Manufacturers Going All In For Michigan, Why Figuring Out Who Will Be Strong Is Difficult

It’s no secret, Michigan has always been a track that holds bragging right within the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage. With the Michigan International Speedway being tucked in between the Irish Hills but close enough to Detroit, it’s a big event for the Chevrolet and Ford teams.

They want to give their manufacturers something to cheer about in their backyard. But, for Toyota, they want to steal a win in hostile territory for them.

The Toyota cars have been feast or famine at Michigan in the past. Kyle Busch has six straight top 10 finishes on the track including being fourth and third respectively in the two annual races last year. But, those are his first top five’s since 2013. Martin Truex Jr. has four top six finishes in his last eight Michigan tries and even led 62 and 57 laps respectively in the two races in 2017, but he only finished 18th and 14th respectively in the two trips last year. Denny Hamlin has was only 12th and eighth respectively last year and has just five top 10 finishes in his last 15 Michigan starts.

Between them, they’ve won nine of the 14 races run in 2019. They’ve been superior to everyone else. Will it remain that way for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)?

If not, then the Ford camp has to be the ones to beat right? They have won four of the remaining five races that the JGR Toyota’s haven’t won and swept both races at Michigan a year ago including taking seven of the top eight finishing positions in June.

Kevin Harvick has six runner-up finishes and two fifth place runs at Michigan since 2013. He also won the August race last year and finished second in the June event. The only thing with him is, he hasn’t finished better than fourth all season.

Then there’s Clint Bowyer. He won this race last year but that was his only top 10 finish since 2014. He does have seven top 10 finishes though in his last nine starts on the season.

Aric Almirola could be good with two top 11 finishes last year. But, over the course of this season, Almirola has just two top 10s in his last seven starts and no top fives since early March. Can he get back on track?

Daniel Suarez is in a Ford now and finished 11th with JGR last August, but his previous three finishes at Michigan were all results outside the top 20.

Team Penske may be the Ford favorites with getting all three of their drivers in the top 10 in both races a year ago. Brad Keselowski also has three wins in 2019 but just two top fives and three top 10’s in his last eight starts on the season. But, at Michigan, the Michigan native has eight top 10’s in his last 10 starts there.

Joey Logano will be good too. The defending Cup Series champion has six top seven finishes in his last seven starts on the season. He also has a top 10 in all but one start at Michigan since he joined Penske in 2013.

Then there’s Ryan Blaney. He finished eighth and fifth respectively last year and has three top eight finishes in his last five Michigan starts. On the season, he hasn’t finished in the top 10 in his last six tries though.

So, what about Chevrolet? They have one win this season but that was on a superspeedway. Their last win before that was Oct. 21 of last year at Kansas.

The Chip Ganassi Racing duo should be strong with Kurt Busch having a top 12 finish in each of his last six Michigan starts including two top sixes last year. He does have eight top 10’s this year but only three of them were in the top five though.

His teammate Kyle Larson had a stretch since 2016 of four straight top three finishes at Michigan with three of those all being wins. In fact, four of his five career Cup Series victories have come on 2-mile tracks. Three of those four came at Michigan. But, last year, Larson only finished 28th and 17th respectively at Michigan. He does have two top eight finishes in his last four starts on the season but six finishes of 18th or worse in his last nine starts on the year too.

What about Hendrick Motorsports? They have had a ton of speed recently but not a ton of success at Michigan lately though.

Chase Elliott is their best option with literally a top 10 finish in all six of his Michigan Cup Series starts. Three of those are runner-ups. On the season, Elliott has five top five finishes in his last five starts.

William Byron finished 13th and 36th at Michigan last year but has three top 10 finishes in his last four starts on the year. Alex Bowman was 16th and 19th respectively himself at Michigan last year but on the season has three runner-ups and a seventh place run in the last five races.

Jimmie Johnson has just one top five at Michigan since 2012 but that was a win. He has two top 10 finishes in his last three starts on the year though.

See how this could be feast or famine?

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