Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:03 AM
Best Bets - Michigan
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS is back at Michigan International Speedway for the second time this season. The green flag will drop on the Consumers Energy 400 on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET. Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin (20/1) was impressive in qualifying on Friday, posting a fast lap speed of 202.794 mph to earn his second consecutive pole. He also had the fastest opening practice speed, and he was the fastest in all three round of knockout qualifying, too.
Hamlin finished 12th in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan back on June 10, and he has NASCAR's Loop Data shows him ranked ninth in Driver Rating (94.1) over the past five stops at the track, posting a 14.8 Average-Finish Position (AFP) while running 92.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has led just 16 laps during the five-race span at this track, however. The No. 11 FedEx Toyota has been to victory lane on two occasions, but Hamlin's last win in the Irish Hills came way back in the summer of 2011. In 25 career starts he has two wins, seven Top 5s, 11 Top 10s and a 14.6 AFP with 174 laps led and three DNFs. His team certainly looks to have tuned his car perfectly for this race, as is evidenced by his dominating qualifying session.
JGR's Kyle Busch (13/4) has finally started to figure out Michigan after years and years of struggling. He enters Sunday's race with a dismal 18.9 AFP across 27 career starts with just one victory, five Top 5s and nine Top 10s. He has also led the pack for just 236 laps in his 27 races at MIS. However, he has a solid 7.0 AFP over his past three Michigan runs, including a fourth-place showing in the first race in June. His teammate Erik Jones (25/1) doesn't have a lengthy Cup history at Michigan, but his first starts have been good. He was 13th last June in his Cup car debut, third in the summer race and 15th in this spring's run. As such NASCAR's Loop Data shows him in 10th among all active drivers with a 90.8 Driver Rating. Rowdy starts on the outside of Row 1 next to teammate and pole sitter Hamlin, while Jones will start from the fourth spot. JGR has three Toyotas in the top four to start.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (4/1) checks in sixth among all drivers with a 101.0 Driver Rating across his past five starts in the Irish Hills, including a runner-up finish in last summer's race. He has never picked up the checkered flag in Michigan, but he still has a respectable six Top 5s, nine Top 10s and 19 Top 20s out of 25 career starts, leadiong 207 laps and cashing out just once via DNF. He'll go off seventh in Sunday's race after turning in a speed of 201.421 mph in qualifying on Friday. It's a good bet he'll finish much better than 18th like he did back in June, but he is still a risky play given his overall body of work at this track.
Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski (7/1), the only Michigan native in the field, has never won at his home track. He has certainly come close, though, posting five Top 5s, nine Top 10s and 180 laps led across 18 career starts with a 12.4 AFP. He was sixth in the summer race, and will be a threat to break up the Toyota monopoly in Ford's backyard. His partners in crime, Joey Logano (20/1) and Ryan Blaney (20/1), are both moderately priced at the betting window, but they're miles apart in terms of success in the Irish Hills. Logano has won at Michigan as recently as June 2016, his second time doing a celebratory burnout in front of the fans in the Great Lakes State. Logano has finished outside of the Top 10 on just six of his 19 career Cup starts at Michigan, so bettors and DFS players alike will want him as part of their weekend plans. Blaney doesn't have a lengthy Cup history at MIS, and while he has the same odds as Logano, he's not even in the same ballpark. Blaney has just two Top 10 finishes in seven career starts at this track while posting a very ordinary 16.7 AFP.
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (11/4) has been on another plane, along with Rowdy and MTJ, and Happy heads to Michigan as the odds-on favorite. He is second among all active drivers with a 110.9 Driver Rating over the past five starts at Michigan, according to NASCAR's Loop Data, and he has led 82 laps with 82.9 percent of his laps being run inside the Top 15. He has just one victory at this track, back in Aug. 2010 during the Carfax 400. Despite the lack of wins, he always seems to be in the mix. He has a 12.4 AFP, best among all active drivers with at least six starts at the track, while posting 11 Top 5s and 16 Top 20s while leading 372 laps. Harvick's teammate, Clint Bowyer (12/1), collected a win in the June race. It was his only win in 25 career starts, and it's hard to envision another victory for the SHR driver. In fact, even with June's win, he still has just 36 career laps led at this track and a dismal 17.0 AFP with only two Top 5s. Harvick starts third, while Bowyer goes off 16th.
Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (7/1) has the best Driver Rating (115.1) on the circuit, posting a 6.8 AFP over his past five starts while leading 141 laps. He has also run 89.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 during the past five starts at this track. Larson has picked up three victories in nine career starts while only two of his finishes have resulted in finishes lower than 20th. He has managed 150 laps led while checking in with a 12.8 AFP in his nine starts. Teammate Jamie McMurray (75/1) has never won in 31 career tries at Michigan, and he isn't someone you'll want to pick for a win this week, either. However, he isn't a bad DFS option for one of your final two roster options, as he has 10 Top 10s and 22 Top 20s with a 16.9 AFP. Larson will start from the 17th position and has a chance to roll up plenty of Place Differential Points. Jamie Mac starts two spots ahead of him in 15th.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott (10/1) will be making his 100th career Cup start this weekend, and this is the first time he heads to the track as a winner in the previous week. He punched his ticket to the Chase with a thrilling win at Watkins Glen, and it could have been just the start of big things for Elliott. He has just five Cup starts under his belt, but he has never finished lower than ninth while rolling up three runner-up finishes. Seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson (50/1) has gone off the rails at Michigan lately, and everywhere so far this season. He is really in a battle for a Chase spot at this point. He has picked up just one career win in 33 starts at MIS, and he has just five Top 5s with a 16.4 AFP. His past seven starts in Michigan have been worse, as he has an 18.4 AFP and no finishes in the Top 5 since spring 2014 when he won the Quicken Loans 400. Elliott has the chance to be a fantasy stud this week, starting from the 21st spot and likely to move up quite a bit for those valuable Place Differential points.
If you're looking for sleepers for fantasy purposes, Hendrick's William Byron (100/1) is someone who might turn heads. He debuted in a Cup car with a 13th place finish in the June race at MIS. Ryan Newman (20/1) has picked up a pair of wins in 34 career starts at this track, while finishing outside of the Top 10 on just 10 occasions. He has ticked off 113 laps led in his career, too. Paul Menard (200/1) has outstanding numbers over the past 10 starts at Michigan, picking up four Top 5s, including a fifth-place showing in the June run. You'll definitely want plenty of exposure to Menard in cash games this week, especially since casual players are likely to overlook him.