I will gladly take a top-10 finish from him this week.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Chase Elliott 2) Kurt Busch 3) Clint Bowyer 4) Erik Jones 5) 6) Ryan Blaney 7) Jamie McMurray 8) Aric Almirola 9) Daniel Suarez 10) Ryan Newman
Driver Group Game C Picks
William Byron (3): It is scary to think how good Byron will be in the future. The truth is that he is actually figuring out the MENCS cars faster than most people thought he would. Byron enters the race at Michigan with a lot of momentum. He finished 6th at Pocono and 8th last week at Watkins Glen. Byron ran very well in his first race at Michigan. He qualified 14th, had a 8.96 average running position and finished 13th. Hendrick Motorsports has more speed now than they had in the 1st race so I would not be surprised if Byron kept his top 10 streak going after the race Sunday.
Alex Bowman (4): I want to save Bowman for the smaller tracks (Phoenix, Richmond and some others) but there are too many good choices in Group C this week. Bowman had decent race in June at Michigan. He qualified 21st, had a 16.04 average running position and finished 16th. The No. 88 team always ran well at this track with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the car. I am sure they will have a fast setup for Bowman to run in the top 15 Sunday.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) William Byron) Alex Bowman 3) Darrell Wallace Jr. 4) Chris Buescher 5) David Ragan
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Kevin Harvick (3), Kyle Larson (7)
Group B: Clint Bowyer (2), Kurt Busch (2), Chase Elliott (4), Jamie McMurray (6)
Group C: William Byron (3), Alex Bowman (4)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game after final practice Saturday.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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