Race: Pure Michigan 400
Date: Sunday August 17, 2014
Track: Michigan International Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Watkins Glen never disappoints! After a very hard fought battle in the closing laps, AJ Allmendinger pulled away with the victory on Sunday afternoon. Marcos Ambrose came in a close and very respectable second place, although he was vying for that win to earn his spot in the Chase. Unfortunately, he admitted that despite his best efforts, he just couldn’t muscle around Allmendinger. Honestly, it was such an awesome win to see. Allmendinger has overcome a lot of adversity, albeit self-induced, over the last couple of years, but he is one heck of a racer and someone who truly puts his all into the sport. When Penske and Childress are waiting in victory lane to congratulate a driver, you’ve done something right!
This weekend, we are going back to the norm of oval tracks and heading to Michigan. This track is big and fast. It’s a place where we see long green flag runs and fuel strategy play a major role in pitting. It’s also a track that a lot of these guys have a chance at winning. This place has a 3600 foot frontstretch and a 2242 foot backstretch. The banking isn’t crazy, but there is 18 degree banking in the turns and 5 degrees on the straights. Ultimately, this place is super fast. Cars easily exceed 200 mph in the blink of an eye.
Because of that speed, guys need track position. If you watched the race in June, you saw that tires really didn’t wear quite as badly as anticipated. Because of that, I think that we are going to see a really big difference in strategies. There is the option to get 2 tires, but if drivers do that, they risk losing time getting fuel. If they choose 4 tires, they are giving up track position. Look for there to be several different pit sequences throughout the race on Sunday.
Being that strategy is the name of the game to hold onto track position, we have to consider what’s really going to bring the drivers to the front of the pack. With the pure speed that this place carries, horsepower is the name of the game. This year has been dominated by 2 particular teams when it comes to that avenue. Hendrick is always on the ball with their motors. Johnson actually came away the winner here in June. This is one of Earnhardt’s best tracks. Teammate Jeff Gordon always nails a top finish here as well. Another group of cars to watch are the Penske teammates of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. This is a home-track for Keselowski and one that he’s seen much success on. Logano just runs great at intermediate tracks. Those 2 guys know how to get their cars to the front at Michigan and will certainly qualify well. That being said, let’s take a look at my picks to win this week:
My Pick to Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Middle of the Road Pick: Ryan Newman
Dark Horse Prediction: Danica Patrick
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Weird, right? I know. This is definitely not the most popular choice in picks, but if you look at track history on top of history this year, it makes sense. Jr. loves this place and really has solid finishes on top of wins here. There are definitely other guys to watch. Other than the ones I mentioned above, look for Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick, in particular, to be a challenge. I really think that Jr. is having a career-year, though, and will be the one to beat on Sunday. Ryan Newman, you ask? He’s finished 4 of his last 6 races in the top 11. That’s a pretty good record for him. He seems to be finally gelling with his team and will be a solid contender. Finally, Danica. We are running low on C list drivers, but she is a good pick for this place. It’s one of her “better” tracks, if you can say that. She should actually be running within the top 20 consistently this weekend. There’s really no reason why she can’t. She seems like she’s becoming more comfortable with the stock cars and improving from week to week. Michigan will put that theory to the test.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Joey Logano
6. Carl Edwards
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Ryan Newman
10. Kyle Larson
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Greg Biffle
13. Kasey Kahne
14. Austin Dillon
15. Kyle Busch
16. Marcos Ambrose
Michigan is going to be a good race as well. While the Glen always brings that excitement, Michigan will be a good track to see where these drivers stand as we near the Chase. There are several guys still vying for wins and for points, including Matt Kenseth. Let’s see what this weekend brings. Stay tuned for a fast-paced Sunday afternoon at Michigan International!