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Weekly Preview: Dips 400 Preview

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor

Taylor covers NASCAR for RotoWire. He is a three-time winner of the FSWA's Racing Writer of the Year award. He is also a military historian, specifically the World War II U.S. Navy in the Pacific.

As we put the three-turn oval of Long Pond, Penn., behind us, we look forward to this weekend when the Sprint Cup Series will pay their first visit to Michigan International Speedway for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400. This will be the first of two visits to the massive oval in Brooklyn, Michigan. MIS has similar characteristics to Auto Club Speedway, which the Sprint Cup Series raced at in February of this season. Both tracks are two-mile ovals, but Michigan has a little more banking in the corners and straight-aways. As a result, the oval in Brooklyn boasts average speeds in the low 190 mph range. As with Fontana, Michigan is all about aero handling and horsepower, and races at the large oval often come down to fuel strategy as well. If recent seasons are any indicator, be prepared for many long green flag runs this Sunday. The fall out will be an emphasis on fuel efficiency and pit strategy as they will be big keys to victory in this 400-mile event.

The one big difference between this weekend's race at Michigan and the earlier event at Fontana will be the configuration of the stock car. The rear wing has disappeared since that February race and the car now boasts the new rear deck lid spoiler. This is sure to have some impact on the performance of the teams. As we have seen in the last several weeks since this change was implemented by NASCAR, certain teams have adapted quickly to the new aero-handling package and some have struggled. This will likely have some impact on our fantasy racing prognostications for this 400-mile event. While we will put an emphasis on recent historical data at MIS, we will have to temper our expectations with current performance in light of the new spoiler.

Since we can look back on the early race at Fontana with a certain degree of accuracy that will be an invaluable help in picking a fantasy racing lineup this weekend. The similarities between the two ovals afford us this luxury. Still, enough time has passed since that Fontana race to give us some pause about completely hanging our hats on those numbers. Current trends for Michigan International Speedway will serve us well too. The drivers who have performed well at MIS over the years have a definite leg-up this Sunday. The loop stats shown below cover the last five years or 10 races at Michigan International Speedway.

DRIVERAVG FINISHQUAL. PASSES# of FASTEST LAPSLAPS LEDLAPS IN TOP 15DRIVER RATING
Carl Edwards5.75121432441,702112.5
Jimmie Johnson14.83912494291,609111.0
Greg Biffle12.44421241401,551103.5
Matt Kenseth10.9455881741,520103.1
Dale Earnhardt Jr.10.24441131091,33999.1
Kurt Busch19.53721021721,33596.5
Jeff Gordon15.73741061061,33696.3
Tony Stewart10.5388551021,34695.0
Brian Vickers15.234389951,17593.6
Kyle Busch17.535673881,34493.1
Denny Hamlin13.33731551,09292.5
Mark Martin18.635758471,30488.4
Kasey Kahne18.9293613483881.1
Martin Truex Jr.17.5222515470581.1
Joey Logano16.0683018680.9
David Ragan15.8191111059779.8
Kevin Harvick14.033511087679.3
Casey Mears15.122426863778.1
Clint Bowyer21.123217772874.0
Jeff Burton19.82438161072.1
We've seen as much parity at Michigan as we can recall in years. The last three years have seen two Chevrolets, two Fords, one Dodge and one Toyota victory at the two-mile oval. That's unusual for a track that saw Chevrolet go winless for almost seven years. Speaking of Chevy, Mark Martin won this event one year ago for Hendrick Motorsports and this manufacturer. Considering the fact that the veteran is winless to this point this season, we won't likely see Martin in victory lane on Sunday, but we could see another Chevrolet driver from this camp take the checkers. Jimmie Johnson won at Fontana earlier this season, and could easily take the win at this similar two-mile oval on Sunday. Aside from Chevy, we have to tip our hats to the Ford camp this weekend. Roush Fenway Racing Ford teams dominated this oval up until three years ago. If drivers like Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth are going to break into the win column this season, it could likely happen at the friendly confines of MIS. We'll examine recent history at Michigan International Speedway and the hot drivers of 2010 and give you the drivers you need to dominate your fantasy racing leagues this weekend. The Contenders - Drivers in the hunt for the win Denny Hamlin Coming off the victory at Pocono, Hamlin should have no trouble carrying the momentum of that win to MIS this weekend. The No. 11 team has been putting on a real show this season and is a threat to win any weekend. Hamlin has never won at Brooklyn, Michigan but he swept the Top 10 there last season, including a brilliant third-place finish in this race one year ago. Jimmie Johnson For what Johnson lacks in the way of victories at Michigan, he more than makes up for with consistency at the sweeping oval. The last six races at MIS have seen him lead over 400 laps and come away with a pair of Top-10 finishes. It could be that Johnson is coming to MIS at the right time to get that first career win at the facility. He's looking to snap a brief winless spell, and Sunday could be his day to break out. Kyle Busch Toyota's other big gun in their one-two assault is Busch and the No. 18 team. Busch has been running as well as Denny Hamlin and can sweep into victory lane any weekend. The Joe Gibbs Racing star has never won at Michigan International Speedway, but he has led cl


We've seen as much parity at Michigan as we can recall in years. The last three years have seen two Chevrolets, two Fords, one Dodge and one Toyota victory at the two-mile oval. That's unusual for a track that saw Chevrolet go winless for almost seven years. Speaking of Chevy, Mark Martin won this event one year ago for Hendrick Motorsports and this manufacturer. Considering the fact that the veteran is winless to this point this season, we won't likely see Martin in victory lane on Sunday, but we could see another Chevrolet driver from this camp take the checkers. Jimmie Johnson won at Fontana earlier this season, and could easily take the win at this similar two-mile oval on Sunday. Aside from Chevy, we have to tip our hats to the Ford camp this weekend. Roush Fenway Racing Ford teams dominated this oval up until three years ago. If drivers like Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth are going to break into the win column this season, it could likely happen at the friendly confines of MIS. We'll examine recent history at Michigan International Speedway and the hot drivers of 2010 and give you the drivers you need to dominate your fantasy racing leagues this weekend.

The Contenders - Drivers in the hunt for the win

Denny Hamlin Coming off the victory at Pocono, Hamlin should have no trouble carrying the momentum of that win to MIS this weekend. The No. 11 team has been putting on a real show this season and is a threat to win any weekend. Hamlin has never won at Brooklyn, Michigan but he swept the Top 10 there last season, including a brilliant third-place finish in this race one year ago.

Jimmie Johnson For what Johnson lacks in the way of victories at Michigan, he more than makes up for with consistency at the sweeping oval. The last six races at MIS have seen him lead over 400 laps and come away with a pair of Top-10 finishes. It could be that Johnson is coming to MIS at the right time to get that first career win at the facility. He's looking to snap a brief winless spell, and Sunday could be his day to break out.

Kyle Busch Toyota's other big gun in their one-two assault is Busch and the No. 18 team. Busch has been running as well as Denny Hamlin and can sweep into victory lane any weekend. The Joe Gibbs Racing star has never won at Michigan International Speedway, but he has led close to 90 laps for his career at the two-mile oval and he sports a career best finish of second that he scored in 2008.

Kurt Busch The No. 2 Dodge team has performed at a high level this season, and Busch is a two-time winner at the huge oval in Michigan. These two reasons alone are more than enough to start the Penske Racing driver in your fantasy racing lineups this weekend. Busch collected a solid Top 10 at the similar oval in Fontana earlier this season.

Solid Plays - Drivers who are a near lock for a Top 10 and have an outside shot at winning

Jeff Burton Coming off the Top 10 run at Pocono, the No. 31 team is firmly fixed in that solid fantasy racing play category at almost every track. Burton doesn't sport good career stats at MIS, but the great season he's putting together trumps the track history this Sunday. He did collect a stellar third-place finish earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway, so there's good reason to be very optimistic about this Richard Childress Racing driver's chances at Michigan International Speedway.

Carl Edwards Edwards' underachieving season has been a real puzzle. He has yet to visit victory lane this season, but the road upward continues this week at Brooklyn, Michigan. MIS presents an opportunity for the back-flipping sensation to turn his luck around. Edwards is a two-time Michigan winner with an unheard of 90 percent Top 10 rate at the two-mile oval.

Kevin Harvick The championship standings leader comes to Michigan this weekend protecting a 19-point lead over Kyle Busch in the standings. Seems that no matter where the Sprint Cup Series visits, the No. 29 team puts on a good performance. MIS should be no exception to that trend. While Harvick has only a 33 percent Top 10 rate at the huge oval, his second-place finish at Fontana shows his potential this season on these style tracks.

Matt Kenseth Kenseth has been performing the best of the slumping Roush Fenway Racing stable. That should bode well at what has been historically a good facility for both Roush and Kenseth. The veteran driver is a two-time Michigan winner and he owns 13 career Top-10 finishes at the two-mile oval. Kenseth posted a Top 10 at Auto Club Speedway earlier this season, so a good finish for the No. 17 team should be in the offing.

Sleepers - Drivers with good history at Michigan who can provide a solid finish

Clint Bowyer The No. 33 team has been pulling out of their slump the last couple weeks. Bowyer led 59 laps and cracked the Top 10 at Pocono last week, so things are really looking up for the Richard Childress Racing driver. Bowyer loves to race at Michigan International Speedway. The huge, sweeping oval has yielded Top 10's in each of his last two visits to the speedway.

Martin Truex Jr. As the No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing team continues to find an identity and strive to make this season's field for the Chase, Truex needs to step up at his favorite tracks. Michigan International Speedway has been a great venue for him over the years. Truex raced to a pair of runner-up finishes at this oval in 2007 while racing for DEI. It shows the potential for this driver when given good equipment. We believe the No. 56 team will unload a fast Toyota this weekend.

Jamie McMurray The No. 1 team's recent surge hit a snag in the road at Pocono Raceway last week. McMurray labored to a poor 36th-place finish after a late race crash. He should rebound well this week at MIS. McMurray owns four career Top 10's at the two-mile track, and two of those have come in the last two years. He won the pole at Fontana earlier this season, so this could be a huge weekend for the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing veteran.

Scott Speed Speed is carrying the torch for Red Bull Racing during Brian Vickers' medically related hiatus. The young driver is the focus of the organization and he should step up his performance accordingly. The big ovals have been kind to him during his brief Sprint Cup career. Speed is fresh off a Top 20 run at Pocono and he cracked the Top 15 at the similar oval in Fontana in February.

Travis Kvapil As we reach deep into the sleeper bag this week, we pull out Kvapil's name. The Front Row Motorsports veteran has logged over 1,100 laps for his career at Michigan International Speedway. In those six starts Kvapil has managed a decent 22.5 average finish. While these numbers don't inspire awe, they do represent value at the end of the bench. If you're fishing for help in deep leagues or weekly lineup leagues, don't overlook Kvapil if you're in a pinch.

Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish is starting to heat up after about a four-race mini-slump. The Penske Racing driver is coming of 17th- and 11th-place efforts at Charlotte and Pocono and coming to what has been a good track for the No. 77 team this weekend. Michigan yielded a Top-5 finish to Hornish the last time the Sprint Cup Series visited Brooklyn, Michigan. He led laps at Pocono this past week, so watch out for the streaking Hornish on Sunday.

Flops - Drivers to avoid at all costs

Marcos Ambrose We normally like the No. 47 Toyota team most any Sprint Cup weekend, however Ambrose has had major problems during his brief NASCAR career with these two-mile ovals. In his three career starts at MIS Ambrose has three finishes outside the Top 30 for an average finish of 36.3. The odds are too risky to take a chance on the JTG Daugherty Racing team in this 400-mile event.

A.J. Allmendinger One would think that a two-mile oval like Michigan would play to the strengths of a driver like Allmendinger, but opposite has been true throughout his career. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has five career starts at MIS, but only one Top-20 finish to his credit. Allmendinger's 25th-place finish in the Auto Club 500 at Fontana earlier this season doesn't inspire much hope for this week's race.

Ryan Newman While Newman has been quite useful and consistent in fantasy racing leagues this season, we have to lay off the No. 39 team this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. Rocket Man won two races at MIS earlier in this decade, but he's been abysmal there ever since. He's only cracked the Top 20 twice in his last seven visits to Michigan.

Kasey Kahne The big wreck at Pocono this past weekend may leave a hangover on the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports team. Kahne looked like a potential Top-10 finisher at the triangular oval, but he faded late in that race. Things don't look too promising at Michigan either. While he is a one-time winner at the huge oval with five career Top-5 finishes, his recent performances there have left a lot to be desired. Kahne has cracked the Top 10 only once in his last six trips to MIS.