Just about a month’s worth of races are left before the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, and this week the series heads to Michigan International Speedway.
Let’s get your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings lineups ready for the FireKeepers Casino 400, airing Sunday, Aug. 6, at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.
At two miles long, Michigan is one of the largest ovals on the circuit, featuring 18 degrees of banking. It’s quite wide and slightly more banked than Auto Club Speedway was. The cars run fast, and the racing can be tight as they jockey for positions, especially on the restarts.
Last year, the tight racing caused a melee early, as JJ Yeley‘s car got turned around in the pack and into another car. Other cars involved in the lap 25 incident were Austin Cindric, Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola.
The Fords have struggled with pace this season, only winning three of the 22 Cup races so far. But the Blue Ovals have enjoyed some homefield advantage in the track closest to Detroit in recent years. Ford has won the past eight races in a row at Michigan, led by Kevin Harvick‘s charge of five wins in that span including last year’s race. Ford also has a bit of momentum with Chris Buescher winning last week and a few other Ford drivers showing pace in that race.
Before I share my Michigan picks, here are the DraftKings scores from Richmond Raceway:
|DraftKings Salary||Driver||DraftKings Score|
|$11,000||Martin Truex Jr.||52.6|
Buescher held off late runs from Denny Hamlin and Busch to grab his first win of the season and lock himself into the playoffs. He and RFK Racing’s dominant performance produced some huge scores on DraftKings.
Meanwhile, Hamlin came home second after locking his brakes in the closing laps. Martin Truex Jr. and Almirola also earned top 10s, with the latter gaining 16 spots on the track. Surprisingly, most of Hendrick Motorsports struggled, including William Byron, who scored less than 10 DraftKings points.
Here’s a quick look at the rules for DraftKings:
The winner on the racetrack tallies 45 points, while second place gets 42, third 41 and so on. Tenth scores 34, while 11th gets 32 and decreases by one from there through 20th. This pattern repeats from 21st through 30th and again from 31st through 40th.
Additionally, drivers can earn or lose a point depending on where they started the race. For example, if Hamlin started seventh and won, he would gain six points in addition to his finishing position points, totaling 51 fantasy points.
Drivers also can earn 0.45 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap they lead.
Here are the drivers you should consider for Michigan:
DraftKings Picks: Top Tier
Denny Hamlin ($10,700)
Career at Michigan: 32 starts, 2 wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 12.6
Hamlin’s two Michigan wins came back in 2010 and 2011, but he’s been much more consistent at the track lately. He’s finished in the top five three years in a row, finishing a fair bit better than his starting position each time. Hamlin has led laps in the past seven Michigan races and gotten a top 10 in all but one of them, an 11th in the spring of 2019.
The Toyotas have been tough to beat on the bigger tracks this year, with Hamlin himself winning at Pocono Raceway and Kansas Speedway. If there is anyone who can spoil the Ford party at Michigan, Hamlin is a good bet to do so.
Kevin Harvick ($10,300)
Career at Michigan: 42 starts, 6 wins, 16 top fives, 22 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 11.0
Harvick is the active wins leader at Michigan, and his six wins put him fourth all time. But much of that success has come in the later parts of his career, as he has won five of the past seven races there.
In his last two wins at Michigan, Harvick started outside the top 15 and led at least 38 laps. Harvick is still looking for the first win of his final Cup season, and no place is more ripe for it to happen than at one of his best tracks. Even if he doesn’t win, Harvick is sure to put up a consistent day.
Chase Elliott ($9,500)
Career at Michigan: 12 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 8.0
Elliott might be the best driver at Michigan without a win. He has the best average finish there all time of those with more than two starts at the track.
The 2020 Cup champion hasn’t had a top five at Michigan since he began his career with three straight runner-ups there, but he has been a model of consistency there his whole career. He has a top 10 in all but two races there. His two finishes outside the top 10 are a 20th in the spring of 2019 and an 11th last year.
Since he came back from injury, Elliott has been super consistent this season as well. He has the second best average finish among full time drivers, trailing only Truex. Expect a good day out of Elliott as he continues to close the gap to the playoff cut line.
Ty Gibbs ($8,100)
Career at Michigan: 1 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 10.0
Gibbs’ first and only top 10 of 2022 came at Michigan. He finished 10th on a day where he even led two laps.
He now returns to the track with much more experience. He has six top 10s so far this year and even scored his first career top five two weeks ago at Pocono.
Gibbs is currently the first driver below the playoff cut line, so look for him to try for a safe, solid points day as he tries to get his third consecutive top-15 finish.
Aric Almirola ($7,500)
Career at Michigan: 19 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 19.1
Most of Almirola’s good Michigan runs have come in the past eight races when the track has been dominated by Fords. In that span, Almirola has both his top 10s and only two finishes worse than 17th.
Almirola has a little momentum on his side. He showed fast pace at Richmond last week and even overcame a pass-through penalty to finish eighth. He was 12th at Pocono the week before that. In both those races, Almirola finished 15 or more places better than where he started.
So Almirola is a safe, consistent bet who could finish better than where he starts.
Ryan Preece ($6,600)
Career at Michigan: 5 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 18.8
Preece has a top 25 in all five of his Michigan starts, including a seventh in 2019. Those starts all came with JTG Daugherty Racing. Now Preece is with megateam Stewart-Haas Racing. Though SHR has clearly taken a step back in performance this year, don’t expect them to be down forever.
Last week at Richmond, Preece showed what he is capable of when the car is right. Preece finished fifth for not just his first top five of the season but his first top 10.
If the Fords are as good at Michigan as they have been the past eight races, then why not take a flier on Preece at this price?
Chase Briscoe ($6,500)
Career at Michigan: 2 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 15.5
When the SHR Fords have actually had speed this year, Briscoe has delivered. He finished 11th this past week at Richmond and 10th three weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Earlier in the season, he had three consecutive top fives, including one at Martinsville where he led 109 laps.
So if Ford and SHR actually shows up to a track they have owned for the past eight races, then Briscoe should have a good day. He has finished in the top 20 in both his Michigan starts, and he has finished higher than where he started in both of them.
If the speed is there, then Briscoe could be a steal at this price.
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