Race: Quicken Loans 400
Date: Sunday June 16, 2013
Track: Michigan International Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Although qualifying was based on points because of a rained out qualifying session (imagine that!), Jimmie Johnson still managed to keep the tradition of starting up front and finishing up front true to its roots by winning on Sunday. Runner-up Greg Biffle conceded that he had nothing for Jimmie and that Jimmie was in a league of his own. Dale Jr. finished up with a nice third place finish while teammate and winner hopeful Jeff Gordon held on for a mediocre 12th place.
Michigan is one of those tracks similar to Pocono in that engine packages are going to be key. Speed is important here as is horsepower, but where you would think that track position is going to be a big deal, it’s really not. Although it’s always important to try and stay up front, this track is just so wide that the drivers have a lot of passing room once they hit momentum coming off the corners and down the straights. Its configuration lends itself to a lot of passing and a lot of opportunity for drivers to side draft past others. This track is a 2 mile oval with 18 degree banking in the turns, 12 degrees on the front stretch and 5 degrees on the backstretch. The frontstretch is a whopping 3600 feet, and the backstretch is 2242 feet.
This weekend, we are heading to a track where Jr. broke his losing streak. It’s also a track where there are a handful of drivers who do really well. Most notably, we are going to look at Denny Hamlin. Interestingly, he stated that he noticed a decrease in horsepower at Pocono. The change in the engine package was a response to Toyota motor issues in the week prior. Although the motors held up, Hamlin felt as though he was held back, as any change in horsepower is going to be hard to account for in any other facet of the car. Despite his woes with horsepower, I think that Hamlin is going to make it work this weekend. He’s got multiple wins at Michigan and seems to have figured this place out. It’s another fast track where speed and track position are key, but I think that the Toyota guys are going to focus on improving those engines once again without compromising horsepower to get their drivers back up front and in contention. Another driver to watch is Greg Biffle. Biffle finished in the runner-up spot at Pocono and seems to be charging to the front in these last few weeks. As another driver with multiple wins here, look for Biffle to be a contender. Here are your potential winners this weekend at Michigan:
My Pick to Win: Denny Hamlin
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Pick: A.J. Allmendinger
Carl Edwards is somehow in 2nd place in the points right now. I feel like he’s snuck up on us even though I know he was there last weekend. Regardless, he’s a good Michigan driver. With a strong engine package and a little bit of patience, watch for Edwards to make his way through the field and march to the front of the pack. A.J. Allmendinger is one of our few choices in that dreaded C list category. Stenhouse Jr. is also on that list, but I see Allmendinger as one to maintain more power and consistency through this track.
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Let’s take a look at your current top 12 in the points after Pocono, as there were some changes:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Carl Edwards
3. Clint Bowyer
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Kyle Busch
10. Paul Menard
11. Jeff Gordon
12. Aric Almirola
I’m still pretty shocked at Almirola’s position within those coveted top 12 spots. Jeff Gordon is still holding on by the hair on his chin. The biggest loser after Pocono was Martin Truex Jr., who fell 5 positions to 14th place. He’s got some work to do this weekend, but Waltrip Racing will undoubtedly be pretty strong at this type of track. Stay tuned this weekend as we head to another fast track and see these guys battle for those top 12 positions in the points!