Who to Watch for at Newly Repaved Michigan International Speedway
For the second week in a row, the Sprint Cup Series will be heading to a newly repaved track. Last week was at Pocono Raceway and this weekend they will be at Michigan International Speedway.
Speeds during Thursday’s testing saw four drivers reach average speeds over 200 mph. With top end speeds expected to reach about 220 mph, some have wondered if speeds will be too high. This race at Michigan will be one of the most anticipated races of the year as the fast speeds and new surface should provide plenty of side-by-side racing and excitement.
Let’s take a look at which drivers you should watch this weekend.
Denny Hamlin- Last week I mentioned how Hamlin was probably the driver who wanted the repaving at Pocono the least. He was dominate at that track and didn’t want to lose any of his advantage. The same can be said about Michigan where Hamlin has won the past two June races there. The way Hamlin has performed this year should still make him a contender for the win.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.- With his prolonging winless streak, there will be plenty of mentions this weekend about how Junior’s last win came at Michigan. He had a car that was capable of winning last weekend but he had to pit late to get some fuel for the finish. He has been the most consistent driver this season and seems closer to getting back to victory lane.
Mark Martin- It has been a long time since a part-time driver went to victory lane in Sprint Cup and Martin seems like the driver with the best chance of doing that. Martin has had speed every week he has been behind the wheel of the No. 55 Toyota and is coming off a second-place finish at Pocono. Martin led the early session of the test session at Michigan and should be a threat for the pole and the win this weekend.
Roush-Fenway drivers- In the last 14 Michigan races, the three Roush-Fenway drivers have three of the four best average finishes among all active drivers. The entire organization has been running strong at two mile or mile and a half tracks for the past decade and that should not change this weekend. Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle have been strong all year long especially at the bigger tracks. Carl Edwards has not been running as strong as his teammates this year and needs to start turning his season around starting at Michigan. Edwards leads all active drivers with an average finish of 8.1 and this his arguably his best track. This race will be a strong indicator on how far off Edwards and his team are this season.
The new surface will provide intrigue and high speeds that have not been seen in a long time. Hopefully the track will be able to have two grooves and create passing opportunities. If not, expect track position and pit stops be the key again to winning the race.
Follow me on Twitter @kevin_vanpelt10