If you liked the long green-flag runs and fuel mileage strategy of last week's race at Pocono, then you're likely in for a treat this weekend. Sunday marks the first of two races at Michigan International Speedway this summer. That's not to say we are in for a long, boring afternoon on Sunday. Michigan's wide turns will allow for plenty of side-by-side racing, which should be enhanced by the new double-file restart rule that made its debut last weekend at Pocono.
But Michigan does have a reputation for long green-flag runs and few cautions, which will test even the best crew chiefs and give their calculators a good workout. Green flag stops will also test the drivers as they make their way onto the long pit road coming off the track where they are running high speeds and have to resist the urge to speed.
So which drivers will help you score the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in the Irish Hills of Michigan this Sunday? Read on to find out this week's favorites, sleepers and longshots.
Carl Edwards- Last weekend at Pocono, Edwards was one of the dominant cars, leading 103 laps before ultimately finishing second to Tony Stewart. Expect to see plenty more of the No. 99 Ford up front again this weekend at Michigan. In the two CoT races at Michigan last year, Edwards finished 7th in June before winning in August; add to that Edward's current three-race top-10 streak and he's one of the top bets this weekend.
By the numbers: In his nine career races at Michigan, Edwards has finished outside the top 10 just once. He has two wins to his credit and has led 242 laps.
Matt Kenseth- Some of Edwards' toughest competition on Sunday likely will come from his own team. In last year's races at Michigan, Kenseth matched Edwards' 4.0 average finish and, like Edwards, is also starting to gain momentum, finishing in the top 10 in three of the past four races. While Kenseth wasn't nearly the factor at Pocono last weekend that Edwards was, you should see plenty of the No. 17 this Sunday.
By the numbers: In 19 starts, Kenseth is a two-time Michigan winner and has finished in the top 5 in four of the past five races.
Tony Stewart- One driver looking to break the Roush Fenway juggernaut at Michigan is last week's winner Tony Stewart. Considering his recent hot streak, the win wasn't much of a surprise; but what might have surprised a few was Stewart's ability to nurse the gas pedal to ensure he could go the distance. If he can pull off the same kind of fuel strategy again this weekend; we could be looking at another pair of back-to-back wins by Smoke, something he's done seven times in his career.
By the numbers: In 20 starts at Michigan, Stewart has 13 top-10 finishes, including seven in the past nine races.
David Ragan- With just one top 10 this year -- which came in the season opener at Daytona -- and three DNFs it's been far from a stellar start to the season for Ragan. But things could turn around for the better this weekend. There must be something in the water at the Roush Fenway shops, because, like his teammates, Ragan seems to perform just a little bit better at MIS.
By the numbers: In last year's events at Michigan, Ragan posted finishes of eighth and third.
Brian Vickers- After posting three top 10s in the first four races of the year, those kind of finishes have been harder to come by for Vickers in recent weeks. In the past six races he's posted just two top-10 finishes. But at Michigan this week, look for Vickers to put his Toyota horsepower to good use. Plus the newly-inked multi-year deal he just signed with Red Bull this week will likely put a little extra pep in his step.
By the numbers: In ten starts at Michigan, Vickers has finished in the top 10 50 percent of the time; including the past three races.
Sam Hornish Jr- Looking for a driver who will help you fly under the radar and get a good finish this weekend? Then take a look at putting Sam Hornish Jr. on your roster. Since finishing ninth at Phoenix in week eight, a new Sam Hornish has emerged. Other than a crash at Talladega and 30th place run at Darlington, Hornish has been in the top 20 each week; including two other top-10 finishes at Richmond and Pocono. Could Hornish finally be getting the hang of this stock car gig?
By the numbers: Hornish's three top-10 finishes this year are the first three of his NASCAR career. In only two races at Michigan, he has finished 22nd both times.
Next up: The Sprint Cup Series heads to wine country for the first of two road course races of the season at Infineon Raceway.
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