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Pure Michigan 400

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Let's go to Michigan, again.

For the second time this season the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Michigan International Speedway’s wide 2-mile layout with only four races remaining before the Chase field is set. The one big difference from Sunday’s race and the one ran on June 14 is the set-up being used by all the teams.

In June, the teams ran a new aero package that was introduced at the beginning of the season. But after seeing some rather boring races on the 1.5-and 2-mile tracks, NASCAR changed some things up for a couple of races just to see if they could slow the cars down while also making the racing better.

At Kentucky, NASCAR mandated a new low-down force package and it turned out to be the best races of the season. At Indianapolis, they instituted a high-drag package where they raised the spoiler up three inches and the racing was ordinary -- to maybe even weak.

This week at Michigan they’ll be using that same high drag package from Indianapolis, and we‘ll just have to see if the racing will be better. The rain shortened Michigan June race won by Kurt Busch had 17 lead changes among 11 drivers, which looks competitive, but it really wasn't. Indy saw 16 lead changes among only six drivers.

Kyle Busch ended up winning at Indy with the high drag package, but it was Kevin Harvick who led a race high 75 of the 164 laps. Harvick’s domination under the regular package was part of the reason, I believe, NASCAR made changes.

But the funny thing is that despite leading so many laps this season his last win came at Phoenix in March. He’s only got two wins on the year. Four other drivers have two wins and two drivers have four wins, so as much as he's dominating the lap leader charts on these big tracks, he's not winning...on any of them since Las Vegas, the third race of the season.

However, I think that will change this week with Harvick finally getting back into victory lane. He won there in 2010 and had been runner-up in four straight races until getting shuffled to 29th in the rain delay before the race was called. Harvick led a race high 63 of the 138 laps in that race.

Carl Edwards leads the way with a track best 9.8 average finish, but he hasn’t had a top-five since 2011. The last of his two wins came in 2008.

Joey Logano has a track best 5.4 average finish in his past five starts, which includes a 2013 win. His 194 laps led over those five races are the most; Harvick is next with 126 laps led.

Greg Biffle is the active leader with four wins, but finished 36th in June during this awful display for Roush Fenway Racing. This is Jack Roush’s home track and no car owner has more wins at Michigan than his 13. His last win there came in 2013 with Biffle.

Jimmie Johnson has a very ordinary 16th-place finish over his career at Michigan and his only win came last spring.

I’m not going to put as much emphasis in the changes like I did for Kentucky, or even for Indy, so I’ll be keying on the meat and potatoes drivers that have been showing the most horsepower all season. However, over the past eight weeks we’ve the Joe Gibbs drivers get to the level Harvick is at while also seeing Hendrick Motorsports drop off a little bit.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #4 Kevin Harvick (5/1)
2) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (9/1)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)
4) #41 Kurt Busch (8/1)
5) #19 Carl Edwards (15/1)

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