Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

NASCAR at Michigan
June 11, 2007
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

NASCAR’s Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan this week will be where two major streaks collide. Manufacturers at Michigan races are on center stage like no other track in NASCAR. For all the dominance that Chevy has displayed while playing the role of Superman winning 13 of 14 Cup races this season, the Michigan International Speedway has been their Kryptonite for the last 11 races held there.
Jeff Gordon was the last Chevy to win at Michigan in the early race of 2001.
Since then, 5 Dodges and 6 Fords have won in the Motor City.

A few years ago when Dodge came back into NASCAR, all the head honchos from General Motors and Ford kind of high-browed the newcomers. This year they really get to show their full-throttled arrogance. They are surely expected to shun Toyota executives while also cheeky laughing when Toyota once again fails to qualify half of their entries. Picture the scene of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman while attempting to be helped in a Beverly Hills boutique. She was laughed and snickered at while basically being told her size wasn’t available. Unfortunately for Toyota, they don’t have a Richard Gere to save the day. 

Because of the history and skills of one particular driver on wide sweeping 2 mile tracks, a Chevy is not favored to win a race for the first time this season. Matt Kenseth comes in as the top choice to win the race at 9 to 1 followed by a barrage of Chevy's.

Kenseth won on Michigan's sister track at California earlier this season, the only win of the season for Ford. Kenseth has won two seasons in a row at California and has averaged a 7.5 finish position in his 15 career Michigan starts. He's had two career wins at Michigan including the last Cup race held there. Kenseth is likely bringing his best chassis to Michigan as well. Chassis No.RK-317 won at California, finished 2nd at Texas, and hasn't finished worse than 4th in 4 total races this season.

Kenseth's top competitors all come from Chevy led by the Hendrick duo of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon at 10 to 1 each.  Current points leader Gordon, fresh off his Pocono win, has won at Michigan twice in his career and is the only Chevy to win at Michigan in the last 23 races. Gordon finished 2nd to Kenseth in the last race held there.

For all of Jimmie Johnson's success at California it hasn't translated to success at Michigan the way it has for Kenseth and several other drivers. Johnson's best finish at Michigan is a 4th and that is his only top 5 on the track in 10 starts. Overall, Johnson has an average finish of 15.6 at Michigan. Johnson would be a good driver to pick on against lesser drivers in match-ups this week. Because of his overall dominance everywhere, he’ll likely be high priced against anyone. The key is how far you take. Would you take +300 with Brian Vickers over JJ? It may not be enough, but something to play around with if a book does some fiddling.   

Tony Stewart comes in at 10 to 1 with a great Michigan history that includes one win, two 2nds, and two 3rds. Stewart isn’t a driver to mess around with at Michigan. He always has the look of a winner every time out. He still holds the record for coming from the furthest start position to win the race when he started 28th in 2000.

T-Stew’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, may be a driver to go against in this situation. Outside of the COT races, Hamlin has been very ordinary. Of course last week he had the best car at Pocono. In the same scenario last season where Hamlin had the best car at Pocono, then went to Michigan, he came away with a decent 12th. Much of the same can be expected of him this week which is why certain drivers will have great value against him. Hamlin is considered by many as a driver in the upper-echelon and will match him up every week with other considered up and coming or equal. For this race, many are better than him.

The Childress camp may have all 3 drivers finish ahead of Hamlin this week. they figure to be a major contender this week based on how well they were at California. Kevin Harvick comes in at 10 to 1 because chassis No. 174 may have been the best car at California in February. Not only did Harvick get penalized for speeding sending him to the rear, but he got a flat left front tire late in the race while reeling in Matt Kenseth. A little bit of unfortunate luck for Harvick, and true, it is part of the game. But if he rolls with that car again, he’ll be tough to beat and if betting on him hopefully he used up all his bad luck in that car.

Jeff Burton is expected to bring his best chassis to the race, No. 155. Burton has had his best success of the season in that car with a win at Texas, 4th in Atlanta, and 4th on the sister track of California. Burton has had marginal success throughout his career at Michigan. In 26 starts, his best finish is 3rd and has totaled only 4 top 5's. However, this may be the best car Burton has ever brought to Michigan, including all the Roush Ford's he used to drive.

The DEI team led by Dale Eanhardt Jr rebounded last season on the horsepower tracks of California and Michigan after struggling the previous two seasons. Junior's 3rd in this Michigan race last season was a career high finish for him and his only top 5 there. Earlier this season at California both Junior and teammate Martin Truex Jr had fantastic qualifying and practice times, but both quickly ran into engine problems and ended their days 40th and 42nd. Because of the struggles there, odds on Junior are higher than usual at 20 to 1. Truex Jr has actually had his odds from the usual drop to 35 to 1 because he now belongs to the winners club. Based on the way things are going for the DEI team, they look like they have fixed engine issues. Truex Jr has bettered Junior in his last two starts and likely will make it 3 in a row this week. 

The top Dodge contender based on the odds is Kurt Busch at 18 to 1 followed by teammate Ryan Newman at 20 to 1. The Penske teammates have combined to win 3 races over their careers on the track their Boss, Roger Penske, built. The consistent horsepower shown during the race, not just qualifying, has been impressive. They both have a great shot at keeping Chevy winless for the 12 race in a row at Michigan.

It’s a real short list of contenders who can stop Chevy this week, especially when considering some of the decliners we have going for Ford and Dodge. Other than Kenseth, Roush is struggling throughout and then we have Ray Evenham, who could lay claim to being the Original fall-out boy.

Two of the last three Michigan races have been won by an Evernham Dodge. However, 2007 has been a disaster. I don’t remember seeing anyone fall from grace so quickly. It happens in NHRA Drag racing all the time, but not NASCAR. I can still remember them coming to Vegas for pre-season testing where they we’re by far the best team collectively, or at least according to the stop watch. All 3 drivers were smokin’ fast and indicators were positive for the future of the team this season because of similar set-ups being able to be used at several tracks. What we all must have timed was pure and simply qualifying lap times because that has been the only thing they have been able to do well this season. Kasey Kahne is a modest 30 to 1 to win this week. When Kahne won this race last season he came in as the 6 to 1 favorite.

The new kid on the block, Toyota, has one driver expected to have a success this week. Brian Vickers is 60 to 1 to win this week, the lowest odds of all Toyota drivers. His 10th place run at California is an indicator they should be okay for this race. His great run at Charlotte a few weeks ago is an indicator the engine program is getting better on horsepower tracks.

Michigan's 2nd all-time leader in career earnings and a four time race winner Dale Jarrett, now driving a Toyota, is listed with the highest odds of 844 to 1. It is doubtful he will qualify.

TOP 5 Michigan Finish Prediction:

1)       #17 Matt Kenseth (9/1)
2)       #29 Kevin Harvick (10/1)
3)       #24 Jeff Gordon (10/1)
4)       #31 Jeff Burton (11/1)
5)       #20 Tony Stewart (10/1)

Michigan ODDS and ENDS

• There have been 75 Cup races at Michigan International Speedway – two a year since the first race there in 1969, except 1973 which had one.
• Donnie Allison won the first Cup Bud Pole.
• Cale Yarborough won the first Cup race.
• There have been 37 different Bud Pole winners; 18 have won more than one.
• There have been 28 different race winners; 16 have more than one victory.
• Ground-breaking was in September 1967 and the track opened as a 2.0-mile oval in 1968.
• The first NASCAR race was held in 1969.
• All Cup races at Michigan have been scheduled for 400 miles, with the exception of the first two which were 500 and 600 mile events.
• The track was re-measured to 2.04 mile before the second race in 1970 and then back to 2.0 miles in 1972.
• Wood Brothers/JTG Racing has won 11 races at Michigan, two more than any other car owner.
• There have been nine Bud Pole winners in the last 12 races. Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte (two each) are the only repeat Bud Pole winners there since 2000. Qualifying was canceled once.
• The Bud Pole has been swept six times: Bobby Labonte (2003), Bill Elliott (1988 and 1984), Terry Labonte (1983), David Pearson (1978 and 1979).
• There have been 12 different race winners in the last 16 races. Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Dale Jarrett (two each) are the only repeat race winners there since 1998.
• 14 of 75 races have been won by the Bud Pole winner, most recently by Kasey Kahne in this race in 2006.
• The July 2000 race was won from 28th by Tony Stewart, the deepest in the field that a race winner ever started.
• Bill Elliott won four consecutive Michigan races in 1985 and 1986, the longest winning streak in Michigan history.

Michigan Streakers

• Jeff Gordon has started in the top 10 in five of the last six races.
• Kasey Kahne has started in the top five in three of the last four races.
• Ryan Newman has started in the top five in three of the last four races.
• Greg Biffle has five consecutive top-10 finishes.
• Carl Edwards has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races.
• Matt Kenseth has finished in the top 10 in seven of the last eight races.
• Tony Stewart has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races.

Driver Rating at Michigan

Greg Biffle                118.1
Matt Kenseth            111.3
Carl Edwards             109.8
Kurt Busch                100.1
Dale Earnhardt Jr.        99.1
Kasey Kahne               98.8
Mark Martin                 96.5
Tony Stewart               96.4
Jimmie Johnson           95.3
Jeff Gordon                  94.2
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005 and 2006 races (4 total) at Michigan.

Michigan International Speedway Data

Race #: 15 of 36 (6-17-07)
Track Size: 2 miles
• Banking/Corners: 18 degrees
• Banking/Frontstretch: 12 degrees
• Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
• Frontstretch: 3,600 feet
• Backstretch: 2,242 feet

Qualifying/Race Data

2006 pole winner: Kasey Kahne (185.644 mph, 38.784 seconds)
2006 race winner: Kasey Kahne, 118.788 mph, 6-18-06)
Track qualifying record: Ryan Newman (194.232 mph, 37.069 secs., 6-18-05)
Track race record: Dale Jarrett (173.997 mph, 6-13-99)

Estimated Pit Window: Every 40-44 laps, based on fuel mileage

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NASCAR - CITIZENS BANK 400 - Odds to Win

Jimmie Johnson 5-1        

Tony Stewart 5-1        

Jeff Gordon 5-1        

Matt Kenseth 8-1        

Kyle Busch 12-1        

Dale Earnhardt Jr 12-1        

Denny Hamlin 12-1        

Ryan Newman 20-1        

Martin Truex Jr 20-1        

Kasey Kahne 20-1        

Carl Edwards 20-1        

Mark Martin 20-1        

Jeff Burton 20-1        

Kurt Busch 20-1        

Kevin Harvick 20-1        

Clint Bowyer 25-1        

Greg Biffle 25-1        

Casey Mears 30-1        

Field (Any Other Driver) 50-1        

Jamie McMurray 50-1        

Juan Pablo Montoya 60-1        

Ricky Rudd 100-1        

Tony Raines 100-1        

David Gilliland 100-1        

David Ragan 100-1        

Scott Riggs 100-1        

Reed Sorenson 100-1        

Jeff Green 100-1        

JJ Yeley 100-1        

Dave Blaney 100-1        

Joe Nemechek 100-1        

Elliott Sadler 100-1        

Bobby Labonte 100-1        

David Stremme     100-1        

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If You Don’t Win The Pole, You May Want to Start Fourth at MIS
Jun 12, 2007

Michigan International Speedway has hosted a NASCAR race in June every year since 1969. In the one year that MIS hosted one NASCAR race – 1973 – the race took place in June. The Citizens Bank 400 will be the 76th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at MIS.

… The pole position has been the most productive starting position at MIS in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition, producing 15 race winners in 75 total races. Kasey Kahne’s victory in last June’s 3M Performance 400 came from the pole.

… If you don’t win the pole, you may want to start fourth at MIS. Since NASCAR’s top series began racing at MIS in 1969, 12 drivers have won races starting from the fourth position. The most recent winner from the fourth spot was Ryan Newman in the June 2004 NEXTEL Cup event. Nine drivers have won from the No. 3 position and just eight drivers have won from the second starting spot in MIS history.

… Since the Citizens Bank 400 has been a NASCAR Father’s Day tradition for years, it’s only appropriate to talk about historical father/son combinations. Richard and Kyle Petty ran together on Father’s Day eight times, the first of which was June 15, 1980 as Richard finished fifth and Kyle finished behind his dad in seventh place. Richard and Kyle have competed in the June race at MIS on 12 different occasions, with Kyle finishing higher than Dad six out of the 12 times. In August of 2000, Dale Earnhardt and his sons Kerry and Dale Jr. all drove in the Cup race at MIS, which was the first and only time all three competed together in a NASCAR event.

… The winner of the June event at MIS has gone on to win the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship seven times since the track’s first NASCAR race in 1969. The list includes Richard Petty (1974), Cale Yarborough (1977, 1978), Dale Earnhardt (1987, 1990), Dale Jarrett (1999), and most recently, Jeff Gordon in 2001 when he passed Ricky Rudd on the last lap to win.

… Don’t look for one car make to dominate the Citizens Bank 400. In the backyard of the automotive capital of the world, no manufacturer has swept the top-five finishing positions in the June race at MIS.

… Recently, Ford and Dodge have combined to win the last 11 NEXTEL Cup races at MIS. Ford has taken six checkered flags and Dodge five since June 2001, when Jeff Gordon won with a Chevrolet. Sterling Marlin’s August victory in 2001 at MIS was the first time a Dodge won a Cup event since 1977.

… Last year, Reed Sorenson became just the second NEXTEL Cup rookie in the past 10 years to record top-10 finishes in both Cup races at MIS in the same season. He finished fifth in June and eighth in August. Kasey Kahne also accomplished the feat in 2004 (2nd in June, 5th in August).

… Juan Pablo Montoya will be making his first career start in a stock car at MIS, but he is no stranger to victory lane at the two-mile oval. Montoya took the checkered flag in a 2000 CART race at MIS. He also holds a second place finish at MIS in his only other start at the track in 1999.

… Ricky Rudd will return to MIS in 2007 after not competing at the two-mile oval last season. Rudd holds MIS records for most career starts (58) and miles completed (20,420), which he will look to add to in the Citizens Bank 400. The next closer active driver to eclipsing both records is Kyle Petty (51 starts, 18,646 miles), who is running a partial schedule in 2007.

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The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 12 at Michigan International Speedway
Jun 11, 2007

Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating

1 Jeff Gordon 28 4 2 15 19 3 10.000 94.2

2 Matt Kenseth 15 0 2 6 10 0 7.933 111.3

3 Denny Hamlin 2 0 0 0 1 0 10.500 88.6

4 Jimmie Johnson 10 0 0 1 4 1 15.600 95.3

5 Jeff Burton 26 2 0 4 8 1 15.769 70.1

6 Tony Stewart 16 0 1 7 10 3 13.688 96.4

7 Carl Edwards 5 0 0 3 4 0 8.600 109.8

8 Clint Bowyer 2 0 0 0 0 1 36.000 63.7

9 Kevin Harvick 12 0 0 2 4 1 16.833 72.6

10 Kyle Busch 4 0 0 0 1 1 26.250 82.3

11 Martin Truex, Jr 2 0 0 0 0 0 23.000 75.0

12 Mark Martin 42 0 4 16 27 5 11.952 96.5

Selected Driver Highlights


Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford)

• Two wins, four top fives, six top 10s

• 9.625 average finish

• Series-best Average Running Position of 6.527,

• Series-best Driver Rating of 118.1

• Series-high 65 Fastest Laps Run

• Fastest Green Flag Speed

• Series-high 680 Laps in the Top 15

• 188 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), second-most

• Fastest Speed in Traffic – speed when there is another car within one car length under green

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)

• One win, five top 10s

• 19.917 average finish

• Average Running Position of 12.758, ninth-best

• Driver Rating of 100.1, fourth-best

• 50 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most

• 534 Laps in the Top 15, sixth-most

• 160 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet)

• One top five, four top 10s

• 18.4 average finish

• Average Running Position of 11.250, fourth-best

• Driver Rating of 99.1, fifth-best

• 45 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most

• Fifth-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 486 Laps in the Top 15

• 176 Quality Passes, third-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford)

• Three top fives, four top 10s

• 8.6 average finish

• Average Running Position of 10.208, second-best

• Driver Rating of 109.8, third-best

• 55 Fastest Laps Run, tied for second-most

• Second-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 626 Laps in the Top 15, second-most

• Series-high 210 Quality Passes

• Second-fastest Speed in Traffic

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)

• Two wins, 15 top fives, 19 top 10s; four poles

• 10.0 average finish

• Average Running Position of 13.454, 10th-best

• Driver Rating of 94.2, 10th-best

• 44 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most

• 445 Laps in the Top 15, 10th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)

• One top five, four top 10s

• 15.6 average finish

• Average Running Position of 11.256, fifth-most

• Driver Rating of 95.3, ninth-best

• 280 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most

• Sixth-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 546 Laps in the Top 15, fifth-most

• 163 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)

• One win, four top 10s; one pole

• 9.833 average finish

• Average Running Position of 12.750, eighth-best

• Driver Rating of 98.8, sixth-best

• 55 Fastest Laps Run, tied for second-most

• 298 Green Flag Passes, third-most

• Fourth-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 166 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford)

• Two wins, six top fives, 10 top 10s

• 7.933 average finish

• Average Running Position of 10.208, third-best

• Driver Rating of 111.3, second-best

• 35 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most

• Third-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 607 Laps in the Top 15, third-most

Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet)

• One win, seven top fives, 10 top 10s

• 13.688 average finish

• Driver Rating of 96.4, eighth-best

• 37 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most

• Ninth-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 511 Laps in the Top 15, seventh-most

At Michigan International Speedway:

• There have been 75 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway – two a year since the first race there in 1969, except 1973 which had one.

• Donnie Allison won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Bud Pole.

• Cale Yarborough won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race.

• There have been 37 different Bud Pole winners; 18 have won more than one.

• There have been 28 different race winners; 16 have more than one victory.

• Ground-breaking was in September 1967 and the track opened as a 2.0-mile oval in 1968.

• The first NASCAR race was held in 1969.

• All NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races at Michigan have been scheduled for 400 miles, with the exception of the first two which were 500- and 600-mile events, respectively.

• The track was re-measured to 2.04 mile before the second race in 1970 and then back to 2.0 miles in 1972.

• Wood Brothers/JTG Racing has won 11 races at Michigan – two more than any other car owner.

• There have been nine Bud Pole winners in the last 12 races. Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte (two each) are the only repeat Bud Pole winners there since 2000. Qualifying was canceled once.

• The Bud Pole has been swept six times: Bobby Labonte (2003), Bill Elliott (1988 and 1984), Terry Labonte (1983), David Pearson (1978 and 1979).

• There have been 12 different race winners in the last 16 races. Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Dale Jarrett (two each) are the only repeat race winners there since 1998.

• 14 of 75 races have been won by the Bud Pole winner, most recently by Kasey Kahne in this race in 2006.

• The July 2000 race was won from 28th by Tony Stewart – the deepest in the field that a race winner ever started.

• Bill Elliott won four consecutive Michigan races in 1985 and 1986, the longest winning streak in Michigan history.

• There have been 93 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races in Michigan.

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Chevrolet Has Not Won A NASCAR Race at Michigan International Speedway Since 2001

Jun 11, 2007

Fords, Dodges and Toyotas may have a chance at redemption this Sunday…finally.

Chevrolet has visited Victory Lane in 12 consecutive races, and has won 13 of the 14 races this season.

Only the Ford of Matt Kenseth has won a race this year, at California Speedway.

But that dominance could come to end this weekend – if past history is any indication.

A Chevy has not won a race at Michigan International Speedway – the site of this Sunday’s Citizens Bank 400 – since this race in 2001 (Jeff Gordon). That’s a span of 11 races.

The drought is by far the longest for Chevrolet at any track on the circuit. The second longest drought? California and Homestead-Miami Speedway – Chevrolet has gone three races since its last win at each.

Though Kasey Kahne won the rain-shortened event last year, it has mostly been the Roush Fenway Racing show at Michigan.

Kenseth won the second Michigan race last season and Biffle won once each in 2005 and 2006. And though Carl Edwards has yet to win at Michigan, he does have three top-five finishes, including a runner-up finish at this race last year.

In the Loop Data statistics, Biffle, Kenseth and Edwards rank 1-2-3 in Driver Rating.

If a Chevy driver does end the slide this weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. might be the one to shoulder the load.

Last season, Earnhardt notched two top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish in this race.

Michigan Active Streaks

• Jeff Gordon has started in the top 10 in five of the last six races.

• Kasey Kahne has started in the top five in three of the last four races.

• Ryan Newman has started in the top five in three of the last four races.

• Greg Biffle has five consecutive top-10 finishes.

• Carl Edwards has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races.

• Matt Kenseth has finished in the top 10 in seven of the last eight races.

• Tony Stewart has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races.

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RacingOne Power Rankings

Driver Ratings

The latest edition of the RacingOne NEXTEL Cup Series Power Rankings as the series heads to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's Citizens Bank 400, which features NASCAR's comprehensive statistical ratings system using a detailed formula to calculate each driver's performance.

1. Jeff Gordon - If we needed more evidence that this looked like one of those years for Gordon, Pocono was it.

Michigan Finishing Average: 10.0
Michigan Wins: 2

2. Jimmie Johnson - Hope Tony Stewart didn't see all that debris coming off of Johnson's car at Pocono because obviously NASCAR didn't or what else would be the explanation for a caution not being thrown?

Michigan Finishing Average: 15.6
Michigan Wins: 0

3. Tony Stewart - Nothing flashy just good solid runs every week.

Michigan Finishing Average: 13.7
Michigan Wins: 1

4. Denny Hamlin - Team shot itself in the foot again with the decision to take four tires Sunday with rain looming.

Michigan Finishing Average: 10.5
Michigan Wins: 0

5. Matt Kenseth - Shhh, hear that? Sneaky quiet Kenseth is now second in the standings.

Michigan Finishing Average: 7.9
Michigan Wins: 2

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Does he finish the year in the No. 8 or takeover the No. 5 at Hendrick the rest of the way?

Michigan Finishing Average: 18.4
Michigan Wins: 0

7. Kurt Busch - Team owner Penske still stands behind Busch but for how much longer?

Michigan Finishing Average: 19.9
Michigan Wins: 1

8. Mark Martin
- Regan Smith in the "Chase" anyone?

Michigan Finishing Average: 12.0
Michigan Wins: 4

9. Kyle Busch - If Rick Hendrick really does fire him, he will be the ultimate "Busch Whacker."

Michigan Finishing Average: 26.2
Michigan Wins: 0

10. Jeff Burton - Needs to get some life back in the program after weeks of mediocre runs.

Michigan Finishing Average: 15.8
Michigan Wins: 0

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Citizens Bank 400 PreQ    
       
There has been just one race won this season by a car other than a Chevrolet and that was when Matt Kenseth brought his Ford Fusion to victory at California Speedway in the second event of the season. Kenseth is looking to break Chevy’s dominance this weekend at Michigan International Speedway – a track very, very similar to California. Kenseth runs very well at Michigan posting a pair of wins, including a win in the last race at the track, 10 top 10s in 15 career starts for an average finish of 8th place. While Ford may be lacking in general this season Kenseth has been the cream of the crop sitting in 2nd position in the point standings. Look for a strong run out of the #17 DeWalt Ford crew this weekend in the Citizens Bank 400.

We, as well as most racing sources, have been saying that Denny Hamlin is going to win the (insert race here) this weekend. Hamlin once again had the dominant car at Pocono last weekend before the great pit strategy and rain gave the #24 DuPont Chevrolet team the win. Hamlin was once again disappointed but his day will come – and soon. He has a great chance of making it to victory lane this weekend as well as he has run well in two career starts as Michigan average a 10th place finish. He is also one of the top high-banked superspeedway drivers in the series averaging a 14th place finish in his last 23 starts. Hamlin is “due” for a win – keep him in your lineup.

The other driver that has been coming on as of late is Carl Edwards. He has posted five consecutive top 15 finishes with a pair of top 5s in there as he sits 7th in the point standings. Edwards is just as desperate as Hamlin to make it to victory lane as he has now gone over 50 starts without a win. This after making the trip to victory lane four times in his “rookie” season (Edwards was ineligible for a Rookie of the Year due to making 13 starts in 2004. The 2005 season was his first full season in the series). He should be able to contend for the win at Michigan.

Kyle Busch could be looking for a new ride as there are rumors that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be signing with Hendrick Motorsports and assume the driving duties of the #5 car in 2008. Busch, may, then step down sooner rather than later once a ride does open up. One of the reasons Rick Hendrick may be willing to allow the talented youngster to leave is his inconsistency. One race he will post a solid run – the next wreck. Michigan is a track where he has shown to be very inconsistent. In four career starts he has a pair of top 15 finishes to go with a 39th and 43rd place finish for an average finish of 26th place. He could once again have problems at Michigan especially with other things on his mind.

One of the hottest drivers in the last few races has been Martin Truex Jr. He posted his first career win at Dover and had a car good enough to win at Pocono before settling for a 3rd place finish thanks to the rain. Things might be so promising at Michigan however as Truex Jr. struggled in a pair of starts as a rookie last season. He averaged a 23rd place finish with his best finish being 16th place. He has clearly improved since that time and is averaging an 18th place finish on high-banked superspeedways with 5 top 10s in 21 starts but it might be a little much to ask for yet another top 5 finish out of the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet.

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Citizens Bank 400 Driver Stats    
       
As the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series prepares for its 15th event of the 2007 season, standings leader Jeff Gordon shows no signs of slowing. In fact, he’s steamrolling. Gordon captured his fourth win last Sunday at Pocono Raceway, using a combination of guts, guile and instinct on the part of crew chief Steve Letarte. Together, they kept a car beset with brake problems out front in the rain-shortened event, and now head into Sunday’s Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway with a clear dose of momentum as Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson lead the series with four wins each. Gordon also has two wins at Michigan, along with four Bud Poles, 15 top 5 and 19 top 10 finishes. He finished eighth in last year’s June event and second last August. Ryan Newman is also on the move and recent performances reflect it. Last Sunday’s finish at Pocono was his second consecutive runner-up effort, and he also has three consecutive Bud Poles. Newman challenged eventual winner Jeff Gordon before last Sunday’s race was called due to rain, has five top 10s in his last six races while climbing from 18th in the standings to 13th over the past three weeks. He’s only 22 points out of 12th – the cutoff spot for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Newman excels at Michigan, where he has two wins and one Bud Pole.

As a team owner, Jack Roush has been to Victory Lane nine times at Michigan International Speedway, second all-time to the Wood Brothers’ 11 wins at the two-mile oval. If there was ever a time when his Roush Fenway Racing teams were looking for a repeat performance, then this Father’s Day weekend certainly fits the bill. Two members of the Roush Fenway team – Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle – have each won twice at Michigan. Kenseth also has six top fives and 10 top 10 showings at Michigan, while Biffle has four top 5 and six top 10 finishes, in addition to his two wins. “It's just a fun track,” Kenseth said. “You move around and try to find a groove that works for your car, and there's always a lot of passing there and I think it's always an exciting race.” Kenseth has moved up to second in the standings and has been a model of consistency thus far in 2007, with 10 top 10s, six top fives and one win (at California). “I feel really good about where we're at,” Kenseth said. “Obviously we're in a nice position in points and halfway through I think on the way to the Chase. I feel pretty comfortable where we're at in the points, and we're just working really hard to get our cars better for the end of the year when it really counts.”

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Matt McLaughlin's Driver Handicaps: Michigan Edition

2007 Michigan “1” Driver Handicaps

Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won two Cup races at Michigan, but the most recent of them was back in 2001. While he’s typically run well here (fifteen Top 5 finishes in 28 starts), for the last four or five years Gordon has struggled at times in the Irish Hills. However, he did rebound nicely here last August with a second place run.

Matt Kenseth – Kenseth won at Michigan in 2002 and again here last fall. He’s managed Top 10 finishes in ten of the fifteen Cup races he’s run here, recording Top 10s in seven of his last eight starts at this track.

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin finished twelfth and ninth here last year in his only two Michigan Cup starts. He failed to lead a lap in either event.

Jimmie Johnson – This track hasn’t been very good to Johnson. He has managed just one Top 5 finish in ten Cup starts here. His average finish is about sixteenth in those ten races.

Jeff Burton – Burton has never won at Michigan and has just four Top 5 finishes in 26 Cup races he’s run here. His average finish at this track is about sixteenth.

Carl Edwards – Edwards finished second in this race last year and has Top 10 finishes in four of his five Michigan Cup starts.

Tony Stewart – Stewart won here back in 2000 and has Top 10 finishes in ten of his sixteen Cup starts at Michigan. However, he crashed out of this race last year and finished 41st.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer appears to have struggled here as a rookie last year, recording two finishes outside the Top 30. However, he led six laps and had a possible Top 5 until his engine blew last August.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick finished second at Michigan in 2003, but that was one of just two Top 5 and four Top 10 finishes he’s managed here in twelve starts. His average Michigan Cup finish is about seventeenth.

Kyle Busch – Busch has struggled here, with an average finish of 26th in four Cup starts.

Mark Martin – In 42 career Michigan Cup starts, Mark Martin has won four times and posted 27 Top 10 finishes. His average finish over those 42 races is twelfth. In nine Michigan Busch starts, Martin won twice and never finished worse than eleventh.

Martin Truex, Jr. – Truex finished sixteenth and thirtieth here last year. That won’t get it done.

Jamie McMurray – While McMurray finished fourth here in 2004, his overall average finish in eight Michigan Cup starts is 21st.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – This is an odd track for Earnhardt. He has one Top 5 and four Top 10 finishes in fifteen Cup starts here. Last year, when he punted Carl Edwards out of the way to win a Busch race, fans actually booed him.

Ryan Newman – Newman won here back in 2003 and 2004, but since then the Rocket’s come back to earth. In the four races after that last victory, he finished between twelfth and fifteenth before sliding back to a 25th place result here last August.

Bobby Labonte – Labonte has won at Michigan three times and scored Top 10 finishes in fifteen of his 29 Cup starts here. As of late, though, he’s been slipping, with just two Top 10 finishes in the last twelve races.

Kurt Busch – Busch won here in 2003, but that was his only Top 5 finish in twelve Michigan Cup starts. His five Top 10 finishes in those twelve races are offset by four DNFs. Oh, and after one Michigan race, Busch decided to get in Jimmy Spencer’s face and wound up with a punch to the yap for his impertinence.

Greg Biffle – Biffle won here in 2004 and 2005 and has Top 10 finishes in the last five Michigan Cup races. He’s also scored two Truck Series wins here.

J.J. Yeley – Michigan was rough for Yeley last year with finishes of 37th and 40th. He didn’t even finish the race in August after a wreck three quarters of the way through the event.

Elliott Sadler – Sadler scored his third Top 10 finish in sixteen Michigan starts last August.

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Fantasy Picks 'N' Pans: Citizens Bank 400
Cami Starr and Mike Neff

Unless you’re a Jeff Gordon fan, the fact that last week’s race was cut short by rain most likely dampened your spirits. While you may have been shortchanged out of seeing a full 400 miles of racing, the impact of the rain may or may not have been a bad thing for your fantasy race team. Anytime a race is cut short, there is always the chance that the final standings will look like the field was inverted, with the good guys in the back and a bunch of lucky drivers – with would be meteorologists for crewmen – up front. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but the current forecast shows a chance for isolated thunderstorms and hot temps for Michigan this Sunday, leaving the possibility once again for your team to be basking in the glow of victory or drowning in a puddle filled with disappointment.

Which drivers will help you escape another weather weekend of doom in the Irish Hills of Michigan? Let’s find out in this week’s Picks ‘N’ Pans:

Cami’s Race Rewind:

Kasey Kahne continued his streak of wins from the pole with his victory in the rain-shortened 3M Performance 400 at Michigan last season. Kahne arguably had one of the strongest cars of the race, fighting back from going a lap down on lap 46 after pitting for an overheating problem caused by a hot dog wrapper to regain the lead on lap 117. While time on pit road could have easily cost him the win, it was a strong stop by the No. 9 team that helped seal the victory. Kahne edged out Carl Edwards by mere feet during the final stop of the day, putting him in prime position when the rains came and forced NASCAR to call the race on lap 129. Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Greg Biffle and Reed Sorenson rounded out the Top 5.

Mike’s Keys to the Race:

Michigan is the sister track to California. It is a wide, two-mile oval with multiple racing grooves that allow drivers to pick a line that will allow their car to work when they are experiencing different handling characteristics. It also allows drivers the opportunity to pass in different grooves and, thanks to that, offers some great racing. Even though the track is two miles in length, it is considered an intermediate track and the teams to look for this week are the ones that normally run well on those tracks. Obviously, Hendrick Motorsports is a lead candidate since they are the dominant team this year, and Jimmie Johnson should be right at the top of that list. The other team to consider is Roush-Fenway Racing. Michigan has been their own personal playground in the past, and Matt Kenseth won at Fontana earlier this year for the only non-Chevrolet win of the season. Dodges have also had reasonable success at this facility, winning four of the last ten races at the track (the other six events have been won by Fords).

Mike’s Picks:

Crank ‘Em Up:


Carl Edwards has been on a winless streak in Cup that is starting to get as much coverage as Paris Hilton. However, the team is running better as of late and the promise of a win seems to be looking more and more realistic every week. Edwards was sixth at Las Vegas and seventh at Atlanta earlier this year. With the success that Roush-Fenway has had at Michigan in years past, expect Edwards to be near the front this weekend.

Tony Stewart is heading into his favorite season of the year: summer. When the temperature climbs and the tracks get slick, Stewart begins to come to the front. In 2005, Stewart started his torrid summer run to the title with a second place finish at Michigan. Look for him to do something similar this weekend.

Sit ‘Em Down:

Elliott Sadler drives for Ray Evernham, which means sitting him on a regular basis this year is a good idea. Even though Dodge has won at Michigan as recently as last year in this race with Kasey Kahne, the Evernham teams are out in left field right now when it comes to being competitive. On top of that, Sadler’s average finish at Michigan is 22.9, and he only has three Top 10 finishes in 16 career starts. Don’t expect the No. 19 to get out of the doldrums this weekend.

Reed Sorenson has the best average finish of any active driver in the Cup series at Michigan. He has raced there twice, finishing fifth and eighth and averaging a 6th place finish. For once, though, it is time to go against the averages and sit Sorenson this weekend. Aside from a fuel-strategy boosted fourth place finish at Charlotte, Sorenson hasn’t been better than 15th since Atlanta and has four finishes of 40th or worse this year.

Roll The Dice:

Ryan Newman is starting to look like he can do more than just qualify, as strong runs at Dover and Pocono are setting the groundwork for a run towards the Chase this year. Newman has also won at Michigan in the past, helping boost a career average finish there of 14.8. Factor in Dodge’s recent success at this track, and this could be the weekend for the first Dodge victory of the year. If it happens, it’ll likely be Newman taking the checkered flag.

Cami’s Picks:

Crank ‘Em Up:


When it comes to long, possible fuel mileage races, Matt Kenseth’s name often comes to mind. For one reason or another, these types of tracks suit Kenseth’s style, and it shows in his record at MIS; he is a two-time winner with ten Top 10 finishes in his career here. In fact, Kenseth has never finished outside the Top 15 in the 15 races he’s run there. Plus, he’s coming off a win at Michigan’s sister track at Fontana earlier this season. All of these are good signs to put Kenseth on your team this week.

Don’t let Jimmie Johnson’s 42nd place finish at Dover scare you off. Following a week of bad luck, Johnson more often than not goes on a hot streak. Following his last poor finish at Texas when he finished 38th, he rattled off four straight Top 5 finishes. Johnson isn’t a slouch at Michigan, either; while he’s yet to visit Victory Lane there, he does have four Top 10 finishes and was third at Fontana earlier this season. Look for Johnson to rebound this weekend.

Sit ‘Em Down:

It wasn’t that long ago that people were commenting on how it seemed Jamie McMurray had finally turned things around. But racing is a finicky business, and it’s seemed that McMurray’s tide has reversed. It’s been five weeks since he’s seen the Top 10 and he has three finishes of 24th or worse in that span. Looking at McMurray’s stats at Michigan, this isn’t a place he’s likely to get healthy. With just one Top 5 finish in eight starts, he has an average finish of 20.5 and was a disappointing 37th at Fontana in February.

J.J. Yeley did come away with a strong second place run at Charlotte a few weeks ago, but has yet to do anything with the momentum he should have gotten from that race. He suffered one of his worst finishes of the year the next week at Dover (37th) and went back to his mediocre ways last week at Pocono (17th). Yeley did manage a 13th-place finish at Fontana earlier in the year, but at Michigan, he’s never finished higher than 37th.

Roll the Dice:

Greg Biffle’s up and down 2007 season should take an upswing this weekend as the series heads to Michigan. It’s no secret that Biffle has been struggling this year, and it’s true he hasn’t had enough time to gel with new crew chief Greg Erwin; but look for him to overcome those woes this weekend. In only eight starts at MIS, Biffle has two wins and five straight Top 10 finishes. Barring some mechanical failure, if Biffle can’t pull out a good run at Michigan, there really is something wrong.

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NASCAR FanHouse Power Rankings: Michigan

1. Ryan Newman - Michigan is a track that's wide open and smooth -- both of which will put the strong Penske power in victory lane.

2. Jeff Gordon - He's got something to prove now that that Junior character is going to be hanging around the shop. Like making it 5 wins this season.

3. Matt Kenseth - Ford will do better at MIS, but Kenseth should have the upper hand. He won at the sister to this place at California in February.

4. Carl Edwards - Improving every week it seems, it's time to shave that hauler driver's beard. And apparently, metal detecting has become a hobby of Edwards. Needless to say, boy needs to win a race.

5. Jimmie Johnson - Face it, you can't ever count him out.

6. Kevin Harvick - He would have started the season 2-2 if not for a blown tire at California. The car should be good this weekend, too.

7. Tony Stewart - He ran third at MIS last fall and is past winner. He just fits in somewhere.

8. Greg Biffle - Two top-10s last season at MIS should get Biffle's season back on track with a nice run.

9. Denny Hamlin - I'm tired of the excuses from this bunch. Put up or shut up.

10. Mark Martin - Every time he races it seems he's near the front. He's had a decent history at MIS.

Wildcard - Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Dude had a big announcement this week: will that hurt or help his current team?

Longshot - Kasey Kahne - Evernham is rumored to bringing the 2006 nose for Michigan. Last year's winner could make some noise just in time for Detroit to care.

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: Michigan

This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the Citizens Bank 400. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 200-lap event.

Who's HOT at Michigan

# Mark Martin has four victories and 27 top 10's in 42 career starts.
# Greg Biffle's average driver rating of 118.1 leads all drivers.
# Two-time winner Matt Kenseth has only finished outside of the top 15 once in 15 starts.
# Jeff Gordon has the best finishing average (11.9) among all drivers that have entered every race since 1998.
# Kasey Kahne, who is the defending race winner, has finished in the top five in four of his six starts.
# Carl Edwards has led a combined 74 laps in the last three races and has posted four top-10 finishes.

Keep an Eye on at Michigan

* Kevin Harvick will race the same car that was in contention for the win at California before a flat tire forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop.
* Reed Sorenson leads all drivers with a 6.5 average finish at Michigan.
* Tony Stewart has finished ninth or better in seven of the last nine Michigan races.
* Jimmie Johnson will return in the same car that finished third at California in February.
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. is coming off his best Michigan finishes of third and sixth.
* Ryan Newman will look took continue his recent hot streak driving the same chassis that won the pole at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
* Martin Truex Jr. has an average finish of 8.2 in his last five starts in 2007.

Track Performers

Jeff Gordon leads all active full-time drivers with five wins and 1,313 laps led on 2-mile speedways. Carl Edwards, who has made 11 starts, holds the best finishing average on 2-mile tracks at 8.6. Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin are second and third in finishing average, respectively, at 9.1 and 10.0. Mark Martin leads all drivers with 34 top 10s and Gordon leads all active full-time drivers with six poles. Part-time driver Bill Elliott, who will make his fourth start of the season with the Woods Brothers, is the leader in wins and poles with seven a piece.

Michigan Rookie Report


Paul Menard is the only Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate that has made a NEXTEL Cup start at Michigan International Speedway. Last year, Menard started 36th and finished 20th in the August race. Both Menard and David Reutimann are the only rookies that have raced in the Busch Series at MIS, each scoring a best sixth-place finish. David Ragan, who was the top finishing rookie at California, raced in the Truck Series at MIS along with Reutimann. Rookie Standings

Qualifying Tidbits

In the last 14 events at Michigan International Speedway there have been three drivers - Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon - that have won multiple poles. Both Labonte and Gordon are tied for the lead among active full-time drivers with four poles each. Ryan Newman is the current qualifying record holder with his June 2005 lap of 194.232 mph. Last year in this event, Kasey Kahne became the 15th driver at MIS to win from the pole. Earlier this season, Gordon captured his seventh pole on a 2-mile speedway after taking the top spot at California Speedway with a lap of 185.735 mph. Kahne, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five qualifiers in the Fontana event.

Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

1. Jeff Gordon
(Points: 2249): Gordon has two wins, four poles, 15 top fives and 19 top-10 finishes in 28 starts at Michigan International Speedway. His four Bud Poles is currently tied with Bobby Labonte for the active full-time driver lead. Gordon is first among active full-time drivers in laps led, with 856. Last year in this event, Gordon started second and led 50 laps en route to an eighth-place finish. In August he finished second.

2. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -242): Kenseth has competed in 15 races at Michigan International Speedway. He has two wins, 10 top 10s, including six-straight from 2002-2005, and has led 150 laps at MIS. Kenseth's win last August lowered his finishing average to 7.9, which is the best among all drivers with three or more starts. He will be racing the same car (chassis RK-323) that led 87 laps last year at MIS en route to the win. This car most recently raced last month at Lowe's Motor Speedway where it finished 12th.

3. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -247): Hamlin finished 12th and ninth, respectively, in 2006 at Michigan International Speedway. He will be driving a new car (chassis No. 183) when he makes his third career start at MIS.

4. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -305): Johnson posted his best finish (fourth) in 10 races at Michigan International Speedway in the June event in 2004. In the August race that same season, Johnson started from the pole - after rain washed out qualifying - but his day ended after 81 laps when the engine expired in the Lowe's Chevrolet placing him 40th, his worst finish and only DNF at MIS. In the 2003 August race, Johnson led 50 of his track total 83 laps. Johnson, who finished sixth and 13th, respectively, in 2006, will be behind the wheel of the same chassis (No. 339) that finished third at California in February.

5. Jeff Burton
(Points Behind: -421): Burton has captured eight top-10 finishes in 26 starts at Michigan International Speedway, all coming with Roush Racing from 1996-2004. In his five Michigan track starts with Richard Childress Racing, Burton has finished 12th, 11th, 26th, 11th and 42nd, respectively. The 42nd-place finish came when the No. 31 Chevrolet lost an engine on the 17th lap after starting from the pole position. This weekend he will race the same chassis (No. 155) that won the Texas race in April.

6. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -516): Last August, Stewart scored his seventh top-five finish at Michigan International Speedway when he finished third. Stewart's 41st-place finish in this event last year marked his third - first since 2000 - DNF at MIS. His lone win at Michigan came in the 2000 June race. This weekend Stewart will race chassis No. 120 for the seventh time in 2007. This car's best finish came at Atlanta when it placed second.

7. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -539): Edwards has finished in the top 10 in four of his five starts at Michigan International Speedway. Edwards' runner-up finish in this event last year is currently his best-to-date. Edwards, who has led a combined 74 laps in the last three MIS races, will drive chassis No. RK-272 in his 100th NEXTEL Cup Series start. This is the same car that finished 15th last month at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

8. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -590): Bowyer's 36.0 average finish is hampered by an accident not of his doing in this event last year and an engine failure in the August race. He was running third with three laps to go when the engine failed in the No. 07 relegating him to a 33rd-place finish. This weekend he will look to turn around his Michigan luck driving the same car (chassis No. 152) that finished sixth in March at Atlanta.

9. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -601): Harvick's best finish at Michigan International Speedway was second in the 2003 August race. The finish came after leading 46 laps. It was the second time in Harvick's career he led laps at MIS. The other time came in the summer prior when he held the lead for 42 circuits en route to a third-place finish. Harvick's only other top-10 finishes came in his first track start in 2001 and in this event last year - both 10th-place finishes. He will race chassis No. 174 for third time in 2007. This is the same car Harvick raced at California where it was in contention for the win before a flat tire forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop.

10. Kyle Busch
(Points Behind: -636): Busch started 17th and finished ninth in his first career NEXTEL Cup start at Michigan International Speedway. In the second race that same year, he started fourth and led 28 laps before the car overheated and fell out of the race on lap 81. Busch finished 14th and 29th, respectively, and led a combined 12 laps last year at Michigan. This weekend he will race the same car (chassis No. 394) that finished ninth at California in February.

11. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -652): Truex finished 16th and 30th, respectively, in 2006 at Michigan International Speedway. This weekend he will look to continue his climb up the NEXTEL Cup point standings by returning in the same car (chassis No. 053) that finished third at Pocono last weekend.

12. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -663): Martin finished fifth in his last Michigan race with Roush Racing last August. The finish marked his 16th top finish in 42 career starts. Martin's last of four victories at Michigan came in this event back in 1998. He has led 24 races at MIS for a total of 882 laps. This weekend will be Martin's first start at MIS in a Chevrolet.

13. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -685): Newman has yet to score a top 10 finish in his five starts at Michigan International Speedway since winning this event in 2004. He has started ninth or better in eight of his 11 races at MIS, including a pole in the 2005 June race. His starting average took a hit last June after he had a tire go down on his qualifying attempt. He started 42nd. Newman will looks took continue his recent hot streak driving chassis PRS-071. This is the same car that won the pole before losing an engine early in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(Points Behind: -718): Earnhardt Jr. has finished inside the top 10 four times at Michigan International Speedway, most recently last year when he placed third and sixth, respectively. Michigan is the only track where Junior has earned multiple poles (August races in 2000 and 2002). He will race the same car (chassis No. 039) that most recently finished eighth at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

15. Jamie McMurray
(Points Behind: -762): McMurray posted his only top-10 finish (fourth) at Michigan International Speedway in the 2004 August race, driving the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi. Last year he finished 23rd and 17th, respectively, in his first track starts with Roush Fenway Racing. McMurray will race a brand new car (chassis No. RK-273) that was built just a couple weeks ago.

16. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -795): Busch has one win (June 15, 2003) at Michigan International Speedway in 12 starts. Last year in this event, Busch made his first start at MIS with Penske Racing and finished ninth for his fifth top 10 at the track. In his first two track starts in 2001, he got off to a rough start finishing last for two of his four DNFs at Michigan. Busch, who has led eight races at MIS for 196 laps, will race the same car (chassis No. PRS-081) that finished eighth last November at Texas.

17. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -803): Labonte has three wins and 15 top-10 finishes at Michigan International Speedway in 29 starts. Last year, Labonte finished 28th and 19th, respectively, in his first starts at MIS with Petty Enterprises.

18. J.J. Yeley (Points Behind: -824): Yeley will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 138) that he captured his career best NEXTEL Cup finish (second) with at Lowe's Motor Speedway as he looks to improve his 38.5 average finish at Michigan International Speedway.

19. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -837): In eight career races, Biffle has five finishes of seventh or better at Michigan International Speedway, including two consecutive wins starting with the 2004 August race. He will be driving the same car (chassis No. RK-431) that finished 15th at California in February.

20. Elliott Sadler
(Points Behind: -882): Last August, Sadler finished 10th at Michigan International Speedway in his first career start with Evernham Motorsports. He scored his best MIS finish (fifth) in the 2004 June event driving for Robert Yates Racing. In 2004, Sadler led in both races for a combined total of 21 laps - the last time he led at MIS.

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Ready for Michigan

Tony Stewart has a very good track record at Michigan International Speedway.

Michigan International Speedway is a big, smooth track that offers lots of room for racing. For much of the race, the drivers are racing the track more than each other—they try to find the better line, then adjust, adjust, adjust to get that perfect set-up for the charge to the end. This often creates a race with few cautions that rewards those with the best fuel mileage in the final stretch.

At this point in the game, there is no sure way to predict 1) if there will be many cautions in the second half of the race or 2) who will have the best gas mileage. That makes things a little dicey for fantasy owners. Just two races ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway, many owners saw what could happen to their fantasy racing points when things boil down to fuel mileage. The one good thing, however, is it opens the door for the sleeper picks.

Favorites

Whether the race comes down to fuel mileage or not, it is hard to win if a driver is not in the right position. What better place to be than in the front? The Roush-Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing teams are the best at doing just that at Michigan and the sister two-mile, unrestricted intermediate California Speedway. However, no fantasy owner will want to count out any of the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets given their current dominance.

Matt Kenseth rarely misses the setup on a two-mile unrestricted, intermediate speedway. For his career at Michigan, he rarely finishes outside the top 10 and he has two victories on this smooth track. His 13th in the rain-shortened 2006 Michigan 400 snapped a six-race top 10 streak there, but he rebounded to pick up the August victory and then also won the February race at California. Equally impressive, Kenseth has finished on the lead lap in all but a single event at Michigan, and to finish first, a driver must first finish.

When Tony Stewart finds the right rhythm at a track, he puts up great numbers. Such is the case at Michigan. It took him only three starts to earn his first win there, and entering Sunday's race, he has seven top-10s in his last nine tries. He picked up a third there in August after being wrecked in the June event. He picked up where he left off earlier this year with an eighth at California on a track that is very similar in layout.

Dark Horses

At a track like Michigan, the dark horses take on a whole new level of importance. On this course, mediocre cars can get out front late in the race by a variety of means. Sometimes it is courtesy of pit strategy and other times it is by fuel mileage, which helped Jeremy Mayfield get to victory lane in 2005. Last year, rain and a fast pit stop helped Reed Sorenson make a charge at the win, though he eventually settled for fifth.

Momentum can carry a driver a long way in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. Over the last six races, few are hotter than Ryan Newman. He has two runner-up finishes in a row after sitting on the pole at both Dover International Speedway and Pocono Raceway. In addition, he earned a fourth at Darlington Speedway and top-10s at Richmond International Raceway and Talladega SuperSpeedway earlier this year. Newman has not had a top-10 at Michigan since he won two consecutive races there between 2003 and 2004, but he has four top-20s in his five most recent starts. He will get back into the top 10 there this week and if circumstances fall his way, he could be the surprising victor.

In just his first career start for Team Red Bull, Brian Vickers raced hard at California and earned a well-deserved top-10, which was the first for Toyota. While the No. 83 Camry is by no means a guaranteed contender anywhere, the team has gotten better in recent weeks. Vickers is more consistently making races these days and was fifth just last month in the 1.5-mile unrestricted, intermediate speedway of Lowe's Motor Speedway. He likely will make Sunday's field and has a shot to crack the top 10.

Avoidance

While Jack Roush definitely knows how to field solid entries at Michigan—three of the last five races have been won by a Roushketeer—some of his teams are questionable this week. With momentum meaning so much in the Nextel Cup Series, there are two of Roush's drivers who need to be left off the rosters.

Greg Biffle can give any fantasy owner five reasons to put him on the roster this week. He won there in both August 2004 and June 2005 and has since earned three consecutive top-10s. However, potential owners heard a similar story before he raced at California, a track he dominated in 2006. This year, he was mediocre at best and never led a lap. That inconsistency is what makes him a tough decision for Sunday's race. Unless his practice numbers indicate otherwise, leave him parked.

Jamie McMurray's team and his history of success at California will make him appealing to some fantasy owners. Keep in mind that he has only one career top-10 at Michigan, and he earned that fourth-place finish almost three years ago driving the No. 42 Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing.

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Michigan: In the loop

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 13, 2007) -- The end is near for the Chevrolet win streak. Maybe.

First take a look at the torrid pace Chevy has set this season:
- 13 Wins
- 7 Poles
- 96.7 Average Driver Rating
- 3,502 Laps Led
- 2,620 Fastest Laps Run

After Jeff Gordon's win at Pocono Raceway, Chevy's winning streak has reached 12 races. But if past history is any indication, it'll be an unlucky 13 for Chevrolet.

Michigan International Raceway has not been kind to Chevy in recent years. The manufacturer is mired in an 11-race winless drought at MIS, the longest for Chevy at any track on the circuit.

Instead, Fords and Dodges have consistently parked in Victory Lane.

The Roush Fenway Racing stable has especially good numbers. Three Roush Fenway drivers in particular have excelled at the Brooklyn track. Below are some key Loop Data numbers and rankings of Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards -- the three drivers who have had the most success at MIS over the past two years:

Greg Biffle
Driver Rating: 118.1 (1st)
Avg. Running Pos.: 6.527 (1st)
Fastest Laps Run: 65 (1st)
Laps in the Top 15: 680 (1st)
*Quality Passes: 188 (2nd)

Matt Kenseth
Driver Rating: 111.3 (1st)
Avg. Running Pos.: 10.208 (3rd)
Fastest Laps Run: 35 (8th)
Laps in the Top 15: 607 (3rd)
*Quality Passes: 144 (9th)

Carl Edwards
Driver Rating: 109.8 (2ndt)
Avg. Running Pos.: 7.970 (3rd)
Fastest Laps Run: 55 (T2nd)
Laps in the Top 15: 626 (2nd)
*Quality Passes: 210 (1st)

* -- Quality Passes are passes of cars in the top 15 while under green flag conditions.

Matt Kenseth won the last race at Michigan, in August. Kasey Kahne, who has fallen into a slump of his own, is the defending champion of this race.

Kahne, and his fellow Dodge drivers, have also performed well at MIS. Along with Kahne, these Dodge drivers have picked up wins at Michigan during Chevy's drought: Jeremy Mayfield (now in a Toyota), Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Sterling Marlin (now in a Chevy).

Two Dodge drivers in particular to watch for are Busch and second-year driver Reed Sorenson. Both have impressive Loop Data numbers and have fared well at MIS over the last two years:

Kurt Busch
Driver Rating: 100.1 (4th)
Avg. Running Pos.: 12.758 (9th)
Fastest Laps Run: 50 (4th)
Laps in the Top 15: 534 (6th)
Quality Passes: 160 (6th)

Reed Sorenson
Driver Rating: 94.0 (11th)
Avg. Running Pos.: 12.544 (7th)
Laps in the Top 15: 246 (6th*)
Quality Passes: 77 (9th*)

* -- Ranks for Sorenson are in terms of average for Laps in the Top 15 and Quality Passes since he has run just two races in the past two years.

That's not to say Chevrolet has run poorly at Michigan. They've run into some tough luck over the past two years.

Clearly, Chevrolets have proven formidable at MIS despite not winning. Stewart has the second-best single-race Driver Rating over the past two years at MIS. He earned the rating in the first Michigan race in 2005, which resulted in a second-place finish to Biffle. He also earned the best Average Running Position at MIS over the past two years at that race.

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Can Kahne Come Back?

BROOKLYN, Mich. - The midwest is going through a mini-drought, which will no doubt mean rain this weekend since the NEXTEL Cup Series is in town.

But the dry spell is nothing compared to what Kasey Kahne is going through.

After leading the series with six wins last season, Kahne is winless through the first 14 races of 2007.

Kahne has been so far off, he not only doesn't have a win yet, he's only managed a single top ten finish.

That's a long way off from being picked by many as a pre-season favorite to win the NEXTEL Cup championship this year.

"We need to gain points and get back in the top 30 or top 20 and not have to worry about anything else than running well," said Kahne, who comes into Michigan this weekend 28th in the standings. "That's where more of the pressure is."

While Kahne spent most of last season in the top ten in the standings, he'll have to put on an amazing run in the second half of the regular season to have any chance at all of making the "Chase."

"We'll keep working hard, keep working as a team," Kahne said about the pressure he's under at this stage of the season. "Nobody has got mad at me. I haven't got mad at them. We're just all trying to work together and make things right. When it happens we'll be strong."

Hopefully for Kahne, Michigan will be the cure.

In six career NEXTEL Cup starts at MIS, Kahne has an average finishing position of about ninth.

"I’ve always run good at Michigan," he said. "I have a win, a second and four top-five finishes there. It has been a good track for us, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to be where we want to be."

"Everybody is working hard to get our Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge competitive each week. It’s easy to get a step behind in Nextel Cup racing. It’s difficult to get it back. Kenny (Francis, the team director) and the team have made a lot of progress in the last few weeks to get us back to that level where we are running up front. We’ll get there."

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Yeley breaks Newman's pole win streak
June 15th, 2007

Brooklyn, MI (Sports Network) - J.J. Yeley captured the pole for Sunday's Citizens Bank 400 at the Michigan International Speedway, ending Ryan Newman's three-race pole win streak. The No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet driver circled the fast two-mile oval in 38.399 seconds (187.505 m.p.h.).

The pole victory was the first of Yeley's Nextel Cup career.

"This is awesome," said Yeley. "We needed this."

It was also just 0.001 seconds faster than runner-up 2006 Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson was also looking for his first pole of the season, but he owns nine career poles.

"That would have been my quota for the year," said Johnson, who has nine career pole wins in six years of "Cup" racing.

Kyle Busch (38.538), the soon-to-be free agent after this week's Hendrick Motorsports signing of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Newman (38.586) will make up row two.

Series points leader Jeff Gordon will start sixth.

Other drivers of note and their starting positions: Denny Hamlin (7th), Martin Truex Jr. (8th), Jeff Burton (9th), Carl Edwards (12th), Mark Martin (15th), Earnhardt Jr. (23rd), Matt Kenseth (26th) and Tony Stewart (41st).

Michael Waltrip will race for the second time in three weeks. The improving No.55 NAPA Toyota team was 18th quickest.

"We're going to get this thing straightened out," said a smiling Waltrip.

With 14 races completed and 12 to go until the "Chase" begins, the race for the final spots in the playoffs couldn't be much closer.

Martin currently holds down the 12th and final position, but he has consistently said he will not change his part-time schedule to make the "Chase." That makes Newman the "de facto" holder of the final spot.

Newman has been on a roll of late, winning three consecutive poles and finishing second at both Dover and Pocono. He is 685 points behind Gordon.

Behind Newman is Earnhardt Jr. (-33) and Jamie McMurray (-77).

Drivers holding the ninth through 11 positions are also not a "lock" and will be points racing over these final dozen races. Kevin Harvick in ninth, is just 117 points ahead of "Junior." Kyle Busch and the suddenly formidable Truex Jr. have even less of a hold on their "Chase" positions.

The race for the "Chase" should be great summer fare. It starts this weekend at MIS.

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Newman to No. 1 with a bullet in Motown
FOX Sports

The Penske Racing South cars are outperforming the other Dodges, week in and week out.

If the caution had flown 50 feet later at Pocono, Ryan Newman may have notched his first win since 2005. You could see the frustration on his wife Krissie's face on top of his pit box. I wouldn't be surprised to see her husband get his third win at Michigan International Speedway.

Who to Watch

# Ryan Newman: Getting frustrated with back-to-back runner-up finishes, you've got to believe that frustration will fuel his determination to pick up the car, put it on his shoulders and bring it home first. Look for him to be strong.

# Kasey Kahne: We may have an opportunity to see a resurgence from Evernham Motorsports. The defending race winner, Kahne has been waiting for this kind of racetrack to have a good run.

# Carl Edwards: Showing some flashes along the way, Edwards didn't finish up the way he wanted to at Pocono, but Michigan could be a good track for him. With the focus on engineering and aero, this track plays to crew chief Bob Osborne's expertise.

# Jeff Gordon: You can't rule out any of the Hendrick cars, whether it's Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears or Kyle Busch. All of them have the ability to win, and Gordon was the last Chevrolet to go to Michigan's victory lane in 2001.

# Denny Hamlin: I feel about the same way about Joe Gibbs Racing as I do Hendrick Motorsports. Hamlin and Tony Stewart are running really well. Notching a win for Chevrolet — which has only won twice at Michigan in the last 11 years — would be huge at the closest Cup track to Motor City.

Who not to watch

Toyota is going to struggle because they have a little bit more engine work to do. If you do something to help the bottom-end, it can hurt top-end power. You've got to have the right kind of combination of bottom-end torque along with the ability to run at the end of the straightaway. It's got to keep pulling. While Toyota won its first Craftsman Truck race at this track, this engine doesn't perform like a truck engine. The Toyota teams probably wil have their hands full this weekend.

What to Watch

# May the sideforce be with you: Drivers need great sideforce so when they are working through the turns, they won't get loose at over 200 mph. Therein lies the challenge, but therein also lies the fun at this racetrack. It's big and sweeping, and if the drivers get their cars working well, they can run on the bottom and let it drift up. Or they can run high around the top. It's a racer's racetrack.

# Pit window closes, opens pit road for mistakes: At one time, you could get by on three green-flag stops at lap 50, 100 and 150. With this year's smaller fuel cell, everbody understands the cars won't go quite as far. The smaller cell will back up the race as much as 10 laps so it's going to force teams to make an extra pit stop. As usual, crews and drivers can't beat themselves on pit road, like Mark Martin did at Pocono when he passed his pit stall. It took them out of a shot at a win, but a 7th-place finish was a great recovery.

# What a drag: Drivers are running similar speeds to the ones they run at Daytona, but Michigan doesn't have the forgiving banking of the World Center of Racing so you've got to have a car with really solid drag numbers.

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Wins will come for solid No. 12 team
Larry McReynolds

Penske Racing South has been working very hard on their aero package, trying to find the right balance with the new Dodge Charger nose. But just because it's exactly what Ryan Newman is looking for doesn't mean Kurt Busch will get in the same car and like it so Newman's setup can't help all Dodge teams with their setup struggles this year.

The No. 12 team is carrying the banner for everybody that's not a Chevrolet. Newman and crew chief Mike Nelson are complimenting each other well, and they have a similar demeanor and mentality. They are also very solid on pit road. Newman certainly had the premium pit selection at Dover because he won the pole, earning him the first pick. But I don't think the No. 12 crew ever lost the fight off of pit road under caution. They won the Nextel All-Star Pit Crew Challenge, too. They're very close to breaking down the gates to victory lane. When they get one win, we may see them win several races.

If you compare their first eight races (avg. finish 25.5) to their last six (avg. finish 10.3), it's almost like the whole team, driver and car have changed. For a while, they couldn't qualify or race well, and then they would sit on the pole but would fall like a rock. Finally, both things are working right now. They're qualifying and racing well right now.

Who to Watch

# Ryan Newman: Based on past performance at Michigan with two wins and four top-five finishes in 11 starts but more importantly his runner-up finished in the last two races, Newman should be a dominant factor.

# Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth: Michigan never has been a Chevrolet track. The Bowtie Brigade hasn't won there since Jeff Gordon went to victory lane in 2001. Jack Roush puts pressure on himself to win at Ford's home facility so his drivers should run very well. Edwards has three top-5 finishes and four top-10s in five starts. Kenseth has two wins and 10 top-10 finishes in 15 starts.

# Kyle Busch: After Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s announcement that he will be going to Hendrick Motorsports, Busch will be a man on a mission. Don't be surprised if he wins a few more races this year. I'd be surprised if he doesn't win again in 2007 because he wants to prove Rick Hendrick made the wrong decision.

# Casey Mears and Martin Truex Jr.: Notching their first wins and top-5 finishes in two of the last three races, Mears and Truex Jr. are running on momentum right now so they'll run well.

# Joe Gibbs Racing: While it's not a Chevy track, all of the Chevrolets should perform well there because they've won all but won race this season, including 12 consecutive victories.

What to Watch

# Pocono package will work: Michigan, like Pocono, contains every element of the competition side of our sport. You've got to have a better aero package this week. You've got to have good mechanical grip and a good handling package. With long green runs, you're going to be on the track for 35 to 40 laps on tires. Some teams may carry their Pocono cars straight to Michigan. If your car handled well and had good balance at Pocono, you're probably going to be fine at Michigan.

# No brakes, aggressive setup: The only element we had at Pocono that will not exist at Michigan is brakes because teams won't use a lot of brake at Michigan, which is actually fairly smooth so you can get pretty aggressive with shocks and coil-binding in the front.

# Importance of horsepower: You've got to have solid bottom-end torque to pull you off of the corners but good top-end power as well because the RPM doesn't fall too low.

# Playing games with fuel, tires: Strategy will probably play a role, whether it's something that someone does with tires or whether it comes down to fuel mileage, which Michigan has been won and lost on many times.

# Toyota turnarond? In the second race of the year at Michigan's sister track, California Speedway, Brian Vickers ran awfully well, earning Toyota's first top-10 finish in Nextel Cup. Fontana has a little less banking than Michigan (14 percent to 18 percent). Is Toyota ready to win a race and go to victory lane? I don't know if I can ring the bell and say that's true, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some Toyotas perform well there, knowing how far they've come with a lot of things since that second race of the season. Dale Jarrett certainly knows how to win there with four victories.

# Making manufacturers happy Whether you run a Dodge, a Chevrolet, a Ford or a Toyota, you want to win anywhere you go. It doesn't matter if it's Martinsville, Richmond, Loudon or Sonoma. But there's a little bit more pressure to win at Brooklyn, Mich., just an hour south of Detroit, the home of Chevy, Dodge and Ford. Many of the manufacturer's executives were there on race day when I was with a strongly-supported Ford team, Robert Yates Racing, from 1991-1996 and a strongly-supported Chevrolet team, Richard Childress Racing, from 1997 to 2000.

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Edwards stays atop Michigan practice chart
SCENEDAILY.COM

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Carl Edwards, who paced the morning practice at Michigan International Speedway, matched the feat in the afternoon session, turning a lap of 184.800 mph.

Jimmie Johnson was second-fastest during the final practice of the weekend, with a speed of 184.672 mph. Clint Bowyer - who was the only driver in the top five in all three weekend practice sessions - was third, followed by Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick.

Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler swapped sheet metal midway through the session. Both drivers lost practice time, but their crews repaired the damage to their cars.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. scraped the wall early in the session, but his crew repaired the cosmetic damage and he continued, posting the 36th-fastest lap.

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Re: Citizens Bank 400 News and Notes

Green Flag: Citizens Bank 400

Carl Edwards may very well be the best of the Roush group this week.

The Irish Hills will be smiling on someone this week, but fantasy owners will have a tough time deciding on whom. Unlike tracks such as Bristol Motor Speedway or the restrictor-plate SuperSpeedways, Michigan International Speedway is not a wildcard track because of its "Big One" crashes. The racing is so smooth and wide that there are not that many wrecks in the course of an afternoon in Brooklyn. This week, fantasy owners will have to worry about which drivers have the best fuel mileage.

Michigan's set-up is both the beautiful and frustrating aspects of the racetrack. The best cars can get out front and stay there in Brooklyn without too much fear of being caught in a wreck. The problem is that there are few caution flags because the racing is so smooth. Those long green flag runs mean green flag pit stops and few cars on the lead lap. In the end, the best car and driver do not always win. The best part for owners is that a track like Michigan opens up the dark horse options.

Tier One

Matt Kenseth always bring his "A-game" to Michigan and California. He had his best run of the season at Fontana, earning his only win this year in convincing fashion in February. Accompanied with his first at Michigan last August, that gives him back-to-back wins on the two-mile unrestricted, intermediate speedways. He enters Brooklyn with seven top-10s in the last eight races there and he has never finished lower than 17th in the Irish Hills.

Tony Stewart will be a factor in Sunday's win. He will have some tough competition to get to victory lane, but he will be up to the challenge. "Smoke" won there in just his third career start and has accumulated 10 top-10s in his Michigan racing career. In his last five outings there, he has three top-fives and a ninth. He was eighth at California earlier this year and is currently on a hot streak with six finishes of eighth or better in the last eight races.

Carl Edwards will start 12th on Sunday, making him the best qualifier for Roush-Fenway Racing. So far in his career, he has great numbers on the two-mile unrestricted, intermediate speedways. In five starts in the Irish hills, he has four top-10s, three of which were inside the top five. At the sister track of California, his 21st in February was his only finish lower than sixth there. He has been hot lately with four consecutive top-20s.

Tier Two

Ryan Newman has back-to-back second-place finishes, which gives him a whole new level of confidence that he has not had in years. If he had a few more laps at Pocono Raceway, he likely would have gone to victory lane. Be that as it may, he is ready to crack open the bottle of champagne in the winner's circle. Newman won consecutive races at Michigan in August 2003 and June 2004, the latter of which was a fuel-mileage race, showing that he knows how to conserve gasoline. Since then, he has not had another top-10 there, but he does have four straight top-20s.

First-time winners are all the buzz lately after Martin Truex Jr. and Casey Mears have been to victory lane in the past month. That should give J.J. Yeley a little extra bounce in his step. While he did not finish better than 37th at Michigan last year, he does have three consecutive top-20s at the sister track of California, including an eighth in February 2006. Joe Gibbs Racing has a winning reputation to uphold at Michigan and Yeley is out to do just that after his pole-winning run on Friday.

Greg Biffle would appear to be a logical choice for Michigan. He has two wins and five consecutive top-10s there entering this weekend's race. The problem is that he has been very inconsistent for more than a year now. Week in and week out, Biffle goes to tracks with great numbers on his side. More times than not, he has disappointed his fantasy owners. That shows in his lone top-10 since April. Unless his practice numbers are outstanding, leave him parked this week.

Tier Three

Jeff Burton has never won at Michigan, but he has been consistent. Since 1996, there have only been three times when he failed to record a top-20 result. The only problem for fantasy owners is that he has not had a top-10 there since he was fourth in August 2002 and he has not yet picked up a top-10 at Michigan while driving the No. 31 Chevrolet. However, Burton was strong at California earlier this year and finished fourth in that race, so there is hope.

Tier Three is mostly a dark horse haven this week. There are few drivers who deserve the dreaded red flag status, but hardly any are true green flags. That being said, Joe Nemechek is someone fantasy owners will want to consider for Sunday. He is starting fifth, which is his best start so far in the No. 13 Chevrolet. In 2005, he piloted the No. 01 Chevrolet to two top-10s at Michigan and he ran well at California earlier this year. This season, he was a respectable 14th in Fontana.

Jamie McMurray has not been able to get things going his way in recent weeks. After his run of five top-10s in seven races from March 11 to April 29, he has not been able to earn another top-10 finish. His best run since that fifth at Talladega SuperSpeedway was a 16th a month ago at Darlington Speedway. It does not help matters that he is entering a track where he has just one top-10, and that was while driving the No. 42 Dodge.

Tier Four

Juan Montoya is well-suited for racing at Michigan. He has already proven that he can drive on an unrestricted, intermediate speedway—he was fifth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March and eighth at Texas Motor Speedway in April—and he has experience on the two-mile sister track of California. Montoya has shown that he does well when he has room to race and can drive the car a little deeper into the turns, which is more like driving on the open-wheel circuit. That is what he can expect at Michigan, so fantasy owners can expect him to crack the top 20 by day's end.

Brian Vickers is not likely to visit victory lane this week, but he will make a bid for the top 10. After failing to make the Daytona 500 field, he picked up Toyota's first top-10 with a 10th at California the next race. Only last month, he reached another milestone for Toyota when he was fifth at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has done well at Michigan in the past while driving for Hendrick Motorsports, with three consecutive top-20s there entering this weekend's race, and now he has the chance to do the same thing for Team Red Bull.

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