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Pure Michigan 400 Predictions

Race: Michigan 400
Date: Sunday August 13, 2017
Track: Michigan International Speedway
Time: 3 pm ET
TV: NBCSN

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com

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Watkins Glen proved to be another eventful race, especially for Kyle Busch who took to Twitter to relieve some stress. Trump would be impressed with Buschís ability to use Twitter to incite emotion. He went everywhere on the Twitter emotion scale from praising his fans to insulting Keselowski to insulting the reporters. It was quite the read if I do say so myself. Regardless, we were left with another disappointed Kyle Busch. But if you think about it, Busch should really be pretty proud of himself to come out with a 7th place finish after all of the adversity he faced during the race with the issue of the lug nut on pit road and then the incident with Keselowski. Regardless, he left us in true Kyle fashion, mad at the world. Martin Truex Jr. ended up taking the win after a fuel strategy run paid off in dividends for him. Matt Kenseth, Daniel Suarez, Denny Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five.

Watkins Glen was a challenge for a lot of the drivers, being such a different track than what theyíre typically used to seeing. Itís fun to see some of the other drivers thrive like Allmendinger, Suarez, and Chris Buescher outside of the comfort zone. There are quite a few drivers who need to step up their game whether or not they are in their comfort zones because contracts are ending, even prematurely now. The latest on the chopping block was Kasey Kahne out of the Hendrick garage. Iím not surprised. Matt Kenseth is also searching for a ride in 2018. Maybe heíll end up in the #5 as Kahneís replacement? The thing about it now is that these teams are developing young guns through their own development and diversity programs leaving the veterans scratching their heads sometimes as to what to do next. This weekend, they will be trying to catch the eye of prospective teams as they all head to Michigan for the second race there this season.

Michigan is a big intermediate track. Itís not the typical mile and a half, but rather a 2 mile D-shaped oval. This allows for a little more speed and horsepower considerations when dealing with the setup on the cars for the weekend. This track boasts 18 degrees of banking throughout each turn. The frontstretch is a little less when it comes to banking at 12 degrees and the backstretch is a minor 5 degrees. This configuration allows drivers to reach speeds in excess of 200 mph very easily. This gives you an idea of what the drivers are contending with. Itís just a whole lot of speed here. When it comes down to it, track position is everything. These drivers need to get out front and stay there. When you have a track with this type of speed, itís very easy to create a gap between first and second and even the rest of the field. Long green flag runs typically play into tire wear and fuel considerations as well, but these guys that qualify out front will be the ones to watch and the ones that are hard to catch. Clean air is king at Michigan.

The kings of intermediate tracks are numerous. We have a multitude of names to choose from, including guys like Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth. What Iím thinking, though, is that Martin Truex Jr. is going to consider ending his winless streak at Michigan this weekend. Heís finished third or better in his last four out of five races here. Overall, heís an excellent driver on this track with nothing more than a win keeping him from being elite. Heís going to be the ones that the guys are chasing. I know itís easy to say that as heís coming off a win at Watkins Glen, but this guy has been nothing but hot this season. Heís got a lot going for him and is truly a talent in his own right. Truex. Jr. is really proving that heís a superstar when it comes down to it. Letís take a look at all of your potential winners this weekend in Michigan:

My Pick to Win: Martin Truex Jr.
Middle of the Road Pick: Kyle Larson
Dark Horse Prediction: Jamie McMurray

McMurray has four top 10 finishes in 4 of the last 5 races heís run here. Heís still in contention for a Chase run, but he hasnít had a win since 2013. He desperately needs one to really solidify his position in the Chase. This could be his opportunity despite his pretty hit or miss season thus far. Kyle Larson, on the other hand, is much like Truex Jr. in his stature on the track right now. Heís pretty hot. Larson isnít missing a beat and has been a king on the intermediate speedways. In fact, Larson has won the last 2 Michigan races and finished 3rd in the other Michigan race last year. This kid has this place figured out and will definitely be a force to be reckoned with. Between him and Truex Jr., these points remain tight at the top of the standings. Letís see how we sit heading into this weekendís race.

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Here are your current top 16 after last week's race:

1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Kyle Busch
3. Kyle Larson
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Chase Elliott
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Jimmie Johnson
12. Ryan Blaney
13. Joey Logano
14. Kurt Busch
15. Daniel Suarez
16. Ryan Newman

Look at Daniel Suarez up there in the top 16! The only problem with that is the other 3 drivers outside of the top 16 that have a win and consequently remove 3 drivers who are inside that top 16. As a result, Suarez, Bowyer, and Kenseth are the 3 on the chopping block as we stand right now. In the top of the standings, Kyle Busch has weaseled his way between Larson and Truex Jr., but Truex Jr. also has a significant lead on everyone. Those stage wins are going to come in handy too when the time is right. Stay tuned this weekend as we head into Michigan to see who will prevail as we inch closer to the playoffs of NASCAR!

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