Occasionally practice confirms the opinions of the previews and occasionally it offers an entirely new cast of characters. In recent seasons, momentum has been difficult to maintain on most tracks and Michigan International Speedway has not been exempt.
The Quicken Loans 400 will have a balance of familiar contenders and fresh faces.
One of the fresh faces this week will belong to Kurt Busch. So far this weekend, he has shown strength in every session and dominated a couple. On Friday, he posted the second-fastest single lap in practice, which he backed up by earning the outside pole. On Saturday, he won both practice sessions with a single fast lap of 200.955 mph in the morning and 197.368 mph in Happy Hour when the track was getting hot and slick. He has been a great value in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game recently with an average ranking of 5.5 in terms of points earned during his last six attempts.
No one is ever surprised to see Hendrick Motorsports at the front of the field and they were stout in Saturday morning’s session with the three top times in regard to 10-lap averages. Kasey Kahne led the pack with a speed of 197.383 mph from laps three through 12, while Jimmie Johnson averaged 196.863 mph and Jeff Gordon posted a speed of 196.343 mph in their first 10 laps. Kahne and Johnson also posted fast single laps on Saturday and should be a great value from the drop of the green flag, but Gordon was not as strong in short runs and that could hinder his effort on Sunday.
Carl Edwards leads the field to green and he should begin earning points for laps led and potentially fastest laps from the drop of the rag. He posted the second-fastest single lap in the Saturday morning session and was fifth-fastest in Happy Hour. Once the race settles into a green flag segment, he will be able to protect his position among the leaders because he also posted the sixth-fastest 10-lap average in the morning.
Tony Stewart was one of the favorites at the beginning of the week, but he has some work to do before the Quicken Loans 400. He destroyed his primary car in Friday’s practice session, bobbled on his qualification lap, and rolls off the grid 14th. He was only 17th fastest in Saturday morning’s session and 25th in Happy Hour. He was strong at Michigan last year, however, and this team has a knack for surging late. Unfortunately, he will not earn a lot of points in the first half of the race.