The NASCAR Cup Series will join the Xfinity Series at Michigan International Speedway this weekend. This will be race No. 23 on the 2023 Cup Series schedule. There are only four races left in the regular season and three of the races are on “wild card” tracks (Indy Road Course, Watkins Glen and Daytona). The racing at Michigan was wild last year as the drivers battled for track position and a spot in the playoffs. I expect some more exciting racing this weekend. Here is the schedule for Michigan…
The Cup Series race at Michigan last year had six drivers lead between 22-38 laps. The lead changed 15 times and there were seven cautions in the race. If you like exciting racing at the front of the pack, Michigan is the track for you.
Only four drivers were able to finish both Stages in the top-10. They were Denny Hamlin (19 Stage Points and finished 3rd), Christopher Bell (17 Stage Points and finished 26th), Joey Logano (scored 3 Stage Points and finished 4th) and Erik Jones (13 Stage Points and finished 8th). Hamlin and Bell had the best cars for most of the race but in the end Kevin Harvick was able to win his series-high sixth race at Michigan. It was also his fifth win in the last seven races at Michigan.
You can watch the highlight of the last year’s race at Michigan in the Race Rewind for the Firekeepers Casino 400
STATS FOR LARGE OVAL TRACKS
NASCAR did their best to get rid of the 1.5-mile cookie cutter tracks and the 2-mile ovals and replace them with short tracks, road courses and gimmick races on a dirt track. They probably were not expecting the Gen-7 car to produce the best racing of the season on the tracks they desperately tried to remove from the schedule. The racing at Atlanta kept fans on the edge of their seats this year. I expect the same at Michigan Sunday.
We can look at the data from the race at Michigan last year, the race on the 2-mile oval at Auto Club earlier this season and the 1.5-mile tracks this year (Las Vegas, Kansas and Charlotte) to help predict the race at Michigan. The draft will also come into play Sunday, so I will add in the data from the races at Atlanta this year as well.
Here are the Driver Rankings from the races on the large ovals in 2023 and the race at Michigan last year…
The races at Michigan used to be easy to predict. Drivers like Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick were able to run the wall and finish up front every year. That is not the case with the Gen-7 car. The draft comes into play more, so the race is more unpredictable. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have dominated the races at Michigan for years and the Gen-7 did nothing to slow them down. They will be the two best picks in the field Sunday, but there are a lot more drivers in play for your Fantasy NASCAR teams this week.
My strategy for the Driver Group Game will be to write Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick’s name in pen. They are locks for my lineup this week and I am not worried about burning an allocation with them. The rest of the picks are written in pencil. I am still debating if I should pair a Hendrick Motorsports driver (Kyle Larson or William Byron) with Hamlin, or take a chance with Christopher Bell or a Team Penske Driver (Joey Logano or Ryan Blaney). I will take some chances in Group B. Bubba Wallace will likely get a spot. There is a good chance that the two Michigan natives will be in my lineup too (Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones). Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is good in the draft, so he will likely be the play in Group C.
I am not worried about allocations in the Fantasy Live game this week. I simply need to make sure I have two allocations left with Chase Elliott and Tyler Reddick for the two road course races. The rest of the drivers are in play. I have one allocation left with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. They will both be in my lineup. I will decide after qualifying which drivers I will pair with them Sunday.
The strategy for DFS contests will be a bit different this week. No driver led over 38 laps in this race last year, so there really is no need to pay up for dominators. Michigan is not truly a Superspeedway track, so there is no need to load our lineups with drivers who start in the back and offer place differential points. The strategy this week is to simply select six drivers who fit under the salary cap and have a good chance to finish in the top-10. There were six drivers who led between 22-38 laps in this race last year. We will run into a lot of dominator points if we have all six drivers finish in the top-10.
EARLY WEEK PICKS FOR MICHIGAN
ONE & DONE PICK: DENNY HAMLIN
DRIVER GROUP GAME PICKS: DENNY HAMLIN, WILLIAM BYRON, KEVIN HARVICK, BUBBA WALLACE, BRAD KESELOWSKI, KYLE BUSCH, RICKY STENHOUSE JR., TY GIBBS
FANTASY LIVE PICKS: DENNY HAMLIN, MARTIN TRUEX JR., KYLE LARSON, KEVIN HARVICK, KYLE BUSCH (GARAGE) CHASE ELLIOTT
* I will be watching BRAD KESELOWSKI, TYLER REDDICK, JOEY LOGANO and RYAN BLANEY in practice and qualifying. They could end up in the Fantasy Live lineup this week.
** I am out of allocation with WILLIAM BYRON, or he would definitely be in all of my lineups.
Good luck this weekend!
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