Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

After last weekend’s race at Watkins Glen saw Chase Elliott score his first career win, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads back to Michigan for the second time this season to race on one of the biggest and fastest tracks on the circuit, Michigan International Speedway and Sunday’s running of the Consumers Energy 400.

With this race taking place near the home of two of the three manufacturers (Chevrolet and Ford), teams put extra emphasis on winning this race for bragging rights, especially this weekend after Ford just unveiled their new 2019 Mustang that will race in the Cup Series.

The two-mile speedway tends to favor the teams that can get the most horsepower out of their cars and since being repaved in 2012, the track’s groove has widened out every race since allowing drivers to race from the wall down to the apron. Though horsepower is key, fuel mileage is also a big key as races at this track come down to fuel mileage more often than not.

By the Numbers

What: Consumers Energy 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race No. 23 of 36

Where: Michigan International Speedway – Brooklyn, Michigan (Opened: 1968)

When: Sunday, August 12

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 2:30 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size:  2.0 mile D-shaped oval

Banking: Turns: 18 degrees; Straights: 12 degrees (front), 5 degrees (back)

Race Length: 200 laps, 400 miles

Stage Lengths: First two stages – 60 laps each, Final stage – 80 laps

June 2018 Race Winner: Clint Bowyer– No. 14 Ford (Started 12th, eight laps led)

August 2017 Race Winner:  Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet (Started ninth, two laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Jeff Gordon (34.857 seconds, 206.558 mph – 8/17/2014)

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Michigan International Speedway:

  1. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 108.9
  2. Matt Kenseth – No. 6 Ford – 99.8
  3. Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 99.0
  4. Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 96.6
  5. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 96.4
  6. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 96.2
  7. William Byron – No. 24 Chevrolet – 95.5
  8. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 95.3
  9. Erik Jones – No. 20 Toyota – 90.8
  10. Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 90.4

From the Driver’s Seat

“You feel every single mile an hour of that 210, 215 miles per hour,” said Aric Almirola. “It is so fast at Michigan. Getting into the corner at that speed is just incredible. It’s fun to do that by yourself, but racing around other racecars at that speed is treacherous. That’s why you see give and take, and you see a lot of cars racing aggressively on restarts when we’re going a little bit slower and it’s a little easier to pass. But then, once we get strung out, it’s challenging to pass somebody going 215 miles per hour when you’re that dependent on aero, going that fast.”

Last Time at Michigan

With a little luck and a gutsy pit road gamble, Clint Bowyer pulled off the impossible and beat Kevin Harvick at Michigan when the Cup Series visited back in June.

Courtesy of a two-tire call on pit road during the Stage 2 break, Bowyer took over the lead ahead of Harvick and just had to hold him off of the ensuing restart as weather threatened. He did just that pulling away from his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate when the green flag flew and keeping his Ford out front when another caution fell at lap 129.

Just four laps later, NASCAR was forced to call the race after heavy rains enveloped the track and brought it to an end 66 laps from the scheduled distance.

“It took something crazy on a restart to be able to get Kevin,” Bowyer said. “That was a gutsy call. When we went out there on two tires I looked in the mirror and I was so far ahead of everybody else i was like, ‘Oh man, we are in trouble!’ The rain came just in enough time. I was trying to hold him off. I was cutting him off and taking his line away pretty bad. If it wasn’t for a win you wouldn’t be doing that. He was so much faster than me in one and two. I got down in three and just had to take his line because that bear was coming.”

Following Bowyer and Harvick to the line was fellow SHR driver Kurt Busch, giving the organization their first 1-2-3 finish.

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, August 10

  • MENCS Practice (12:05 pm to 12:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Qualifying (5:05 pm – NBC Sports Network

Saturday, August 11

  • MENCS Practice (8:35 am to 9:25 am – CNBC)
  • MENCS Final Practice (11:30 am to 12:20 pm – No TV, NBC Sports App)

Sunday, August 12

  • MENCS Consumers Energy 400 (2:30 pm – 200 laps, 400 miles – NBC Sports Network)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.