Editor's note: Brad Parrott, a 19-time winner in NASCAR national series competition, has joined NASCAR.com as a guest writer for the 2014 season. Here is his first-person analysis ahead of Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 (1 p.m. ET, TNT) for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway:
Going into the Irish Hills of Michigan, we're going to see the fastest speeds we've seen all year -- lightning-fast speeds. Michigan International Speedway is just that type of race track since the repave.
The grip is just tremendous and the way the aerodynamics are, the cars in 2014 are just going to be crazy fast. In qualifying, you're probably going to see 20 to 25 cars beat the track record.
Scuffed tires, I still think are going to be key to the track. Pocono last week showed that a lot of teams were putting new sticker tires on for restarts, but it would take two to four laps to get the top speed out of them. It's just going to be the driver who holds the right foot down the longest. There's very little braking because there's so much banking to rely on in the sweeping turns.
It's going to come down to who has the best balance in their race car. The new ride-height rules this year are going to be the key toward achieving that balance. We've gone to Michigan with 100-pound rear springs before, but with the way the rule is now, you're going to have some bigger springs in the car. The car will be low, stiff and not prone to move around. It's going to be all about the tire squash and having the right amount of air in your tires this weekend.
Michigan is often thought of as a fuel-mileage track, but really every race boils down to who saves the most gas. We start saving from the time we crank 'em up on race day until the time the checkered flag falls. Brad Keselowski is one of the best at saving gas, in terms of going down in the corner, cutting his car off and really relying on mileage. Then again, a lot of it depends on how the caution flags play out.
The Hendrick cars are going to be strong, and we'll have to see if Roush Fenway Racing can replay their history of success at Michigan, but really it'll be about how Chevrolet and Ford perform because it's in those manufacturers' backyard.
While Jack Roush's cars have almost always been fast at Michigan, I don't know that I see them coming out on top this weekend based off some of the struggles they've had this year. They just haven't turned the corner and need to find some improvement before we reach the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
In terms of picking a favorite, it's hard to go against any driver who has two wins already this year -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano -- but you also need to throw Keselowski into that mix. I think it's definitely going to help to qualify in the top 10 and start off right for the fast 400 miles.
It'll be an exciting day, hopefully a sunny day and a safe day.