FireKeepers Casino 400 Analysis & Predictions for the 2022 Race

by | Aug 4, 2022 | nascar

Race: FireKeepers Casino 400 Date: Sunday August 7, 2022 Track: Michigan International Speedway Time: 3pm ET Channel: USA

What Did We Learn From Last Weekend?

The Indy road course didn’t end without controversy, but not nearly along the same lines as the last couple of weeks. In fact, it ended with Tyler Reddick winning his second race of the season in just under a month! Reddick won on July 3rd at Road America in Wisconsin and added the Indy road course to his resume of wins this weekend. It seems to be that the guy has a handle on the road courses. It didn’t come without a few tense moments, though. On the next to last restart, Reddick had to outperform 7-time road course winner Chase Elliott. Reddick was out front by a long shot for the previous 15 laps, but when debris from Christopher Bell’s car caused a caution, Reddick was forced to tango with Elliott. That didn’t last long, although Elliott briefly took the lead before, he spun, causing the final restart and the road to overtime that gave Reddick his win. The final restart was another tense one since Reddick had to battle against last year’s winner, AJ Allmendinger who subsequently won the Xfinity race the day before. Unfortunately, Allmendinger was suffering from pretty strong heat exhaustion after his cooling system failed from the beginning of the race. He ended up collapsing when he got out of his car at the end of the race and was taken to the infield care center. Since Allmendinger did not seem to be much of a force there at the end, Reddick was left with Ross Chastain. Depending on how you look at that, it is really not that great of an alternative. Chastain might hit you or might not. Who knows?! He is a wheelman, that is for sure. Despite that fact, Chastain had his own troubles heading into the first turn. He actually used the access road because he said he had nowhere to go after getting four wide across the track and was pretty aggravated to be penalized by NASCAR and pushed back to a finishing spot of 27th when all was said and done. Reddick was able to beat Chastain fair and square regardless and led the entire last lap after getting around Chastain. That’s one thing that is a little gray for me. NASCAR provides the access roads for the drivers to utilize. Clearly, they’re not there to advance position; however, if Chastain was in a position where he could either take out a good portion of the field or use the access road to avoid catastrophe, should NASCAR penalize him for doing so? In my opinion, Chastain should’ve used the access road, maintained his position or given the lead back to Reddick and raced on. To finish in 27th seems a little harsh given the circumstances. That said, it’s not like Chastain is hurting for points or for wins this season. He’ll be just fine. For Reddick, though, this was a pretty momentous win. RCR has been on the struggle bus for quite a while. The team hasn’t had a driver with multiple wins in a season since 2013. They haven’t even had multiple wins in a season with their entire set of teams since 2017. Richard Childress briefly held a smile while celebrating with Reddick; however, Childress still noticeably (and arguably justifiably) holds resentment towards Reddick due to the way that he chose to announce his departure from the RCR organization. With little notice to Childress and the organization, Reddick announced his move to 23XI racing in 2024. It was an announcement 18 months in advance as Reddick is slated to drive for the full season for RCR in 2023. That begin said, maybe Reddick is setting himself up for an earlier move or maybe he just didn’t think through the gracefulness of his departing announcement. Regardless, Childress didn’t take too kindly to it and it wasn’t exactly the most professional way to go about it.

Where Are We Headed This Weekend?

He won’t have much time to worry about that, though, as he heads to Michigan this weekend with his RCR team. Assuming he maintains his position in the #8 car, Reddick will be battling it out on this oval on Sunday to see if he can maintain good graces with the organization. Michigan is another beast due to its size and typical oval configuration. With Reddick showing strength particularly on the road courses lately, this will be a testament to his true skill set. This track is a 2-mile D-shaped oval with 18 degrees of banking in the turns, 12 degrees at the start/finish, and 5 degrees along the backstretch. This track was remarkably faster before the implementation of the next gen cars as well as restrictor plates. Jeff Gordon still holds the track record at over 206mph. That’s no joke. But to be honest, we saw speeds like that at many of the tracks across the circuit until NASCAR deemed it too dangerous to run the cars at those speeds, even still while declining the amount of cars on the track. Needless to say, it’s changed the platform of racing here quite a bit, but there’s still a lot of speed relative to the other tracks since they’ve all seen the same changes made. Michigan is all about track position.

Odds and Value Picks

Because of the high speeds and the length of the track, getting laps back once lost is tough. Catching someone who is multiple seconds ahead is also a feat in and of itself and is difficult to do. It’s easy for the leaders to pull away because of the setups of these cars and also the way that this track lends itself to high speeds but less pack racing than the superspeedways. It’s a high horsepower, low downforce track that has previously led to lackluster finishes. With the new cars this years, it’s possible that racing might be a little more vibrant, but if we listen to the tire testers from this year, that remains to be seen. Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, and Bubba Wallace all tested this track in June and didn’t have much to say other than it was the usual full throttle type of race. There’s not much for multiple grooves either, which means passing will still be difficult unless these Next Gen cars lead to some miraculous advent here. Let’s take a look at your potential winners heading into Michigan this weekend:
  • Winner: Kyle Busch +650
  • Mid-Range Pick: Kevin Harvick +2500
  • Mid-Range: Bubba Wallace +2500
Don’t knock me, here. Bubba Wallace will never be a great NASCAR driver. But that being said, this is why Michigan is where he might do best at. This is a track for good cars. It’s a hold-the-throttle-to-the-floor track where little else is needed other than a strong car. Bubba tested here back in June, too, so that never hurts. Recently, he’s had some of the best finishes of his career. He had a 10th place finish at Pocono and a third at New Hampshire. The point of bringing up his finishes is that his cars are fast. That’s going to be key to winning the race at Michigan. With a fast car, anything will be possible for him on Sunday. Speaking of anything being possible, if Kevin Harvick can break his losing streak of 65 races, it will be at Michigan. He’s got an exceptional record here with the best average finish out of any active driver at 5.1. He’s made some gains here late in the season and might be able to pull off a Hail Mary on Sunday, but he will need to beat Kyle Busch. Busch has several wins at this track. Overall, the JGR garage is very strong here and we should expect to see that entire team in the top 10, assuming they’re not cheating. Even better for Busch will be if he can manage to qualify well. A top qualifying spot with set him up for great track position and a great pit stall, both of which are of top priority here at Michigan. Busch is also looking for some more valuable points and another win or two to make sure he’s solid in the playoff standings. With only 4 races remaining, let’s see how the points are shaping up as the drivers head into Michigan:
  • Chase Elliott
  • Ross Chastain
  • Joey Logano
  • William Byron
  • Ryan Blaney
  • Kyle Larson
  • Martin Truex Jr.
  • Tyler Reddick
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Christopher Bell
  • Kyle Busch
  • Chase Briscoe
  • Kurt Busch
  • Daniel Suarez
  • Austin Cindric
  • Alex Bowman

Kevin Harvick is on the bubble. When I say he’s on the bubble, he’s still 96 points behind Suarez. He’s got some serious making up to do and maybe this weekend is his opportunity. Other than Harvick, Almirola, Jones, and Wallace are on the edge as well. Kurt Busch is in a sticky spot as he heads into Michigan…or doesn’t. As of right now, he isn’t cleared to race because of a previous concussion a couple of weeks ago. That won’t bode well for his playoff hopes as he hasn’t been able to pilot his own ride, especially since he was having some success this summer. Michigan will be a good test for many of these teams as they enter these closing races. Stay tuned as we see the heat turned on as the battle ensues for the playoff hopes of many of these teams!