2018 NASCAR Preview: Week 15 – Michigan

High speeds and high drama in the hills of Michigan..

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Michigan is a race that has been run on Father’s Day many times before, though they’ve got that date off this year so we’ll do it a week prior.  A 2.0-mile D-oval, the track in Brooklyn, MI is nearly identical to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA.  The banks are slightly steeper here, allowing for higher speeds, and the hot laps on Q-day have proven that.

Here’s what to look for:

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Busch Pole winner Kurt Busch turns practice laps in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky | Getty Images)

Kurt Busch got the Pole on Friday.  He was quicker than a hiccup in Qualifying, good speed under the hood of the #41.  Though the Elder Busch has three wins at this track, his average is nothing to behold (19.5).  He’s got a much friendlier rate out west (12.8), and finished 14th there in the Spring after starting 7th.  Obviously he’s got a better view this week, clear sailing into Turn 1.

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Brad K and wife Paige catch a Tigers game on Saturday. They’re all smiles here, Keselowski hopes for a similar expression following Sunday’s race. “A win here would be like winning the Daytona 500 for me,” he said. (Photo: @keselowski)

Brad Keselowski, a native of nearby Rochester Hills, will start outside on Row 1.  He’s still seeking his first win here (see caption above), and this is a middle-of-the-road track, as far as average is concerned.  Just a 12.8, with eight Top 10s in 17 races.

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Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Chase Elliott carries a disturbingly good average finish here, a 3.5 over four attempts.  You don’t usually see that from someone who has yet to capture their first career win!  Three Top 5s, four Top 10s; he finished 2nd in last year’s Spring race, and 8th in the Fall.  Dude knows his way around here; is tomorrow when he finally gets off the schneid?

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Kyle Larson: 2017 FireKeepers Casino 400 winner (Photo – Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson has had eight races at this track.  It appears that the first five were “just practice,” because he’s won the last three he’s done.  He’s one away from tying the track “streak” record here, four straight set by Bill Elliott many years ago.  Larson has some work to do though, starting all the way back in 26th.

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William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet, walks to his car during practice. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

William Byron will start 14th on Sunday, and this isn’t ordinarily someone that you’d see in this position.  He’s a rookie, hasn’t yet been here in the Cup series, but there was something about his performance in Fontana (California), and then his 10th place finish at Texas, another high speed track.  He ran runner-up at Michigan in last year’s Xfinity race, and a 4th in 2016’s Truck race.  Will he carry that success in the transition to Cup?  Great news: we don’t have to wait long to find out.

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BROOKLYN, MI – JUNE 18: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Cars 3/Target Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 18, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Coverage of the race starts on FOX at 2:00pm, green flag scheduled for 2:16pm.

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