As the Sprint Cup Series heads off to Michigan International Speedway, it’s certainly possible Dale Earnhardt, Jr. could post back-to-back victories for the first time in his career. Having capitalized on a mistake by Brad Keselowski, the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet knocked Pocono off of the list of tracks he’d never won at, and given his history at Michigan, there’s always that possibility that he could visit victory lane once again.
When it comes to making your fantasy picks for this weekend’s event, there are several winless drivers looking to make their home
LOOKING FOR SOME ACES
Two years ago, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. broke a 143-race winless streak with a Father’s Day victory at Michigan in 2012. What a difference a couple of years makes. With two wins and nine top 10s in 14 starts, he’s well on pace to have one of the most successful seasons he’s ever run. But should he be on your team at Michigan?
The same year he broke his long winless streak, Earnhardt, Jr. posted a fourth-place finish. However, last season wasn’t as kind to the Hendrick Motorsports driver. He posted finishes of 36th and 37th in the pair of events at the 2.0-mile track. But with that said, momentum in this sport is so important that a driver who hasn’t traditionally run well at a facility could turn around and head to victory lane. And considering two of Junior’s 21 victories have come at Michigan, it’s hard not to put him on your team this week.
Another driver who has been pretty hot this season, despite the bad luck that has plagued him, is Kevin Harvick. Harvick has a victory at Michigan from 2010 and an average finish of 7.5 in the last four races. In fact, last season he posted a pair of runner-up results, so he would be a safe pick for your team, assuming his Stewart-Haas Racing team leaves the bad luck back in Charlotte.
While Earnhardt, Jr. and Harvick both have a pair of victories to their names this season, Matt Kenseth, who had seven wins last year, has yet to notch a win. He had some great runs at Michigan when driving a Ford for his former owner Jack Roush, but couldn’t find his way to victory lane at Michigan last year for owner Joe Gibbs. Kenseth does have two top 10 finishes in the last four races there with a worst finish of 17th. While the driver of the No. 20 Toyota has two wins at Michigan, his most recent trip to victory lane at the track came in 2006. While the cars have changed substantially since then, the champion driver knows how much he needs to win and has a decent shot this weekend.
Another winless driver in 2014 who is capable of winning at Michigan is Clint Bowyer. He has four top 10 finishes in the last four races there, finishing either fifth, sixth or seventh in those events for an average finish of 6.5, second best among active drivers. Bowyer has led just 20 laps in those races, though, so he hasn’t dominated by any means. However, it’s likely we’re due for a fuel mileage event, and if that’s the case, Bowyer is one of the best at stretching the car an extra couple of laps on fuel if needed.
MIDDLE OF THE ROADSTERS
The name that pops up here, no matter what he’s done this season is Greg Biffle. It’s hard to ignore the driver that has won two of the last four races and has four overall victories. In the past four events at the track, Biffle has finished no worse than ninth and has an astounding 3.75 average finish. Add in 14 top 10s in 22 starts and you’ve got a recipe for success this weekend for the Roush Fenway driver who has struggled mightily to even score a top-15 finish.
Another Roush Fenway driver that’s hard to pass up this week is Carl Edwards. He’s still a free agent and his plans for next year are still up in the air, meaning there’s bound to be a certain amount of distraction each week until those plans are finalized. What’s not in question, though, is his track record at Michigan. Edwards has three top 10s in the last four races with a worst finish of 11th. Through his career at Michigan, Edwards leads all active drivers with an average finish of 8.32 with 15 top 10 finishes in 19 races, including two victories. Another win this season would help Edwards’ value, no matter where he ends up, so you know he’s still motivated to run well.
Tony Stewart returned to a sprint car a couple weeks ago, and since then, he’s seemed like a different driver on track. Bouncing back from his broken leg last season is a priority the driver of the No. 14 Toyota, and he’s got one win at Michigan. In the last four events, he’s finished in the top 10 in all but one event–he suffered an engine failure in late 2012. But he would be a decent choice for your team this week, considering that his momentum seems to finally be turning upward.
Another driver who is probably a bit upset with himself after last week, and wants to win in his home state is Brad Keselowski. His record isn’t great at Michigan as he has just one top 10 finish in the last four races, however his worst finish in that time period is 13th. With Ford’s success at Michigan, Keselowski is hard to ignore this week, especially since he has something to prove, if only to himself, after last week’s late-race mistake.
There are some choices beyond the usual decision of trying to decide between Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon this week. That’s because Trevor Bayne is entered in the No. 21 Ford, and since he is on a limited schedule, it’s hard to not pick him this week. Bayne’s best finish in the last four races at Michigan is a 15th and if you get that with him in a final, or cheaper, spot, this week, that would be pretty good. Bayne also has one other top 20 finish in his six career races there.
If you’re not sure about Bayne, you can also take a look at Danica Patrick here. In her two career Sprint Cup starts at Michigan, she has been 13th and 23rd. Despite the limited experience she’s got, a top 20 finish is certainly not out of the question.
Dillon does have three career starts at Michigan, finishing between 11th and 24th, so if you want to use one of his races this week, there is a chance he could make it to the top 10 for you. Larson hasn’t started a Sprint Cup race at Michigan yet, but I think we’ve all seen by now that it doesn’t make a big difference for him. It’s just a matter if you want to use him this week, or save him for later if you are in a pick limit league.
The top of the standings in the Frontstretch League on Yahoo! remained the same with LeftTurnOnly in the lead at 3,739 points, followed by Ace Racin’ at 3,622, NoBarNASCAR at 3,602, Mojothemonkey at 3,575 and Doo Doo Brown Racing at 3,542. The biggest mover this week in the full season standings was Tom’s Crew jumping up 14 places. The top score of the week came from team Potato Peelers with 375 points, with the combination of second place Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin in fourth, Kyle Larson in fifth and Kyle Busch in 12th.