NASCAR Barometer: Larson Scores Another Michigan Win

NASCAR Barometer: Larson Scores Another Michigan Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kyle Larson started Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway from pole position and led the most laps en route to his second victory at the track and his second win of the season. With that, he joined Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski as the only multiple-race winners in 2017. While Larson celebrated in Victory Lane, Truex walked away with a boost of confidence having won the first two segments of the race, adding to his tally of playoff points. Those will come in handy as seeding for the final run to the championship kicks off at Chicagoland.

This week the series makes its first road course stop of the season at Sonoma Raceway. Two of the last three victors at the track aren't racing in the series this season, which makes winless Kyle Busch the latest among current drivers to have won at Sonoma. That victory came in 2015 and another for Busch would break the bad luck the team has suffered so far this season. Sonoma will be difficult for the field and makes a unique challenge for fantasy players to overcome.

UPGRADE

Kyle Larson – Larson started Sunday's race from pole but couldn't hold back Martin Truex Jr. in the race's opening segments. Larson had been one the fastest cars all weekend, though. While Truex faded, a caution period with just 20 laps remaining put Larson back in touch with Kyle Busch for a sprint to the finish, and that was enough for him to

Kyle Larson started Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway from pole position and led the most laps en route to his second victory at the track and his second win of the season. With that, he joined Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski as the only multiple-race winners in 2017. While Larson celebrated in Victory Lane, Truex walked away with a boost of confidence having won the first two segments of the race, adding to his tally of playoff points. Those will come in handy as seeding for the final run to the championship kicks off at Chicagoland.

This week the series makes its first road course stop of the season at Sonoma Raceway. Two of the last three victors at the track aren't racing in the series this season, which makes winless Kyle Busch the latest among current drivers to have won at Sonoma. That victory came in 2015 and another for Busch would break the bad luck the team has suffered so far this season. Sonoma will be difficult for the field and makes a unique challenge for fantasy players to overcome.

UPGRADE

Kyle Larson – Larson started Sunday's race from pole but couldn't hold back Martin Truex Jr. in the race's opening segments. Larson had been one the fastest cars all weekend, though. While Truex faded, a caution period with just 20 laps remaining put Larson back in touch with Kyle Busch for a sprint to the finish, and that was enough for him to jump out front on the final two restarts to claim his second win of the season and second at Michigan International Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex captured his ninth and 10th stage victories of the season, extending his streak of stage wins to claim more than every other team so far this season. He then went on to narrowly miss disaster when another car spun in front of him in the final segment, but he didn't have track position or pace to push him further than sixth up the finishing order. Still, it was a good afternoon for the No. 78 team that continues to stockpile points for the impending playoffs. With four consecutive top-10 finishes he could be the driver gaining the most momentum at the moment, too. Truex won at Sonoma in 2013 and backed up that top result with a fifth-place finish at the track last season.

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin grabbed his third top-five finish of the season with a fourth-place run in Michigan. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver may have had a spot or two more in him, but late contact with Joey Logano caused a tire rub that potentially hindered his charge forward. None of the Gibbs cars have made a visit to Victory Lane yet this season, but Hamlin's performance last week shows that the team as a whole is making progress. Teammate Kyle Busch may have come closest to winning, but Hamlin isn't far behind, which is good news for the organization. The elusive win could even come as soon as this week for Hamlin. He led 33 laps in a runner-up finish at Sonoma last season.

Kyle Busch – Busch found himself at the front of the field with less than 50 laps remaining in Sunday's race. Fuel was a question due to a two-tire stop that put him in the lead, and that wasn't the first time he has been in that situation this season. A late caution threw him a lifeline, but he couldn't take advantage of the two final restarts to climb any further up the order than seventh. It was his third top-10 finish from the last four races but still isn't the elusive win he is seeking. Busch has two Sonoma wins from 12 Sonoma starts and he led two laps last season before finishing seventh. He is a solid road course racer and should be one to watch this week.

Joey Logano – Sunday's Michigan outing was Logano's best finish in the last six races and may have changed the momentum that has been lagging since his encumbered win in Richmond. He'll get a chance to prove that he has changed it for the better this week, too. He finished in the top 10 in half of his Cup starts at Sonoma Raceway, and his best finish was third in last season's event. Sunday's Michigan result could be the tide shift for which the team has been working, and that boost may pay off this week. Fantasy owners should watch for how quick the car is off of the truck in early practice this week to see if that momentum sticks.

DOWNGRADE

Matt Kenseth – Kenseth, deep in the field, elected to pit under caution with only 20 laps remaining in Sunday's race. That decision was probably the correct one, but a mistake on pit entry, sliding through his pit box, meant he lost a ton of time with the stop. He rebounded to finish 11th after late restarts, but the earlier mistake proved to be costly. Kenseth is arguably the lowest performing driver in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable at the moment, and it might be best if fantasy owners give him a week off this Sunday in California. Kenseth only has one top-10 Sonoma finish despite 17 attempts and he hasn't finished in the top 15 at the track since 2012.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer lost grip into the first turn on a late restart and slid up into the outside wall. The mistake added to what was already a mediocre day for the No. 14 machine, and it ended up putting him in the thick of trouble in the following restart as well. He wound up in 26th position at the end of the day, which extended his streak of failing to finish inside the top 10 since before the All-Star break. Sonoma could be an opportunity for him to overcome last week's troubles, however. He won on the road course in 2012 and is a regular top-10 finisher at the track. His campaign could use a shot in the arm, but fantasy players may wish to wait out these teething issues.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney had another good afternoon put together before he lost grip on a late restart and skated up the track causing a multicar accident that saw Danica Patrick taken out of the race. The contact was disappointing for the driver who got his first series win one week ago in Pocono, since it could have been another top-10 finish for the team. Blaney can rest a little more comfortably given that victory, but it would be nice if he were able to maintain some consistency. He has yet to score back-to-back top-10 finishes this season and that slows any progress the team may demonstrate. Blaney finished 23rd last year at Sonoma, so a top-10 this week would be a surprise.

Danica Patrick – Patrick was taken out of another race through no fault of her own on Sunday. Seeing the No. 10 spinning toward the inside wall out of turn two is becoming a common sight as she struggles to find her way in the series. A bust up with fans seeking autographs in the paddock last week won't win her any admirers either. Team and sponsor patience has to be wearing thin, and one of her major sponsors from prior seasons has already departed. On paper, Sonoma should be a track at which she performs well, but she has yet to land a top-10 result in four tries. Her underperformance has been a drag to fantasy rosters for some time, and this week isn't going to be any different.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Chase Elliott – Sunday was Elliott's third Michigan race in the Cup series and he maintained his average finish of second. It was his third consecutive runner-up result at the track. It was another impressive performance from the Hendrick Motorsports driver who continues his quest for a maiden series win, but that victory seems as though it could come very soon. Winning this week might be a tall order, but Elliott's road course racing chops aren't terrible. He started 16th and finished 21st in his sole Cup start at the track last season, but it takes some time to get the hang of racing on that track. A top-15 may not be out of the equation, but another real shot for victory may be two weeks away in a Daytona return.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Pennzoil 400 and Bahrain Grand Prix
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Pennzoil 400 and Bahrain Grand Prix
NASCAR DFS:  Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube
NASCAR DFS: Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube
NASCAR Xfinity DFS: The LiUNA!
NASCAR Xfinity DFS: The LiUNA!
Pennzoil 400 Preview: West Coast Swing Begins
Pennzoil 400 Preview: West Coast Swing Begins