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

BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 15:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, poses with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2014

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.DriverCarSpeed
124Jeff Gordon Chevrolet206.558
222Joey Logano Ford206.381
399Carl Edwards Ford206.115
455Brian Vickers Toyota205.685
52Brad Keselowski Ford205.644
64Kevin Harvick Chevrolet205.438
727Paul Menard Chevrolet204.580
83Austin Dillon Chevrolet204.464
91Jamie McMurray Chevrolet204.354
1017Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Ford204.174
1116Greg Biffle Ford203.822
1231Ryan Newman Chevrolet203.470
1342Kyle Larson Chevrolet204.082
1410Danica Patrick Chevrolet204.012
155Kasey Kahne Chevrolet203.943
1641Kurt Busch Chevrolet203.856
1751Justin Allgaier Chevrolet203.528
1820Matt Kenseth Toyota203.384
1915Clint Bowyer Toyota203.223
209Marcos Ambrose Ford203.097
2111Denny Hamlin Toyota203.029
2247AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet202.743
2343Aric Almirola Ford202.674
2418Kyle Busch Toyota201.969
2588Dale Earnhardt Jr.Chevrolet202.885
2613Casey Mears Chevrolet202.458
2714Jeff Burton Chevrolet202.412
2821Trevor Bayne Ford202.327
2938David Gilliland Ford201.822
3048Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet201.720
3183Ryan Truex Toyota201.263
3223Alex Bowman Toyota200.496
3398Josh Wise Chevrolet199.756
3434David Ragan Ford199.534
357Michael Annett Chevrolet199.225
3626Cole Whitt Toyota199.132
3737Dave Blaney Chevrolet197.851
3832Travis Kvapil Ford197.726
3978Martin Truex Jr.Chevrolet197.466
4036Reed Sorenson Chevrolet197.066
4133Alex Kennedy Chevrolet195.828
4266Joe Nemechek Toyota195.170
4340Landon Cassill Chevrolet194.049
NASCAR.com

 

Drivers To Watch

Jeff Gordon

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 15:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, M
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.

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

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 15: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet, on track during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan
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

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 15: Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 Roush Performance Ford, on track during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Jared C. T
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.

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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