NASCAR at Michigan 2014: Race Schedule, Live Stream Info and Drivers to Watch

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NASCAR at Michigan 2014: Race Schedule, Live Stream Info and Drivers to Watch
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway for the second time this season to contest the Pure Michigan 400. Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson won the Quicken Loans 400 at the track back in June.

Only four races remain before the Chase begins. That puts a lot of pressure on drivers without a win so far in 2014 as the number of at-large bids through points continues to shrink. Teams will need to start becoming far more aggressive in search of a victory over the next month.

At the very least, it should lead to some unique strategies and plenty of close-quartered racing. So let's check out all of the important information for Sunday's race, followed by the starting grid and a look at some drivers to keep tabs on this week.

Race Information

Where: Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan

When: Sunday, Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Starting Grid

Pure Michigan 400 Starting Lineup
Pos. No. Driver Car Speed
1 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 206.558
2 22 Joey Logano Ford 206.381
3 99 Carl Edwards Ford 206.115
4 55 Brian Vickers Toyota 205.685
5 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 205.644
6 4 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 205.438
7 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet 204.580
8 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet 204.464
9 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 204.354
10 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford 204.174
11 16 Greg Biffle Ford 203.822
12 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 203.470
13 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet 204.082
14 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 204.012
15 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet 203.943
16 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet 203.856
17 51 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet 203.528
18 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 203.384
19 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 203.223
20 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 203.097
21 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 203.029
22 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet 202.743
23 43 Aric Almirola Ford 202.674
24 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 201.969
25 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 202.885
26 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet 202.458
27 14 Jeff Burton Chevrolet 202.412
28 21 Trevor Bayne Ford 202.327
29 38 David Gilliland Ford 201.822
30 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 201.720
31 83 Ryan Truex Toyota 201.263
32 23 Alex Bowman Toyota 200.496
33 98 Josh Wise Chevrolet 199.756
34 34 David Ragan Ford 199.534
35 7 Michael Annett Chevrolet 199.225
36 26 Cole Whitt Toyota 199.132
37 37 Dave Blaney Chevrolet 197.851
38 32 Travis Kvapil Ford 197.726
39 78 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet 197.466
40 36 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 197.066
41 33 Alex Kennedy Chevrolet 195.828
42 66 Joe Nemechek Toyota 195.170
43 40 Landon Cassill Chevrolet 194.049

Drivers To Watch

Jeff Gordon

Robert Reiners/Getty Images

Joey Logano and Carl Edwards would have probably been surprised if you told them they would both top 206 mph and not get the pole. That's exactly what happened, as Gordon edged them both. By comparison, only one driver was faster than 204 mph during the first Michigan qualifying in June.

Who's your pick in win the second Michigan race?

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The effort was good enough to set the new track record and puts the No. 24 team in perfect shape as it seeks a third win of the season. Mike Brudenell of the Detroit Free Press passed along comments from the fan favorite after the run, and he thought the car was virtually perfect.

"Obviously a great car," Gordon said. "The car was phenomenal. What an awesome job by the team. I don't know how to make it much better than that."

He's enjoyed limited success at Michigan over the years with just two wins in 43 starts. He did lead 36 laps and finish sixth in the first race this year, though. Combined with his outstanding qualifying run, the Hendrick driver is seemingly finding a comfort zone at the venue.

Now they just have to find a way to make sure the car is as effective on race day. As long as the 24 car is able to maintain that grip throughout the afternoon, Gordon will be the driver to beat. It's not a guarantee that's going to happen, though.

Jimmie Johnson

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Johnson had a poor qualifying run that will see him start 30th. Still, his win at the track a couple of months ago, which was his first in 25 tries, ensures he'll remain on the radar. He should be able to make steady progress through the field and into contention.

That's the hope for the 48 team, anyway. It's been a rough stretch for the dominant driver as of late, with his last top-10 finish coming at Kentucky six races ago. Jordan McAbee of IFantasyRace thinks the results are part of looking toward the bigger picture:

While that would certainly make sense, Johnson doesn't want the wave of bad finishes to continue right into the Chase. He wants to start building up some positive momentum so he can make a serious push for yet another title.

Expect him to start that effort with a strong showing at Michigan. He might not have the car necessary to complete the Michigan sweep, but a top-10 finish is definitely within reach despite the poor starting spot. He just needs to avoid any crashes near the back early on.

Greg Biffle

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Biffle is one of the veteran drivers feeling the heat with the Chase right around the corner. The win by AJ Allmendinger last week at Watkins Glen bumped the No. 16 car out of the top 16, leaving him outside the cut line with a month to go.

Do you think Biffle will make the Chase?

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Michigan probably represents his best chance to get in the Chase with a win. His four victories at the track are his most at any stop on the schedule. He talked about that success and trying to rediscover top speed with Jared Turner of Fox Sports.

"It's been a good track for us," Biffle said. "We've been really competitive there with four wins, but in the spring we weren't very fast there, and that is some concern going back there, although we did test there (recently) and found a lot of speed."

He's one of those drivers who's reached a point where he must take some chances. Whether it's using a riskier pit strategy with hope of everything falling perfectly or making a move earlier in the race than he normally would, the time for waiting is gone.

Biffle is slated to start 11th, so there's obviously some work to do. But when you consider his past success at Michigan and the need for a win, it wouldn't be a shock to see him in the mix during the final laps. It's desperation time for "The Biff."

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