Michigan International Speedway plays host to the Carfax 400, this weekend’s Sprint Cup Series event. Ir’s the track’s second Cup race this year, and with only a few races left before the Chase, it’s important for those bubble drivers to have a strong performance.
Last year, Brian Vickers finished a streak of three consecutive Michigan poles with a victory that also proved his fifth consecutive Michigan top-10. The win helped propel him into the Chase, and while his luck may have gone south from there, it doesn’t discount the importance of Michigan to his season.
So who looks good this weekend?
Carl Edwards has, by far, the best average finish of all active drivers at Michigan, an astounding 6.6. He’s also seen some more kick in his Roush Fenway Racing cars the past couple of weekends. Will this be the race where Edwards finally kicks his losing streak?
My weekend dark horse has to be Bill Elliott, a seven-time Michigan winner who usually adds this race to his limited schedule with the Wood Brothers every year. Michigan is the home track for the three American manufacturers in NASCAR, and the Woods, longtime Ford supporters, run both races at the track every year.
Three more, because it’s just not the same without them.
Jeff Gordon, who just became a dad again this week (congrats!), has the third-best Michigan record of any active driver, with two wins and 23 top-10s in 35 career starts. The past three races have seen finishes of second, second, and fourth, suggesting that Gordon almost has this track figured out. A telling statistic is that 18 of those top-10s are finishes of fifth or better, meaning Gordon can usually find his way to the front.
Greg Biffle broke Roush’s losing streak two weeks ago at Pocono, and the two-time former Michigan winner will look to score another victory for his injured owner this weekend. Biffle’s last six Michigan races have been a mixed bag—three top-10s, three mid-pack finishes—but those don’t take away from his two consecutive Michigan wins in 2004-05, or the fact that he led in six of his first seven Michigan starts. With a little luck, he can get back to the winner’s circle this weekend.
Finally, Kasey Kahne must be breathing a sigh of relief now that his 2011 plans are finalized. That new sense of relief may allow him to go out this weekend and show Team Red Bull, his new team and defending winners of this event, why they got him. Kahne is very hot or cold at Michigan—five finishes outside the top 20—but when he’s on, he’s on. All six of his top-10s were also top five finishes, and he won from the pole in June of 2006.