Wednesday, Dec 01

Statistically Analyzing the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan

After a wild finish at the Pocono Raceway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has arrived to another high speed track – the Michigan International Speedway. But these two tracks don’t have many similar characteristics other than the fact that they have been known to be extremely fast.

The last three Michigan races have been won by Ford drivers, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano. However, from 2009 until Biffle’s win in 2012, Toyota drivers dominated at Michigan with four wins over the course of seven races. During the first practice session of the weekend, the top-21 drivers ran speeds over 200 mph. Now, let’s take a look at who has the advantage going into Michigan.

-Jamie McMurray: McMurray has struggled at Michigan in the past with just four top-10s in 22 starts at the track with his last coming in 2008. He had a strong car in this race last year, but ended up finishing four laps down after leading 21 laps. After finishing 10th at Pocono, McMurray enters Michigan 21st in the standings.

-Brad Keselowski: Keselowski is coming off of a disappointing day at Pocono. He dominated the race, but with less than five laps to go, gave up the lead due to having debris on his grille and he could never get back around Dale Earnhardt Jr. Michigan is his home track, and he is determined to get a victory there. In nine Michigan starts, Keselowski has led 37 laps with two top-fives, including a runner-up in 2012.

-Austin Dillon: Dillon ran his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan back in 2012, and managed to run inside the top-25 for the majority of the race. In three Nationwide Series starts at the track, Dillon has a pair of pole awards, along with a top-five finish. But he also ran both Michigan races in 2013, and he finished inside the top-15 during both of them. He enters Michigan 15th in points and is looking for his second top-10 of the year.

-Kevin Harvick: Harvick was extremely fast at Pocono, but once again – he had something go wrong that was out of his control. Even with bad luck, Harvick is 12th in points with two wins. In 26 Michigan starts, Harvick has a win (2010) and three runner-up finishes, including both races in 2013.

-Kasey Kahne: Kahne’s sponsor, Farmer’s Insurance, just signed a contract extension through 2017. He was quickest in first practice, and is looking to gain some momentum after being the worst of the four Hendrick Motorsports cars all year. In 20 Michigan starts, Kahne has nine top-10s along with a win back in 2006.

-Michael Annett: Annett is coming off of a 20th-place finish at Pocono. He has been strong at the larger tracks this year, and he might be able to come away with a solid run.

-Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has struggled this year. He has only recorded top-10s at short tracks, but he has not run well at the larger speedways. Since the repave at Michigan, Ambrose has run very well at the track – earning three top-10s over the last four races.

-Danica Patrick: Patrick has started to turn the corner on her NASCAR career. Instead of struggling to run inside the top-25 weekly, she has started to run no worse than the top-25, especially at the sport’s larger tracks. Patrick is coming off of three rough weeks, but she recorded a 13th-place finish at Michigan last year, and is looking for some momentum.

-Denny Hamlin: As mentioned earlier, Toyota dominated Michigan for a few years, and Hamlin won two of those races. Since the repave, Hamlin has struggled at the track as he finished inside of the top-15 just once over the past four races at Michigan. He has momentum on his side, however, as he has run inside of the top-five for back-to-back weeks.

-Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya is making his return to NASCAR competition for the first time since Homestead last year. He just earned his first IndyCar Series podium finish of the season with a third-place finish at Texas. Montoya has never been outstanding at Michigan in NASCAR with three top-10s in 14 starts at the track, but this is more of a preview for what is to come at Indianapolis later this year.

-Casey Mears: Has three top-10s at Michigan, but his best finish at Michigan was 20th since he joined Germain Racing. Mears is solidly 25th in points as that is about where he has been running week-in and week-out.

-Tony Stewart: Stewart gave up a victory at Pocono last weekend with a speeding penalty. He is coming off of three straight solid runs, but this might be the weekend where he gets back to victory lane. Stewart has 20 top-10s in 29 Michigan starts with an average finish of 11.7.

-Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has not been incredibly strong this season as his average finish is worse than 17th, but he is starting to turn the corner. Over the past eight Michigan races, Bowyer hasn’t finished worse than eighth with a career-best finish of fifth last season. He is coming off of two straight top-11 runs, and is currently 16th in points.

-Greg Biffle: The entire Roush-Fenway Racing team has struggled mightily this year at the intermediate tracks – which has historically been their strong suit. However, Biffle’s best track is Michigan as he has won four times in 22 starts at the track. Biffle has 14 top-10s at Michigan, and has won two of the last three races at the track. He has just two top-10s at non-restrictor plate tracks this year, but Michigan is the right place to turn things around.

-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Like Biffle, Stenhouse Jr. is just searching for consistency. He has three top-10s this year, but he has multiple finishes of 25th or worse. He finished inside of the top-20 for both Michigan races last year, and this could be a vital time in the No. 17 team’s season.

-Kyle Busch: Busch has sparked some controversy over the past two weeks with incidents that involved Bowyer and Kahne, respectively. Busch has been strong at the larger tracks this year, and he has an average finish of 13.2 this year. He won at Michigan in 2011, but he has just six top-10s in 18 starts at the track.

-Matt Kenseth: Kenseth is still searching for his first victory of the season after scoring seven wins in 2013. He has 10 top-10s this year, but he is going back to his old form where he struggles to start races but then gets stronger late in the event. At Michigan, Kenseth has a victory (2006) with 18 top-10s in 29 starts. He has an average finish of 9.6 at Michigan as he looks to capture that elusive victory.

-Trevor Bayne: Bayne will race in NASCAR’s highest level on a full-time basis next year. As of now, he is still racing for the Wood Brothers as he attempts to earn his first finish that is better than 19th this year. He has an average finish of 23.8 at Michigan, but he has two top-20 finishes at the track.

-Joey Logano: Logano won his first race for Team Penske at Michigan last year, and since then – he has been incredibly strong at the tracks 1.5-miles long or larger. Entering Michigan, Logano has seven top-10s this year and has already surpassed the most laps he has led in a single season with 447. At Michigan, he has five top-10s in 10 starts, but he did struggle at the track with Joe Gibbs Racing in the past.

-Alex Bowman

-Jeff Gordon: Gordon has two wins at Michigan along with 25 top-10s in 42 starts. Entering Michigan, Gordon holds the points lead as he also has a win this year. He has been strong just about everywhere this year. The last three Michigan races have been not too well for Gordon with his best finish being 17th.

-Cole Whitt

-Paul Menard: Menard has been carrying the torch at Richard Childress Racing this year. With seven top-10s this year, he is bound to have a good run at Michigan as he has been running strong at the larger speedways. In 15 starts at Michigan, he has three top-10s, but each of those has been recorded since 2011.

-Ryan Newman: Newman is coming off of his first top-10 since Richmond over a month ago. He has consistently run inside of the top-15 on a weekly basis, but he has not been contending for wins. In 25 Michigan starts, Newman has a pair of wins (2003 & 2004) along with seven top-10s. Since 2011, he has been up and down at Michigan, but RCR has been strong there in the past which might benefit him on Sunday.

-Travis Kvapil

-David Stremme

-David Ragan

-Reed Sorenson

-David Gilliland

-Landon Cassill

-Kurt Busch: Coming off of one of his best races this year, Busch has plenty of confidence in his No. 41 team. He led a good chunk of both Michigan events in 2013 while driving for Furniture Row Racing. In 26 races at Michigan, he has two wins with nine top-10s, but he has an average finish of 21.2.

-Kyle Larson: Larson has made just one prior start at Michigan in the Nationwide Series, and he finished second in that race. He enters Michigan inside of the top-10 in points, and he is 10th in points with six top-10s. He also announced on Friday morning that his girlfriend and he are expecting a child during the final week in December.

-Aric Almirola: Almirola has had a solid start to the 2014 season. A 43rd-place finish at Fontana dropped him to 26th in points, but he is steadily working his way back up with top-15 runs on a weekly basis. In four starts at Michigan, he has never finished worse than 20th, but he has maxed out at 17th.

-J.J. Yeley

-A.J. Allmendinger: Considering it is his first full-time season with this team, Allmendinger has been running rather well with three top-10s. He has struggled over the past month as he hasn’t cracked the top-20, but Michigan has been a decent track for him. Though he has never cracked the top-10 in 11 Michigan starts, Allmendinger has seven top-20 finishes at the track.

-Jimmie Johnson: Michigan is one of the few tracks Johnson has never won at in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. He’s been in position to win at the speedway multiple times, but something always goes wrong – especially when it comes down to fuel strategy. During the last three Michigan races, Johnson has finished 27th or worse with two engine failures. His average finish at Michigan is 16.8, but he is on a hot streak with four straight top-10s, including back-to-back wins.

-Justin Allgaier: Allgaier has struggled in his rookie year with HScott Motorsports. The No. 51 team is running better at the shorter tracks, but Michigan has been a good track for Allgaier in the past. In five Nationwide Series starts at Michigan, he earned two top-10 finishes with none being worse than 14th.

-Brian Vickers: Vickers won a fuel mileage race at Michigan in 2009 for Red Bull Racing, but he hasn’t run at the track since the repave just like Pocono. He enters Michigan 13th in points with an average finish slightly below 16th this year. In 14 races at Michigan, Vickers has eight top-10s along with a pair of top-fives.

-Brett Moffitt: Moffitt is running in place of Jeff Burton this weekend. In a joint effort between Identity Ventures Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing, Moffitt is running his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

-Martin Truex Jr.: This team is starting to get on a hot streak with back-to-back top-10 finishes. Busch contended for the win at both Michigan races last year, and Truex finished third in this race. In 16 prior starts at Michigan, he has three top-fives along with five top-10s as his average finish is 15.7.

-Ryan Truex

-Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Coming off of his win at Pocono, Earnhardt Jr. returns to one of his best tracks. He has two wins and 10 top-10s at Michigan in 29 starts, but it has been hit or miss for him. Entering Michigan, he is third in points with nine top-10s and seven top-fives.

-Josh Wise

-Carl Edwards: Edwards enters Michigan seventh in points after dropping four spots due to a crash at Pocono. The entire RFR team has been inconsistent at the larger tracks, but this is one of his better speedways. In 19 starts at Michigan, Edwards has a pair of wins with 15 top-10 finishes.

Joseph Wolkin

Joseph Wolkin (@JosephNASCAR) is a sophomore at the Queensborough Community College as an English major. He’s a native of Whitestone, NY, just outside of New York City, and has been attempting to find roots of motorsports within his area since 2004. He started out as just a fan, but over the course of his high school career, he ended up falling in love with writing.

Joseph has been covering NASCAR since 2011 for several different websites. Recently, he was named as one of two lead NASCAR columnists for Rant Sports after working for the site for over one year. Working with Rant Sports for approximately 14 months, Joseph has covered New York City area sports teams such as the New York Giants, New York Mets, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and more.

Through his passion is for NASCAR, Joseph has adapted to changing times and realizes that he has numerous opportunities in the journalism work. As one of the top young sports writers, his goal is to become one of the top motorsports writers of this new digital media era. However, he also believes that it’s important to stick to the traditional routers of print publications after seeing his high school newspaper dissolve due to a lack of funding.

Currently, besides his duties with Speedway Digest, Joseph is a columnist with Fronstretch.com, Motorsport.com and has a weekly article in NASCAR Pole Position's digital version - ROAR! Weekly Race Preview Magazine. 

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