We are down to the final four races in the regular season. Four very different and unique tracks that could each see a first-time winner this season shake up the playoff picture. Michigan with it’s blazing speed, Bristol with its bumping and banging short-track action, Darlington and the “lady in black” then Indianapolis Motor Speedway where someone will kiss the bricks and roll into the playoffs with momentum.
Last weekend we saw Chase Elliott lead 80 of 90 laps at Watkins Glen and record his second consecutive victory at the New York state roadcourse. Much like last year, he was able to hold of Martin Truex Jr. I admit I was off on Elliott, the 3 DNF’s over the last 7 weeks scared me off paired with his starting from the pole. However, even without Elliott in a short race I was able to cash on several lineups thanks to Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher and the road course sleeper Matt DiBenedetto. With that being said, I’m ready for Michigan and to hit it out of the park this weekend!
When you think of Michigan, one of the first names that comes to mind is Kyle Larson. You can’t help but think of the 42 considering he pulled off three straight wins on the 2-mile track in 2016-’17 using that high-line to his advantage and is due for a win having not won in the Cup Series in well over a year, going winless all of last season and this year as well. Larson however hasn’t been able to score a top 10 at Michigan is his last three tries. Joey Logano was victorious at Michigan for the 3rd time in his career just two months ago when he led 163 of 203 laps. Fading the 22 might be a dangerous game considering he has an impressive 15 top 10’s in 21 tries with a 11.95 career average finish.
A couple of winless drivers at Michigan include last week’s winner Chase Elliott who has an average finish of 7.43 in 7 races with just one finish outside of the top 10. Brad Keselowski, who is from Michigan, has never won at his home track despite some strong results from his teammate and even himself with a career average finish of 11.60 and 11 top 10’s in 20 tries. Kevin Harvick won the second Michigan race last year after a runner-up the first time and scored a top 10 earlier this season. Keep your eye on the No. 4 especially having won his first of the season just a few weeks back in New Hampshire.
Kyle Busch has 5 straight top 5’s at Michigan without a win to show for it, so perhaps he’s due, especially after all the battles he had last week on track at WGI. The No. 18 has the best average finish at Michigan of late at 5.80 over the last 5 races. His brother Kurt was the runner-up back in June to Logano and is tied for the series lead with 3 career wins at Michigan.
-Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick 5/1
-Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski 6/1
-Denny Hamlin 14/1
-Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones 16/1
-Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney 20/1
-Alex Bowman, William Byron, Daniel Suarez 40/1
-Aric Almrirola, Jimmie Johnson 50/1
-Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman 100/1
Michigan DraftKings Picks:
Austin Dillon ($7,100) & Daniel Hemric ($6,400): I’m doing my first two picks in reverse order, as I usually go from highest priced down, but these first two are absolute locks. The pair of RCR teammates posted 7th & 11th qualifying times respectively before their time was disallowed due to a rule violation because they weren’t running fully functioning alternators. The pair both posted top 5 speed’s in opening practice and will roll off 37th & 38th respectively. Absolute chalk when you consider Hemric finished 11th last time here and Austin Dillon ran top 5 last year in this very race. Having this pair leaves you $9,125 on average for the final four spots.
Kevin Harvick ($11,800): You might be tempted to lean Kyle Busch at the top especially with his 22nd place starting spot, but posting 23rd fastest speed in final practice paired with how he had issues on track last week and I’ll lean with the No. 4 car. If he can get in clean air early, we could see a repeat of last year’s Michigan race at this time of year.
Harvick was 3rd in consecutive lap average in final practice and was inside and around the top 5 in speed for all three practice sessions. Pair that with his recent performance and starting position, I will build around Harvick this weekend. That team is locked in and finally won a few weeks back at NHMS, perhaps number two comes on Sunday.
Erik Jones ($8,500): That Jones boy has been on an absolute roll. He will be going for just his second top 10 in six tries at his home track, but you can’t argue with his recent performance and Saturday’s practice results. Jones was fastest in final practice in both speed and lap average and was top 5 in both categories for the opening practice on Saturday. He also starts 16th and is perfectly priced.
Clint Bowyer ($8,700): Bowyer and his team seem to be locked in to what his teammate Harvick has been up to and offers a significantly less price drop. The 14 has a great shot to win scoring a top 10 result in all three practice sessions and was 2nd fastest in final practice for consecutive lap average. Bowyer starts 5th and should collect very important playoff points during this race.
Kyle Larson ($8,300): If there’s a race for Larson to bounce back with a strong performance, Michigan offers that perfect opportunity. He won three straight at this track not too long ago and starts 17th on Sunday. The No. 42 posted top 10 speed in final practice and was top 5 in consecutive lap average. I’ll gladly take Larson at this price.
Alex Bowman ($9,100): Bowman offers a higher price tag than I would normally be willing to swallow, especially starting 4th, but the numbers speak for themselves posting top 5 speeds across the board in Saturday’s practices.
Ryan Newman ($7,900): Newman had been running well of late before scuffling last week and now finds himself outside the playoff picture. In his first run with this team he scored a top 10 at Michigan two months ago and was 11th fastest in speed and lap average in final practice. Newman starts 20th and should easily improve on that starting position.
Michigan Winner Prediction:
Kevin Harvick- I’m rolling with Harvick at Michigan once again. He’s going to be looking to add more playoff points to his total and keep the momentum rolling into the playoffs. The results are there.