FireKeepers Casino 400
Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway this weekend, and the 2.0-mile, D-shaped oval is known for its high speeds and wide surface. Fast cars can generally get to the front, and while fuel mileage can come into play, Sunday's FireKeepers Casino 400 should be a race where the drivers with the best cars deliver big performances.
In terms of number of laps, Sunday's 200-lap distance puts this race on the shorter end of the spectrum. As a result, the place differential category will see a slight boost in importance, and at a wide track like Michigan, I won't hesitate to roster any quality driver that happens to underperform in qualifying.
Yes, the points in the dominator categories will be somewhat limited, but you can typically count on one driver leading a decent chunk of laps. Over the last three seasons, there have been six drivers who have led 60-plus laps in a race at Michigan, and two drivers have led 100-plus laps in that span. One trend worth noting is that all six of those drivers have started on the front row.
The August race last year was a bit of an anomaly, but drivers starting near the front still had success when it came to leading laps. Five drivers led 20-plus laps, including both of the front row starters, but no driver led more than 41. All five of those drivers started 12th or better.
Needless to say, you need to pay close attention to qualifying, and you are probably going to want plenty of exposure to the drivers starting on the front row. Qualifying is set for Friday at 4:00 p.m. ET, and in the meantime, here is a closer look at the drivers I'll be targeting at DraftKings.
Kyle Larson ($10,200)
I think it's safe to say that Larson has a good feel for the 2.0-mile ovals. He finished third at Michigan last June and led 41 laps on his way to the win here in August. Earlier this year, Larson delivered a dominant performance at the other two-mile track on the schedule, Auto Club Speedway. Larson has to be one of the favorites to win Sunday's race and win the dominator categories at DraftKings.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,000)
The bad luck bug struck Truex at both Michigan races last year, but he was still able to showcase his speed, leading multiple laps in both events. He also led 73 laps at Auto Club Speedway back in March, so he still has plenty of speed at the 2.0-mile ovals. Truex has made a consistent impact in the dominator categories all season, and that should continue this weekend.
Kevin Harvick ($9,900)
Harvick has been piling up Top 5 finishes at Michigan at a ridiculous clip. He has a series-best seven Top 5s in his last eight starts here, including five second-place finishes. In six starts at MIS since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick's 174 laps led are the second most of any driver. He is about as safe of a play as you will find this weekend.
Chase Elliott ($9,400)
To say that Elliott enjoyed a strong debut season at Michigan would be a bit of an understatement. He finished second in each of his first two Cup starts at the track, leading 35 laps in the June race and 31 laps in the August event. He also recorded a combined 68 fastest laps in those two races. Elliott has already proven he can be a force in the dominator categories at MIS.
Joey Logano ($9,200)
He is mired in possibly his worst slump since joining Team Penske, but Logano's numbers at Michigan are too good to ignore. He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he has reeled off eight straight Top 10s here. He has also led a series-best 356 laps here during the streak, leading 20-plus laps in six of the eight races. At the very least, you need to own him in a GPP lineup or two.
Ryan Blaney ($8,700)
You know he will be riding high after his win last weekend at Pocono, and Blaney has been making steady progress at the 2.0-mile tracks. He finished fourth at Michigan last fall, and he picked up a Top 10 at Auto Club Speedway in March. If he qualifies deeper in the field, I won't hesitate to use him in cash games. If he qualifies up front, I'll have some exposure to him in GPPs.
Daniel Suarez ($7,500)
Suarez just keeps getting better the more seat time he gets, and heading into Sunday's race; he has eight straight Top 20s, including four straight Top 15s. He also managed a Top 10 finish at Michigan's sister track, Auto Club Speedway, earlier this year. If Suarez has some upside through place differential after qualifying, I'll be happy to ride the rookie's hot hand.
Clint Bowyer ($6,700)
The 2.0-mile tracks have generally been kind to Bowyer, and even after last year's disaster with HScott Motorsports, he still has seven Top 10s in his last ten starts at Michigan. Meanwhile, he finished third at Auto Club Speedway in March in his first start at a two-mile oval with Stewart-Haas Racing. He will have Top 5 upside Sunday, so he could be the steal of the weekend if he continues his trend of starting in the middle of the pack.
Paul Menard ($6,500)
Michigan has been among his best tracks, and over the last three years, Menard owns a rock solid 10.7 average finish in six starts. He has also been able to exploit the place differential category, gaining an average of 6.8 spots per race in that span. Even last year when he only finished 18th in both races at MIS, Menard finished with a combined place differential of +16. If he starts in the back half of the field, he should be a safe source of cap relief.
Cole Whitt ($4,900)
Whitt's 28.8 average finish over the last six races at Michigan doesn't seem that impressive, but during the same stretch, he has notched an average place differential of +8.9. More importantly, Whitt has started 35th or worse and gained at least eight spots in five of those six races. If he qualifies near the back again this weekend, you can pretty much count on him moving forward a bit and topping 20 fantasy points at DraftKings.