Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:58 PM
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 heads to Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET. Ford has won each of the past two Michigan races, and three of the past six. The race winner has come from a starting position of 12th or better in each of the past seven Michigan races, and 10 of the past 11.
Penske Racing driver Joey Logano (9/1) starts from the pole after a best speed of 187.139 mph in qualifying. He is looking for his third-career win at the track. In 20 Cup starts he has the two wins, five top-5 finishes, 14 top-10 showings and an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 12.5 while leading 357 laps. This is also his fourth-ever pole in the Irish Hills, something sure to make his teammate and Michigan native Brad Keselowski (6/1) just a little bit jealous. The Rochester Hills, Mich. native has the second-best AFP among all drivers with at least five starts at Michigan, posting an 11.9 AFP with six Top 5s and 10 Top 10s, but he is still looking for that elusive victory. Keselowski will go off eighth on Sunday.
The Stewart-Haas Racing drivers each looked good in practice, and Aric Almirola (33/1) carried over the momentum into Saturday, qualifying second right next to Logano. Almirola has 13 career starts at the track, but he has just been so-so in the past. Of course, he has only been in an SHR Ford for the past couple of seasons, and this is easily his best equipment yet, so the past numbers can mostly be avoided. They're not that bad, though, as he has an 18.5 AFP across 13 career starts with just one Top 10, but he is 12th, 11th and seventh over his past three outings in an SHR car, so he could be a nice sleeper.
Kevin Harvick (9/2) is right on his teammate Almirola's heels, starting third after posting a speed of 186.906 mph, giving the manufacturer Ford a 1-2-3 start right down the road from the Motor City. In fact, Ford's make up eight of the first 10 spots in the starting gird. Harvick has won twice before at Michigan, and he has 12 Top 5 finishes with an AFP of 12.1, third-best among all active drivers with at least five career starts at the track. Harvick also leads all drivers over the past five starts at Michigan with a 122.7 Driver Rating, according to NASCAR's Loop Data.
Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (11/1) and Kyle Busch (28/1) are two drivers to watch, too. Larson rattled off three consecutive victories at Michigan from Aug. 2016 to Aug. 2017, but he has a difficult season this year. He could turn things around in a hot hurry with a checkered flag at a place he has been very comfortable, however. In 10 career starts he has the three wins, 150 laps led and a 13.2 AFP. Busch has been a little more consistent this season, and he will be searching for his fourth-career win at the track. He is tied for the most wins among all active drivers with his teammate Larson. In 36 career starts he has 491 laps led, 13 Top 10s and an AFP of 18.6 Larson will go off 22nd, so the potential for plenty of Place-Differential points is there, while Busch will go off from the lucky No. 7 spot.
Of course, it's always a bad idea to discount or forget about the Joe Gibbs Racing team, even if the team didn't practice or qualify particularly well. Denny Hamlin (11/1) is the top Toyota, going off fourth on Sunday. He has 26 career starts with two victories at Michigan and 187 laps led, while posting 12 Top 10 finishes. He also has three DNFs and a 14.4 AFP. Erik Jones (19/1) has been a quick study at Michigan, posting a 11.0 AFP in four Cup starts while never finishing lower than 15th. He starts 14th, second among all JGR drivers right ahead of Kyle Busch (33/1) and Martin Truex Jr. (33/1). Busch has won just once in 28 Cup starts with an 18.4 AFP, not his best track. MTJ is still searching for his first-ever win at Michigan, although he does have a soilid 15.5 AFP in his 26 starts.
Don't sleep on Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott (9/1), a driver who has never finished lower than ninth place at Michigan, posting a 5.3 AFP with 66 laps led. He will go off from the 17th position, so he could be a nice value play to rise through the field.
If you're looking for a sleeper, and who isn't, check out Wood Brothers Racing driver Paul Menard (150/1). He looked good in practice, and was solid in qualifying with a speed of 186.659 mph to notch a spot on the outside of Row 3. He has a respectable 17.8 AFP in 25 career starts, posting five Top 5s and seven Top 10s. Daniel Suarez (40/1) of SHR doesn't have as long of odds as Menard, but he might be the best longshot bet. He led all cars in practice speed on Friday in the first session, and he is set to go off ninth in his Ford after posting a qualifying speed of 186.471 mph. He has a dismal 25.5 AFP in his four career Michigan starts, however, so he is a risky play based on his struggles in the past.