After a topsy-turvy blast through another road course, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for a more traditional oval race this weekend.
The FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks one of the final four opportunities for drivers to lock their way into the playoffs, and the unknowns of the 2-mile oval might present higher chances for a new winner.
Catch up on everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s action.
UP TO SPEED
NASCAR Cup Series teams practice on Saturday afternoon (12:35 p.m. ET, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio), with the 37-car field split into Group A and Group B based on NASCAR’s metric formula. Each group will get 15 minutes of practice ahead of qualifying (1:20 p.m. ET, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio).
Qualifying features single-car, single-lap runs for each group. The fastest five in each group will advance to the second round, where those 10 drivers will fight for the Busch Light Pole Award.
STORY LINES FROM THE IRISH HILLS
— Kevin Harvick is on a 65-race winless streak, the second longest of his career. Twenty-one drivers won since Harvick’s last win.
— The good news for Harvick is that he has won three of the past four races at Michigan and four of the last six. With five total wins at Michigan, Harvick is the active leader in wins at Michigan and has finished inside the top two in an astounding 29% of his 41 Michigan starts.
— The longest top-10 finish streak by a driver this year is six races by Ross Chastain and Chase Elliott.
— The longest active top-10 streak is three races by Bubba Wallace, marking his longest top-10 streak and 23XI Racing’s longest top-10 streak.
— Chase Elliott’s 7.7 average finish at Michigan is the best of all drivers and is nearly 3.5 positions better than any other active driver, despite being winless there.
— Kyle Busch finished outside the top 10 in the last seven races, the longest streak of his full-time Cup career.
— Tyler Reddick won two of the last five races. Richard Childress Racing failed to win in the previous 71 races.
— Both Front Row Motorsports cars finished top 10 at the Indy Road Course. That was the third time the organization had two cars finish top 10 in a race; the other two came in the two Talladega races in 2013.
Source: Racing Insights
After a mid-spring tire test around the 2-mile oval, Goodyear will bring new left- and right-side tires to Michigan for this weekend’s activities.
Team Penske’s Joey Logano, 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon circled the track May 31 and June 1, allowing the tire manufacturer to determine the best compounds for the 400-mile event. Heat will be a factor with temperatures forecast in the mid-80s, providing yet another challenge for Goodyear.
“Excessive and sustained heat is the enemy of a race tire,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “When you have a smooth track surface, like the one at Michigan, tires just don’t wear naturally. Heat gets generated the more a tire is run, but on most tracks that heat gets dissipated as the tread wears. At Michigan, as on other low-wear tracks, we design the tire with an appropriately formulated tread compound and minimal tread gage to help control the heat generation, and enable the tire to run at a more optimal performance level.”
— Michigan was built in the late 1960s by Michigan land developer Larry LoPatin and his short-lived racing empire American Raceways Inc. (ARI) that grew to include tracks in Michigan, Atlanta, and Texas.
— Michigan, located on more than 1,400 acres, was designed by Charles Moneypenny, who also designed Daytona International Speedway.
— After ARI went bankrupt in 1973 the track was placed in receivership. Roger Penske purchased the facility. Under Penske’s 25-year ownership, seating capacity grew from 25,000 to over 125,000 and many buildings and facilities were added, making MIS one of the premier tracks on the Cup circuit.
— International Speedway Corporation acquired Michigan in 1999.
— The 2012 repave consisted of removing the top two inches of the existing pavement and placing two lifts of asphalt – each 1½ inches thick – as a leveling course and a final wearing course. About 646,000-square feet of asphalt was removed and another 22,000 tons of new asphalt went in its place. Pit road was repaved in 2011. A laser survey of the existing track surface collected approximately 100 million data points, allowing engineers to replicate the original pavement yet smooth out the dips and bumps. Those data points have shown the race track has variable banking in its 18-degree turns.
— In June 2012 after the repave, 19 drivers time-trialed at more than 200 mph. Forty drivers were faster than the previous record.
Source: Racing Insights
BETTING THE HOUSE?
Despite having a combined one win at Michigan International Speedway, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch enter Sunday’s race as co-favorites at 6-1 odds, according to BetMGM.
Busch scored the duo’s lone victory 11 years ago, leading 60 laps on the way to the 2011 win. But don’t be fooled by the win column — Busch has finished seventh or better in eight of the last nine Michigan races, including each of the last seven. Elliott, on the other hand, remains winless but holds the best average finish of anybody at Michigan at 7.7.
The potential steal of the week is Kevin Harvick, who enters at 22-1 odds. The No. 4 Ford has dominated Michigan in recent years with four wins in the last six Michigan races and 327 laps led in that span.
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 3, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner.
The 2022 Fantasy Live points leaders are Chase Elliott (815), Ryan Blaney (688) and Ross Chastain (681).
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.