Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 10/14/14

 

After a wild race filled with speeding tickets and fuel strategy, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head the hills for the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway (MIS).

The race this week will be fast, as the drivers get a chance to race on a brand new surface for the second straight week. Joey Logano brought home the victory at Pocono for Joe Gibbs Race, and the team has a great chance to win again at MIS.

 

What to Watch For

New Track Surface: Last week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced on the new pavement at Pocono. Now the drivers get to test out the new pavement at MIS. This week in the Goodyear tire test, drivers were completing laps at 200 mph. That speed would make MIS one of the fastest racetracks on the circuit.

Will Joe Gibbs Racing Dominate: Joe Gibbs Racing has been the team to beat at MIS. Last season Denny Hamlin won the June race and Kyle Busch won the August race at MIS. In fact, Joe Gibbs Racing has won three of the last four races at MIS. Following Joey Logano’s win last week at Pocono, Joe Gibbs Racing will look to keep visiting victory lane at a racetrack they have had much success at in the past.

Battle for the Wild Card: The battle for the two Wild Card spots in the Chase are heating up. Brad Keselowski currently sits in the No. 10 position, with Kyle Busch in the first Wild Card position and Ryan Newman in the second Wild Card position. Carl Edwards is currently on the outside, looking in. Only six points separate positions 10-12.

 

Drivers to Watch

Matt Kenseth has been the most consistent driver in the 2012 season and sits No. one in the point standings. In 14 races this season, Kenseth has 10 top-10 finishes, seven top-five finishes and one win. He has a good chance to get win No. two of the 2012 season this week at MIS.

 

Kenseth has an average finish of 9.5 at MIS. He has third-most green flag passes with 621, the third-fastest average green flag speed of 174.160 and the fourth-best driver rating of 104.7. Kenseth could bring Ford their first win at MIS since August of 2008.

 

Denny Hamlin had quite the streak going at MIS until his 35th place finish in the race last August at MIS. Hamlin finished first, second and first in the prior three races. He will look to bounce back this week.

 

Hamlin has an average finish of 12.1 at MIS. His 97.1 driver rating is fifth-best, his average green flag speed of 173l.832 mph is eighth-best and his 547 green flag passes are seventh-most. Hamlin will be a factor in Sunday’s race.

 

 Jimmie Johnson will be strong once again this week at MIS. Although Johnson has never won at MIS, he has three top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes.

Johnson has a series-high 282 fastest laps run and a series-best average green flag speed of 174.357 mph. His average running position of 10.0 is third-best. Johnson will look to get back on track this week at MIS.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is so close, but yet so far from breaking his winless streak. Last week it looked like Junior was headed to victory lane, best just could not seem to find his way. Earnhardt is a past winner at MIS and could find himself in bringing home the victory this week at MIS.

 

 

Milestone Marker

Jeff Gordon’s next top-10 finish will be No. 400. Once he reaches the milestone, he’ll be the fifth driver to do so. Also, with 17 laps led, Gordon will reach 23,000 career NSCS laps led.

Joe Nemechek will make his 600th NSCS start on Sunday, good for 23rd on the all-time list.

Austin Dillon will be making his second career NSCS start on Sunday in the No. 33 American Ethanol Chevrolet. He finished 26th in his debut, last October at Kansas.

 

Michigan International Speedway Race Facts

- First Sprint Cup Race: June 15, 1969, won by Cale Yarborough

- Last Sprint Cup race: August 21, 2011 won by Kyle Busch

- Won from the pole: 16 times, last by Brian Vickers in 2009

- Won from top-five starting position: 52 times (61%)

- Won from top-10 starting position: 66 times (78%)

- Won from 21st or worse starting position: six times (7%)

- Fastest Qualifying Speed: 194.232 mph by Ryan Newman in 2005

- Wins by active manufactures in last 10 years: Chevy (3), Ford (8), Toyota (4), Dodge (5)

 

Predicted Race Winner: Matt Kenseth

*Stats courtesy of NASCAR Media Department.

 

Follow me on Twitter @HuskerMagic

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