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DraftKings NASCAR: FireKeepers Casino 400

C.J. Radune

Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the 2015 Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

FireKeepers Casino 400

Location: Brooklyn, Mich.
Course: Michigan International Speedway
Format: 2.0-mile D-shaped oval
Laps: 200

Race Preview

Pocono Raceway produced a third first-time winner last weekend in Ryan Blaney, who held off a late charge from Kevin Harvick to add his name to the playoff contenders. Blaney joins Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon in the first-time winner’s club this season, all of which can rest a bit more comfortably knowing that they have one foot firmly planted in the season-ending playoffs that will determine this year's champion. Blaney is the 10th different winner of the season, and only 16 drivers will be eligible to compete for the championship. Seven spots remain available for future winners since Joey Logano's Richmond victory will not count toward his championship effort. Michigan International Speedway also produced a first-time winner last fall when Kyle Larson led 41 laps to come out on top of Chase Elliott. Perhaps the hungriest driver is Kyle Busch, though. While Kevin Harvick harassed Blaney to the finish it was Busch who had the strongest car throughout the day in Pocono. He came up short yet again when his more worn tires wouldn’t enable him to retain the lead. After Pocono we can confidently say that Toyota is not at a disadvantage to the other engine manufacturers, but Joe Gibbs Racing continues to come up short when they need it the most.

Key Stats at Michigan International Speedway

Number of previous races: 95
Winners from pole: 19
Winners from top-5 starters: 56
Winners from top-10 starters: 71
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 7
Fastest race: 173.997 mph

Last 10 Michigan Winners

2016 fall - Kyle Larson
2016 spring - Joey Logano
2015 fall - Matt Kenseth
2015 spring - Kurt Busch
2014 fall - Jeff Gordon
2014 spring - Jimmie Johnson
2013 fall - Joey Logano
2013 spring - Greg Biffle
2012 fall - Greg Biffle
2012 spring - Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Horsepower will be king again this week at Michigan International Speedway. The tracks long straights and wide turns allow the cars to carry maximum revs into each turn, and then move up or down the banking to find the groove where their chassis handles best. Cars will often run high against the wall, cut down to the inside edge, or find any number of routes in between in an effort to maximize speed through the corner while jumping back on the gas as soon as possible. Getting to the gas early will set up passes at the end of each long straight, and turning underneath your opponent and then sliding up to disturb the trailing car's aerodynamics will help to complete passes. The high temperatures and cornering speeds will strain tires, and right-front failures are common when teams try to stretch the envelope too much. Additionally, the slick track can cause a car with a loose setup to spin and contact other cars or the wall. Pit strategy will be an important tradeoff between track position and fresh tires, but fresh tires may likely rule the day. Joey Logano and Kyle Busch took the two wins at this track last season.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Kyle Larson - $10,200
Martin Truex Jr. - $10,000
Kyle Busch - $9,500
Chase Elliott - $9,400

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Matt Kenseth - $8,900
Denny Hamlin - $8,600
Kurt Busch - $8,500
Jamie McMurray - $8,200

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $7,800
Daniel Suarez - $7,500
Ryan Newman - $7,200
Clint Bowyer - $6,800

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Ty Dillon - $6,100
Chris Buescher - $5,900
Darrell Wallace Jr. - $5,700
Cole Whitt - $4,900

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Kyle Larson - $10,200
Kevin Harvick - $9,900
Kyle Busch - $9,500
Ryan Newman - $7,200
Clint Bowyer - $6,800
Ty Dillon - $6,100

Driver prices for Michigan allow owners to get a nice selection of top choices without as severe consequences as other weeks. In the safer option this week we have Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Larson and Busch were one-two in first practice on Friday, too. All of these drivers have been racing well recently and could conceivably win on Sunday. Busch is the only driver of the three to not have a prior win at this track, but it wouldn't be a shock to see him in Victory Lane and he starts inside the top five. Ryan Newman has also been building a steady stream of top finishes. He has three top-15s in the last three races, and two of those were top-10 finishes. He also has two prior Michigan wins. Circumstances have definitely turned around for Bowyer since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He had a bad weekend at Dover, but is getting back on track and had a run of nine consecutive top-10 Michigan finishes going until the fall of 2015. He should be able to restart that streak with a better performing organization this week. Ty Dillon's first Cup series appearance at Michigan resulted in a top-15 run in 2015. He returned for a 24th-place finish last year, but is gaining confidence in his new ride in 2017. He should be a value for owners this weekend.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Jimmie Johnson - $9,800
Chase Elliott - $9,400
Joey Logano - $9,200
Matt Kenseth - $8,900
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $7,800
Cole Whitt - $4,900

The higher-risk lineup for Michigan puts a little more emphasis on past Michigan success over current form. Jimmie Johnson has the most wins so far this season, but crashed out at Pocono last week. He has one Michigan win from 2014 and finished sixth at the track, leading 37 laps, last fall. This circuit has also been good to Chase Elliott. He finished second in both races at the circuit last season and led 66 laps in doing so. He stumbled at Charlotte, but returned to form the last two weeks with a top-five and a top-10. Joey Logano has been enduring a slump. Aside from the All-Star race, his last top-10 finish was his encumbered victory at Richmond. He needs to regain his momentum, and Michigan should be a spot he could do it. He has two wins here and started from pole in both races at the track in 2016. Matt Kenseth has regained some of his footing with a 10th-place Pocono finish, and he has won at Michigan three times. Things need to turn around for Dale Earnhardt Jr. soon. He has just one top-10 from the last four races, but has two Michigan wins and finished 10th in this race last season. Finally, Cole Whitt makes the grade due to his consistently positive finish differential at this track. His average start is 37.7, but his average finish is 28.8 and he starts just 34th on Sunday.