The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes to the Irish Hills this weekend for the annual June stop to the Michigan International Speedway. Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the 15th race of the 2019 season as we have just 11 races left of the regular season.
Here are the top five storylines to watch.
Ford’s Eyeing Another Dominating Day
Ford swept both Cup Series races on the 2-mile oval last year with both victories coming from the Stewart-Haas Racing camp. But, through 14 races run in 2019, SHR has yet to find victory lane in a points paying race. Does that change on Sunday?
Last year, Ford’s took seven of the top eight finishing positions in the rain shortened June race. While the Toyota’s have been the class of the field this season, Michigan is a horsepower track. Maybe that bodes well for the Ford’s.
The blue ovals shined in 2018 and maybe that will translate well over to 2019 despite there being a different aero package.
Will SHR Be The Favorites?
As I mentioned above, SHR swept Michigan last year. Clint Bowyer won in the spring race while Kevin Harvick reached victory lane in the summer. They’ve honestly struggled ever since. SHR has been shutout of victory lane in 2019 but maybe that changes this weekend.
Kevin Harvick has six runner-up finishes since 2013 at Michigan including a top two finish in both races last year.
Aric Almirola finished 11th and seventh respectively last year.
Clint Bowyer won this race last season and during a stretch from 2011 through 2014, he had nine straight top 10 finishes.
It’s not fair to compare their fourth driver in Daniel Suarez as he was with Joe Gibbs Racing in all four of his past Michigan Cup Series starts. But, Kurt Busch finished third and sixth respectively in this car last year.
SHR came home 1-2-3 in the June race in 2018. Can they get a win on Sunday?
Watch Out For Team Penske
After getting off to such a strong start to the season, this organization has struggled a bit lately. But, maybe Michigan is the place to where they get back on track as a whole.
Brad Keselowski has eight top 10 finishes in his last 10 Michigan starts. He was sixth and second respectively last year.
Joey Logano has 11 top 10 finishes in 12 Michigan starts – all coming since he joined Penske in 2013. His June race finishes are ninth, ninth, fifth, first, third and seventh respectively.
Then there’s Ryan Blaney. He’s been reeling lately but does have three top eight finishes iin his last five Michigan starts including an eighth place run in this race last year and a fifth place finish in the August race.
As you can see, Penske had all three cars finish in the top 10 in both races last year and are looking to do so again this weekend.
Can Larson Get On Track?
Heading into last season, Kyle Larson was the 2-mile oval king. Four of his five career Cup Series wins came either at Fontana or its sister track in Michigan. Three of those four victories actually came at Michigan in fact.
Can he get back on track this weekend?
Larson, had four straight top three finishes including three consecutive victories in 2016 and 2017. Then, in 2018, he only finished 28th and 13th respectively. This season has been a dismal one for him too. Despite winning the All-Star race a few weeks ago, Larson has just one top five finish this year.
Can he rebound and get back on track this weekend in Michigan?
Chase Elliott Is Due
Chase Elliott is one of the hottest yet quietest drivers on the NASCAR circuit right now. Since his victory at Talladega in April, he’s yet to finish outside of the top five. Now, he heads to a track at Michigan to where he’s never finished outside of the top 10 in his career.
Elliott, started his Michigan career with three consecutive runner-up finishes. He then finished eighth in the August race in 2017. Last year, he came home ninth in both races. Can he get another top five this weekend?