Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Up to Speed – Previewing the Pure Michigan 400

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

After last weekend’s race at Watkins Glen saw Martin Truex, Jr. score his fourth win of the season in a fuel mileage thriller, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the second time in 2017 to race on one of the biggest and fastest tracks on the circuit in Sunday’s running of the Pure Michigan 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. 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: Pure Michigan 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race No. 23 of 36

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

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 3:00 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 2017 Race Winner: Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet (Started on pole, 96 laps led)

August 2016 Race Winner:  Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet (Started 12th, 41 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:

  • Chase Elliott – No. 24 Chevrolet – 119.0 – Best finish: 2nd
  • Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota – 102.4 – 3 wins
  • Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 100.7 – 2 wins
  • Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 99.1 – 1 win
  • Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 96.9 – 2 wins
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – No. 88 Chevrolet – 95.5 – 2 wins
  • Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 93.7 – 1 win
  • Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 92.9 – Best finish: 2nd
  • Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 90.2 – 2 wins
  • Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 89.3 – 3 wins

From the Driver’s Seat

“The track surface at Michigan is finally starting to age, which also means that the groove is starting to move around a little bit as well,” said Matt Kenseth.  “Michigan is always all about momentum and it’s really important to be able to get through the corners faster than everyone else.  Michigan is just all about the momentum of being good in (Turns) 1 and 2, as well as then being really good in (Turns) 3 and 4 so that you can be a little bit versatile to hopefully make some passes.  Planning for Michigan always seems to be a bit of a moving target since the rules change, the tires change, the cars change, and the track ages, but just like any other track we visit, you just need to work to get the balance as good as you can get it over the course of the weekend.”

Last Time at Michigan

After scoring his first career win on the two mile oval last August, Kyle Larson made a repeat trip to victory lane at Michigan in June’s FireKeepers Casino 400, with a little help from a fellow young gun.

Kyle Busch looked to be well on his way to the win, holding a 1.4 second lead with 20 laps to go, but the rest of the field had their shot at getting by Busch when the yellow flag flew for debris on lap 180.

On the ensuing restart, Larson lined up alongside Busch and used a push from Ryan Blaney to get the advantage over the cagey veteran by the time the field reached the backstretch and never looked back, leading the final 14 laps en route to his second win of the season.

Chase Elliott finished second at Michigan for the third race in a row, crossing the line 0.993 seconds back, and was followed by Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Jamie McMurray to round out the top-five.

“Ryan Blaney gave me a heck of a push,” said Larson. “So, I’ve really got to thank him a ton. I knew the Penske cars took off good, so I was happy to see him behind me. For us to withstand a few restarts there with some tough competitors there was pretty important. I can’t thank these guys enough. The Cars 3 Chevy was really, really fast. And it was cool to win it.  What a great Father’s Day present for myself and all the other fathers out there. My dad is here today, too. So, I’m looking forward to celebrating with him. We’ve been so close to so many other wins. This is our second Cup win of the year, but we’ve had six second place finishes. All-in-all, it’s a good season so far and we’ll continue to keep building on what we’ve got.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, August 11

  • MENCS Practice (11:30 am to 12:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Qualifying (5:05 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Saturday, August 12

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

Sunday, August 13

  • MENCS Pure Michigan 400 (3:00 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.