This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.
As we put the wild restarts and fender-beating action of road course racing behind us, we look forward to this weekend when the NASCAR Cup Series will pay its first and only visit of the season to Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers Casino 400. Historically, there have been two annual events at the Michigan oval, but this season's schedule shakeup has trimmed the action to just one race at the high speed, two-mile track.
This facility has wowed us for years with some of the fastest speeds recorded in NASCAR. At its height we saw a pole qualifying lap of 206.558 mph in 2014 by Jeff Gordon, and that still stands as the pole qualifying record at MIS. The speeds have gradually drifted downwards in recent seasons due to many aerodynamic and performance changes to the Cup Series car, but we still see average laps in the low 190s. With no practice or qualifying this weekend, drivers won't get to shake down their cars for this high speed oval, but they'll be flying by the seat of their pants as they head off into turn 1 for the first lap after the green flag drops Sunday.
The oval in Michigan has similar characteristics to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., which the NASCAR Cup Series raced at in March of last season. NASCAR was able to squeeze that event in last year before the pandemic shutdown. However, we have not and will not visit that track in the