From the Tricky Triangle at Pocono Raceway to the big track at Michigan International Speedway, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season rolls right along this week with the FireKeepers Casino 400. This is the 15th race of 26 scheduled for the regular season. The MENCS will be idle next week in honor of Father’s Day, so there are three more races left in June, four in July, and three in August before the weekend off on August 24-25.
This is a critical time for a lot of teams with a lot of races in a row and most of them on oval tracks. Two road course races are on the horizon at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, but there will be a lot of chances for teams to accumulate points over the next two months.
Odds for this race are on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and below the comment box for mobile viewers.
How They Stand
Kyle Busch won last week at Pocono Raceway to take the points lead away from Joey Logano. That was the fourth win of the season for Busch and first since his victory at Bristol. Busch has a four-point lead over Logano with 568 points. Chase Elliott picked up his fifth straight top-five finish and sits third in points with 511. Brad Keselowski finished second last week and is fourth with 509 points. Kevin Harvick had another disappointing run and sits fifth with 500 points.
Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, and Clint Bowyer round out the top 10 as the only other drivers with at least 400 points. So far, there aren’t going to be any playoff surprises, as no drivers outside the top seven in points have a win.
If the playoffs started today, those 10 drivers plus Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez, William Byron, Erik Jones, and Kyle Larson would be in.
We nearly had last week’s outright winner, as Larson won the first two stages, but went into the wall and eventually finished 26th. Keselowski was also on the card, but he finished second to Busch. Tough luck has been the theme for a lot of guys this season. Harvick still doesn’t have a win and hasn’t finished higher than fourth. Larson has been running better of late, but one issue or another has kept him from the winner’s circle. He only has one top-five finish this season.
Logano has finished second three times this season, third once, and fourth once, but his lone win came in the third race of the season at Las Vegas. Jones is quietly starting to make some moves with four top-five finishes, but no victories. Bowman finished third in three consecutive races at Talladega, Dover, and Kansas, but remains winless.
It just seems like the top guys can stay out of the fray and make their way to the front when it counts. Busch, Keselowski, and Truex have 10 of the 16 wins this season. Overall, only six drivers have a win in a points race.
No, not the borough, the city about an hour and 20 minutes southwest of Detroit. This is a two-mile track, which makes it one of the longest of the NASCAR stops. Only Daytona, Talladega, Sonoma, and Indianapolis are bigger. Some drivers really like the D-shaped oval here, with its 18-degree banking in the turns and a long, flat backstretch.
This is typically one of the faster races in terms of speed, as the cars are unrestricted on this big, round track. Two of the last four spring races at Michigan have been shortened due to rain, but it looks like Mother Nature will be shining those beautiful rays down on the drivers and spectators this week.
The Cup Series stops at Michigan twice. The Xfinity Series is only here this weekend. The next time the Cup Series returns, the Xfinity Series will be on the road course in Lexington, Ohio, about 45 minutes north of Columbus.
Capping the Checkered
Busch, as is usually the case, is your +290 favorite. Harvick, who remains winless, is +475 to get that first W. He was running up with the leaders last week before he got a penalty for an uncontrolled tire. It’s been a different malady every week for Harvick, who has had the case and the speed, but has had stupid penalties or bad luck. Truex Jr. is +625, with Keselowski the only other driver under double digits at +650.
Busch won on the big track at Auto Club Speedway, which is also a two-mile loop. Daytona and Talladega are plate races, so those are a tad different, but Hamlin won the Daytona 500 and Elliott won at Talladega. He’s been on some kind of run of late with five straight top-five finishes and six on the season. He’s +1050. The days of getting him in the 20/1 range are long gone.
Hamlin and Kurt Busch are the only active multiple winners of this race. Larson and Harvick are multiple winners of the summer race. Larson has three career wins here. He only has five career wins overall, with one at Richmond and one at Auto Club. He loves big tracks. This fits the bill.
Clint Bowyer won this race last year, but it was limited to 133 laps because of rain. Harvick was second and won the second stage. He also won the summer race, so that’s why he’s got the short price this week.
I have to go with Larson this week. That’s a no-brainer at +1450 with his resume on this track. This is far and away his best track and he’s been real close lately. He had wins in the All-Star events at Charlotte and was in line for last week’s at Pocono. As long as his team got his car back together after last week’s rub against the wall, he should be right there.
Kurt Busch is worth some Busch beer money at his balloon price of +3300. This is a big, wide-open track, which helps older drivers that aren’t as quick on the gears and shifters anymore. He was third here last year in that rain-shortened race and Chevy seems to have good speed on these big tracks. Just ask Chase Elliott.
If you want a low price, you have to go with Harvick. His car is always right there. He just can’t get over the hump. Take him in matchups and consider a full unit on him with a half-unit on Larson.