The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the XFINITY Series will compete at Michigan International Speedway this weekend while the Camping World Truck Series travels to Gateway Motorsports Park. The Cup Series race will headline the competition Sunday with 37 drivers entered in the Cup Series “FireKeepers Casino 400” event.
Last week at Pocono Raceway Ryan Blaney scored his first win in the Cup Series giving Wood Brothers Racing their first checkered flag since Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in 2011. But did you know that he was the 10th different driver to capture a Cup Series victory this season? Blaney joins Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon as first-time winners this year.
Darrell Wallace Jr. will make his second Cup Series start this weekend, filling in for the injured Aric Almirola. Almirola’s recovery is progressing well and he could return as early as July 14 at New Hampshire. This means that Wallace has, at the least, four more chances to hone his skills in the Cup Series.
Sunday’s race is the 95th Cup Series race at Michigan. The first race at the two-mile track was held on June 15, 1969, and was won by Cale Yarborough for Wood Brothers Racing. He gave them another win in the June event the following year. Yarborough has eight career wins at Michigan but did you know that David Pearson leads all drivers with nine victories? Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth lead all active drivers with three each.
Joey Logano heads to Michigan as the defending race winner. The Team Penske driver started the season strong and grabbed a win at Richmond in April but did you know that in the last five races, Logano’s best finish was a 21st place result at Charlotte? He has dropped from as high as third to 11th in the points standings.
Will we see another first-time winner at Michigan?
It may surprise you to learn that Chase Elliott has the series-best driver rating (125.1) at Michigan. In his only two starts last year, he earned two runner-up finishes. Elliott also has the series-best average finish (2.000), average running position (4.300) and the series-most laps in the top 15 (391 laps, 97.8 percent).
Or will we see another veteran take the checkered flag?
Kenseth has the second-best driver rating (102.2) heading into Michigan and the series-most quality passes with 990. He has scored three trips to victory lane at the track with 14 top-fives, 20 top-10s and one pole. Kenseth is looking for his first win this year to solidify his berth in the playoffs. But did you know that a Michigan victory would tie him with Tim Flock for 18th place on the all-time Cup Series wins list?
Could this be the weekend that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team get it together and turn his final Cup season around?
Earnhardt is currently 23rd in the standings. He has the fifth-best driver rating (96.0) at Michigan with two wins (2008, 2012), eight top fives, 14 top 10s and two poles plus the second-most quality passes at the track with 933. A top five finish could bolster the confidence of the No. 88 team as they head into the final 11 races of the regular season.
Thirty-seven different drivers have won in 95 races at Michigan and capturing the pole may be the key to winning it all. The pole position has produced more winners (20) than any other starting position.
The on-track activity begins Friday with practice and qualifying on FS2. Tune into the FireKeepers Casino 400 Sunday at 3 p.m. on FS1 for the 15th Cup Series race of the season at Michigan International Speedway.
In the meantime, check out the video below as Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the LifeLock 400 at Michigan on June 15, 2008, breaking a 76-race winless drought. It was his first visit to victory lane for Hendrick Motorsports.
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