Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Up To Speed: Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

After dealing with rain and the Bristol night race being postponed to Sunday afternoon last weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads north to Michigan to race on one of the biggest and fastest tracks on the circuit, Michigan International Speedway and Sunday’s running of the Pure Michigan 400, which marks three races remaining in the regular season.

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.

Heading into this race, the new lower downforce aerodynamic package that was used at the track in June, taking the current low downforce package and expanding on it, will be used once again after being used in the All-Star Race, the first Michigan race, and at Kentucky. The rear spoiler height will be reduced from three and a half inches to two and a half inches. The front splitter will be reduced two inches and the rear desk fin will be resized to match the rear spoiler. The rear toe rule used in the All-Star Race, which sets the rear toe to zero to reduce skew and side force, will also be implemented at Michigan.

From the Driver’s Seat

“Michigan has become a big momentum track since it was repaved. Really, the key is keeping your speed up. It’s so important. Obviously you need good horsepower and good downforce to be a part of all that. Another key is not slipping out of the groove. That aspect seems so much more critical now than ever,” said Ryan Newman.

“I think one of the most challenging things you have to think about there is the edge you have to find in qualifying because it is so close to wide open and you want to get everything you can out of the car. With that said, you have to also be mindful of some of the transitions like in Turns 1 and 2. There is just a little bit of a banking change where when you get your left front on that you crash so easily.”

Last Time at Michigan

The FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan back in June was a battle of the young guns that also saw some of the veterans run into trouble throughout the day.

Joey Logano established himself as the car to beat early on, leading 138 laps on the day and battling through a stirring duel with rookie Chase Elliott in the closing stages of the race. Elliott looked to be on the way toward a possible first win before losing the lead to Logano on a restart with 48 laps to go as Logano went on to score his first win of the year.

Following Logano and Elliott to the line was Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick.

“What a great race car. To win here in Roger’s back yard and Ford’s back yard, this is always a big win for us here. We appreciate the great car. What a crazy race with the low downforce and with more cautions and more opportunity to screw up pretty much. What a fun race, racing with Chase (Elliott) and Kyle Larson. It is fun to see the young guys up there racing. I am not alone up there as a young guy anymore. I have guys up there younger than me racing for a win,” said Logano.

Who to Watch

  • Chase Elliott – Though Elliott has just one start at Michigan in the Cup Series, he performed exceptionally well in that one start back in June. Elliott started the day in 10th and led 35 laps en route to a runner up finish. If Elliott is going to win a race to make the Chase, Michigan could very well be the place where that happens.
  • Carl Edwards – Edwards has excelled at Michigan throughout his career and will be looking to add to his win total on the season as the series makes its second trip to Michigan this year. In 24 starts, Edwards has two wins (2007 and 2008), along with nine top-five finishes, 17 top-10 finishes, one pole, 337 laps led, and an average finish of 9.5.
  • Matt Kenseth – Kenseth absolutely dominated this race last season and will be hoping for a little bit of déjà vu this go around as well. Career-wise, Kenseth has three Michigan wins (2002, 2006, and 2015) 14 top-five finishes, 20 top-10 finishes, one pole, 435 laps led, and an average finish of 10.3 in 34 starts.
  • Tony Stewart – As the season continues its march toward its conclusion in November, so does Stewart’s final season in the Cup Series and another track that Stewart will visit for the final time. Stewart has had a rollercoaster ride when it comes to his finishes at Michigan, but still averages out with the fourth highest average finish among active drivers. In 33 starts, Stewart has one win (2000), 12 top-five finishes, 21 top-10 finishes, 225 laps led, and an average finish of 12.3.
  • Joey Logano – Since moving to Team Penske in 2013, Logano has not finished outside the top-10 at Michigan and will looking for the season sweep after capturing the win in June. Logano has two wins (2013 and June 2016), along with four top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, one pole, 332 laps led, and an average finish of 12.8 in 15 starts.

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, August 26

  • NSCS Practice (12:00 pm to 1:25 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • NSCS Qualifying (5:15 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Saturday, August 27

  • NSCS Practice (8:30 am to 9:25 am – CNBC)
  • NSCS Final Practice (11:30 am to 12:20 pm – CNBC)

Sunday, August 28

  • NSCS Pure Michigan 400 (2:00 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.

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