The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels to the Irish Hills of Michigan this week for the FireKeepers Casino 400. This will be the second race of the season on a 2-mile track. The race can be seen Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on Fox.
The MENCS will be back to a regular schedule this week. There will be a practice Friday morning, qualifying Friday evening and two practices Saturday morning. Our Driver Group Game picks need to be selected by 8 a.m. Friday morning.
The last race at Michigan was dominated by a Michigan native. Brad Keselowski won the pole and led 105 of the 200 laps. The No. 2 car kept getting tighter in the race and Keselowski fell back to 17th place. Martin Truex Jr. took over the lead from Keselowski and led 57 laps. The No. 78 car looked very strong in this race. There was a wreck at the end of the race which caused it to go into overtime. Kyle Larson restarted 3rd and outraced Truex to take the lead and ear a trip to Victory Lane. It was the third win in a row for Larson at Michigan.
Race Rewind at Michigan: Pure Michigan 400 (2017)
Michigan was repaved in 2012 and ever since it has been the fastest tracks on the circuit. The track has some wear and there are now multiple groves to race on. The speeds are fast but sometimes the racing gets boring because the cars get spread out. This race does not produce many cautions and this year the cautions have been down so we should expect a lot of green flag racing Sunday. The drivers who have had speed all season will be the ones running in the top 10 this week.
Here are my picks for Michigan…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will be great picks for your team this week but I am giving these two drivers the week off. Harvick would be the driver I would use if I were to choose one of them. He looked very fast at Fontana before he crashed. Michigan ranks as the 2nd-worst track for Busch. That does not mean much though. He still has a win and 8 finishes in the top 10 at Michigan. I like what I saw from Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson last week (finished No.1 and No. 2) so they will be the drivers I roll with in the Irish Hills.
Kyle Larson (8): If you do not use Larson this week you probably should not use him all year. This is by far his best track and his stats at Michigan are better than Kevin Harvick’s at Phoenix. Larson has won the last 3 races at Michigan. His average finishing position in the last five races on the 2-mile tracks is 1.2! He finished 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st and 2nd! Larson should also be a threat to score bonus points for winning the pole. He has won the pole in 2 of the last 4 races on the 2-mile tracks.
Martin Truex Jr. (8): The No. 78 team looks like they are regaining their 2017 mojo. Truex Jr. has finished 1st, 2nd and 2nd in the last three races. He also won the last race on a 2-mile track (Fontana). Truex has never won at Michigan but that could change this weekend. Truex finished 2nd and 6th in the two races at the track last year and he led at least 50 laps in both. Truex should also have a good chance to score bonus points for winning the pole. Truex leads the series with 3 poles this year, including the pole at Fontana (Similar track to Michigan). Truex has qualified in the top 2 in the last 2 June races at Michigan. I expect him to qualify up front, lead some laps and finish in the top 5 this week.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kyle Larson 2) Martin Truex Jr. 3) Kevin Harvick 4) Kyle Busch 5) Brad Keselowski 6) Joey Logano 7) Denny Hamlin 8) Jimmie Johnson
Driver Group Game B Picks
Erik Jones (7): Jones is a Michigan native and he is very good at his home track. Jones finished 3rd and 13th in his two races at Michigan last year. Earlier this year he qualified 4th and finished 7th at Fontana. The Joe Gibbs Racing cars have been fast this year. Jones will qualify up front and his car will have the speed to stay up front. The No. 20 team just needs to stop beating themselves in the pits.
Chase Elliott (6): I have been saving Elliott until he started to heat up. It looks like Hendrick Motorsports found some speed over the All-Star break and it is now safe to start using Elliott in your lineups. Michigan ranks as the 2nd-best track for Elliott. He is almost as good as Kyle Larson at this track. Elliott has finished 2nd, 2nd, 2nd and 8th in his 4 races at the track. If it were not for Larson winning all of the races, Elliott might have 3 wins at the track. This is a great race to use Elliott in your lineup.
Clint Bowyer (5): Bowyer has been running really well this season. He looked like he had a top-5 finish wrapped up at Pocono but he missed a shift on the last restart and dropped back to 20th. There will be no shifting at Michigan. Bowyer finished 11th at Fontana earlier this season and he should be better this week. I thought about using Kurt Busch in this position but I am running out of allocations with the No. 41 car. Busch would be my pick if I had 5 or more starts left with him, but I do not so I will use Bowyer instead.
Aric Almirola (9): How good has Almirola been in the No. 10 car this season?… or should I ask… How bad was Danica Patrick in the no. 10 car to not be able to finish in the top 20 consistently? Almirola has been very fast this season. If the team could just qualify better they may win some races. Almirola qualified 27th and finished 11th at Fontana. I expect Almirola to start a lot closer to the front and finish in the top 10 Sunday.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Erik Jones 2) Chase Elliott 3) Kurt Busch 4) Clint Bowyer 5) 6) Aric Almirola 7) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 8) Jamie McMurray 9) Paul Menard 10) Ryan Newman
Driver Group Game C Picks
William Byron (6): Byron has been a boom or bust driver this season. The Hendrick Motorsports are starting to gain some speed and Byron looks like he is getting comfortable in the MENCS car. Byron has never competed in a MENCS race at Michigan but he ran really well in his Xfinity Series race at the track. Byron qualified 4th and finished 2nd. He should have some momentum after his strong run at Pocono.
Darrell Wallace Jr. (9): I wish I could use Alex Bowman with William Byron this week but I only have 4 allocations with Bowman and I need to save him for the short tracks. Wallace Jr. “should” be a good pick Sunday. Wallace drove the No. 43 car for Aric Almirola last year at Michigan. He qualified 26th and finished 19th. I expect similar results from Wallace Sunday.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Alex Bowman 2) William Byron 3) Darrell Wallace Jr. 4) David Ragan 5) Chris Buescher
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Kyle Larson (8), Martin Truex Jr. (8)
Group B: Erik Jones (7), Chase Elliott (6), Clint Bowyer (5), Aric Almirola (9)
Group C: William Byron (5), Darrell Wallace Jr. (9)
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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