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NASCAR heads to Michigan

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The NASCAR circuit takes on a second straight long track on Sunday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway. This 2-mile D-shaped oval track was built in 1968 and remains one of the fastest tracks out there. Banking is 18° for all four turns, with a frontstretch of 3,600 feet (0.68 miles) banked at 12° and a much flatter 5° backstretch measuring 2,242 feet (0.43 miles).

Since 2006, there has been only three repeat winners over these 14 races at Michigan, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards each have two wins during this stretch.
 
Drivers to Watch
 
Denny Hamlin (10/1) - He is certainly back in the swing of things after missing four races with his back injury. Since his return, Hamlin has finished eighth or better in three of four races. The one exception was Dover, when he was racing from the pole position and leading for 41 laps before crashing. Hamlin's double-digit odds at Michigan are certainly favorable considering his history here (two wins, five top-5's in 14 starts). In the past four spring races at this track, he's finished 3rd, 1st, 1st and 34th last spring as the result of a crash.
 
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Greg Biffle (12/1)
- The defending champion of this track racked up his third career win at Michigan last fall, giving him an impressive nine top-5's in 20 starts at this venue. The streaky Biffle could be poised to go on a nice little run here as we approach the start of summer. After a 7.5 average finish over a four-race stretch, he then had six straight finishes outside the top-12 (25.0 average). Last week we predicted Biffle (35-to-1 odds) to contend at Pocono, and he made us look great with a second-place showing. You could certainly make the case of placing your largest wager on Biffle this weekend, as he and Hamlin appear to shine above the rest in terms of betting value.
 
Jimmie Johnson (4/1) - Maybe the weekly advice should be laying an automatic unit on Johnson, whose three wins in 14 races this season have come with 12-to-1 odds (Daytona), 4-to-1 odds (Martinsville) and 5-to-1 odds (Pocono). And even though he hadn't won at Pocono since 2004, we still picked Johnson as the best bet of the five chalkiest drivers last week (Hamlin, Kenseth, Kahne and Kyle Busch), and he sure came through. Johnson has never won at Michigan, but he's finished sixth or better five times in his past 11 starts at this track. In his past three starts, he came in 2nd place, 5th place and 27th last fall due to engine failure in a race he led for 23 laps. He's incredibly chalky for a driver that has never won at this venue, but Johnson is just too hot to ignore completely.
 
Matt Kenseth (7/1) - He has really struggled since winning at Darlington, placing 15th at Charlotte, 40th (engine problems) at Dover and 25th at Pocono. But this is exactly the setting to move back up the standings. His average finish is an impressive 9.6 in 27 career starts at Michigan, where he's finished outside the top-20 just once due to a crash in the 2007 spring race. The past two spring races, Kenseth finished runner-up in 2011 to Denny Hamlin, and then placed third last year.
 
Joey Logano (40/1) - There aren't a whole lot of darkhorses to choose from in this race, but Logano has performed well enough on all different sized tracks to like him again here. In the past eight races he's actually finished (excluding Kansas crash and Talladega engine problems) the 23-year-old has placed 10th or better six times (3rd, 3rd, 5th, 5th, 7th and 10th). He also has three top-10's in his past seven starts at Michigan.
 

  
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