There are four races left in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season. While the Xfinity Series runs in the Buckeye State to the southeast, the Cup Series makes its return to Michigan International Speedway for the Consumers Energy 400. The drivers were just here on June 10 and they’ll be in action on August 11 on the same big oval track this weekend.
We’ll take a look at this race with odds on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and down below the comment box for mobile viewers.
Back to Brooklyn, Michigan for the Cup Series to run around the two-mile oval. This is one of the longer tracks on the NASCAR circuit, but it’s fair to wonder how much longer the track will hold two races. Enhancements to the seating areas took away nearly 15,000 seats prior to the start of this season and there seems to be a growing sentiment to add more short-track and road course races to the schedule.
The 1.5-mile and longer ovals just aren’t getting rave reviews from spectators. Even the drivers seem a little bored with them. We’ve seen the dominant oval drivers faring better on short tracks and quirky circuits this season and last season, so they seem to be coming around more to the idea as well. The Xfinity Series already only races once here.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find another short track worthy of a stop. The playoffs already feature a second run at Richmond, Dover, Talladega, and Martinsville. Even to change things up, NASCAR went to the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the playoff race. It does seem like the winds of change are blowing harder with each passing year.
Speaking of change, there was one atop the MENCS standings last week. Even though he only finished 11th at Watkins Glen, Kyle Busch is the new points leader. He leads by 13 points over Joey Logano, who finished 23rd. Logano only has one top-five in his last seven races. The irony is that Busch only has two, but he also has four stage wins to Logano’s one.
Kevin Harvick is third, but red hot Denny Hamlin is right on his bumper, just six points back. Hamlin has four straight top-five finishes. Martin Truex Jr., last week’s runner-up, is fifth in points.
Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, last week’s winner, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola and Ryan Blaney round out the top 10. Alex Bowman, William Byron, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson are your final six for the playoffs, but Johnson is tied with Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot. Johnson, however, has one bonus playoff point, thus has the tiebreaker.
Logano won the first race at Michigan this season. Kurt Busch was second, with Truex third, Daniel Suarez fourth, and Kyle Busch fifth. It was Logano’s second win in the late spring race and third win at Michigan overall. Larson, Kurt Busch and Logano are the only active drivers with three wins here.
The spring race was a mess. It required NASCAR overtime for three extra laps and was also moved from Sunday to Monday because of rain. Overtime has been needed four times in this race since 2007. The most recent time was 2017. The extended forecast looks pretty clear, but you can never take anything for granted with the humidity levels in the Great Lakes Region at this time of year.
Wrecks N Effects
Last year’s race came in at 2:50:51, the longest race since 2009 when Brian Vickers won. It was the lowest average speed since that 2009 race. We’ll have to see how this one plays out. There are only four chances left for playoff points and playoff berths. Some drivers may need to be a little bit more aggressive this week on the big track.
Next week’s race at Bristol can get crazy. Then the drivers head to Darlington for a short track race before running around the 2.5-mile loop at the Brickyard. These last six races, beginning with the second Pocono race, could not feature a more diverse set of tracks.
Odds and Ends
Oh, yeah, I guess we need to talk about the odds, eh? Kyle Busch, Truex, and Harvick are all co-favorites early in the week at +550. Keselowski and Logano are co-second favorites at +660. Then you’ve got Hamlin at +1540, with Larson, Elliott, Bowyer, and Jones all at +1760.
This hasn’t been the best track for Busch. He’s got back-to-back top-five finishes in the spring and one here last year, but he hasn’t won since 2011 and hasn’t finished higher than third outside of his runner-up in 2008. Truex has never won here, but not from lack of effort. He’s finished in the top-five twice in the last four years in this race and was third in the spring. Harvick, the other +550 cat, won here last year to respond from his first non-top-five in this race since 2012. He was 13th in 2017, but fifth and second three times from 2013-16. He also has four top-five finishes out of the last seven years in the spring and led the most laps when he finished 29th.
Keselowski, a Michigan native, has never won this race and that has to stick out in his mind. He was second here last year and 17th the year prior, but led the most laps. He was third in this race back in 2016. Logano, his Penske teammate, has three wins here, but he hasn’t finished higher than seventh in this race the last four years, for whatever that’s worth.
With the favorites out of the way, let’s pick and choose a couple. I’m looking at Harvick and Keselowski here among the short prices. Kyle Larson has to make the cut as well. Larson has three career wins here. He’s been 28th, 17th, and 14th since, but his best performances tend to be on big ovals. At +1760, we’re getting a decent price. Half-units on all three guys leave some nice profit margin on the back end.