Welcome back for another week of my predictions for NASCAR's premier division as the boys make the trip up to Michigan for the Lifelock 400, race 15 of the 36 race schedule.
My choice of photo for this article is a dead giveaway for my first pick this week and given his recent history at this track combined with recent performances including his impressive runner-up finish last week at Pocono.
In the last four races at MIS Carl has brought in two wins and four top tens making for an average finish of fourth. In the last four races, Carl led a combined 168 of the 806 total laps. Edwards has a very impressive average finish of 3.75 in his four career June appearances in the Lifelock 400.
Given his recent history at Michigan in June, starting position should have no real effect on his overall performance as even when he qualified 31st (his personal worst at Michigan) he still was able to bring the car home in second place.
Looking at his recent performances combined with his stellar history at MIS there should be nearly no doubt that Edwards will be a factor on Sunday and will bring home a solid performance for any fantasy team.
2008 finish: Seventh
Ragan has only competed in four career races at MIS but those have all been solid performances and given the recent turn around that has begun over at Roush Fenway I wouldn't be surprised to see Ragan continue his impressive streak.
If his trend of improving his finish each time he appears at the track (21st, 18th, eighth, and third) continues then the chances of Ragan bringing home his first career Cup win in Ford's backyard are believable odds.
One thing that will be important for Ragan is his starting position as the last two races when he finished inside the top 10 he was also able to qualify the car inside the top 20. Ragan has also lead nine laps in the last two races.
2008 finish: Third
Why the heck not? Tony is arguably the hottest driver in NASCAR competition right now especially after bringing home the first win for an owner/driver in a points race since Ricky Rudd did the same thing at Martinsville in September of 1998.
The last time Stewart was in this kind of form was in 2005 when he won he second Cup title and in that year he finished second in the June Michigan race followed by back-to-back wins at Sonoma and Daytona.
In his career in June races at Michigan Stewart has only two DNF's(wreck in 2006 and ran out of gas in 1999) which are part of the reason why his career average in June is a 13.4.
Smoke loved the return to Victory Lane and now that he has gotten the taste for those Chase bonus points the thirst for more just has to be quenched especially since if the Chase started today Tony would fall from first to tied for fourth with Gordon, Ku. Busch and Reutimann.
2008 finish: Fifth
Well Mr. Busch sure has had a tumultuous few weeks culminating in that guitar incident last week in victory lane at Nashville and including some sub-par performances at Pocono and Dover (22nd and 23rd respectively).
Those tides will turn this weekend at Michigan as Kyle begins to dangle closer and closer to the outside looking in group of the Chase. Kyle's three wins would currently put him first in the Chase but Kyle knows he must first make it there and the pressure of only being 53 points ahead of 13th with 12 races to go until the cut-off will result in raceday results.
He has only one DNF on his record at MIS and has an average finish of 10.5 in his four career June races, unfortunately none of those in the top five(best being a sixth place finish). Kyle has never won a Cup race at Michigan and that is a stat he wants to change.
Kyle may be pulling quadruple duty this weekend but I can't see fatigue being a factor come Sunday as I predict an early exit for Kyle from either the CWTS or Nationwide race giving him extra time to recover.
2008 finish: 13th
Underdog: A.J. Allmendinger
A.J. has my vote for the most improved driver over the course of the first half of the 2009 season and was nearing another impressive top 10 finish last week at Pocono before he fell victim to his gas tank.
While he only has three career starts at MIS with an average finish of 26th those starts were with his former team over at Red Bull Racing. Allmendinger seems more at home over at Richard Petty Motorsports and in the seat of the No. 44 Dodge and I look for him to improve that stat or at least be the best of the "underdog" drivers.
2008 finish: 19th
Well due to a bit of my own ignorance, smacked myself hard for this one, I picked a driver for my underdog pick that wasn't even on the entry list. So good one on my part.
Other than that I was able to pick the winner, Mr. Stewart, but saw my other picks (Earnhardt Jr., Hamlin, and Martin) have different issues relegating them to sub-par performances.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.-27th