The highly anticipated summer spectacle at the Daytona International Speedway is set to get under way on Saturday evening. After a wild Daytona 500, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to its most famed track. This isn’t just any regular track, however, it is a place where you need more luck than usual to come out as the winner.
At Kentucky – an event which saw a season-low 2.3 rating for NASCAR’s highest-tier division, only 42 cars showed up for the first short field since 2001. But at Daytona, the paycheck is a lot higher for underdog teams as they attempt to make a name for themselves. Teams either love or hate Daytona, and this could be a weekend in which an underdog locks their way into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
With that being said – here is our statistical analysis for the Coke-Zero 400:
- Jamie McMurray: It has been hit or miss for McMurray at Daytona. In 23 starts, he has just five top-10s at the 2.5-mile track. However, he has a pair of wins (2007 and 2010), and he has led 22 laps at Daytona since 2011. He enters this weekend 21st in points, but Daytona could be the wildcard he has been looking for to enter the Chase.
- Brad Keselowski: Coming off of a dominating victory at the Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski has all but solidified a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has finished eighth or better at Daytona in three of the past four races, but he has finished worse than 20th in six races at the track with an average finish of 20.2 in 10 starts.
- Austin Dillon: Dillon won the pole for the Daytona 500 in February as he was making his second Sprint Cup Series start at the famed track. He earned a top-10 that day, and he has been running strong as of late. He enters this weekend 17th in points, but he will need to make sure to stay out of trouble to have a chance at the victory.
- Kevin Harvick: Harvick has eight top-10s this year, but he has consistently been the fastest car at each race this season. He hasn’t won at Daytona since his victory in the July race back in 2010. Over the past five races at Daytona, Harvick has just two top-10s. Entering this weekend, his average finish in 2014 is 15.4 after recording two DNFs.
- Kasey Kahne: Kahne enters Daytona at the perfect time after recording three straight top-10 finishes. However, his success has been subpar at Daytona over the past three events – finishing 31st or worse in each of them. But Kahne has had some success at Daytona – including a runner-up finish in this race during the 2010 season. In 21 Daytona starts, Kahne has seven top-10s and an average finish of 19.5.
- Michael Annett: Annett finished a season-best 16th at Talladega, but he was involved in a wreck at Lap 161 during his first Daytona 500. Last year, Annett was seriously injured in Nationwide Series competition at Daytona – forcing him to miss more than two months while racing for Richard Petty Motorsports. In 10 Nationwide Series races at Daytona, Annett has two top-10s with an average finish of 21st.
- Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose is coming off of two solid finishes. Moreover, he has just one top-10 at Daytona in 11 starts. He finished inside of the top-20 in both restrictor plate races this year, but was not a contender for the win. Entering Daytona, he is 20th in points and is still looking for his first win on an oval track.
- Danica Patrick: A lot of eyes will be on the No. 10 Chevrolet this weekend. She has a pair of top-15 finishes at Daytona in four starts. However, she has begun to turn the corner this season with five finishes inside of the top-20 this year.
- Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won one of the Budweiser Duel’s this year and he also won the Sprint Unlimited. Finishing runner-up in the Daytona 500 – Hamlin is bound to have success this weekend as he looks to capture his first victory at Daytona during a points paying event. In 17 starts at Daytona, he has just three top-10s with an average finish of 20.4. However, he won at Talladega a few months ago, and he sits 17th in points even after missing the race at the Auto Club Speedway.
- Casey Mears: Mears has had success at Daytona in the past – including back-to-back top-10 finishes at the track. Mears is 24th in points for Germain Racing, and they have finished inside of the top-20 in each of the past two events. In 20 starts at Daytona, he has four top-10s, and he will be a factor on Saturday evening.
- Tony Stewart: Stewart’s No. 14 team has been inconsistent this year – producing an average finish of 17.1. However, he has run stronger than that as of late – including at Pocono where he was on pace to contend for the win until a pit road speeding penalty derailed his efforts. Stewart has won the July race at Daytona on four different occasions with the last coming in 2012. He is still looking for his first win of 2014, and this might be the weekend he does just that. In 31 Daytona starts, Stewart has 14 top-10s with an average finish of approximately 17th.
- Clint Bowyer: Bowyer hasn’t had the season he expected after re-signing with Michael Waltrip Racing. Entering Daytona, he has a pair of top-fives and six top-10s as the No. 15 team sits 14th in points. Bowyer has never won at Daytona, but has had success at its sister track – the Talladega Superspeedway. In 17 starts at Daytona, he has seven top-10s, and he has led 19 or more laps in four events at the 2.5-mile track.
- Greg Biffle: Like Bowyer, Biffle is also winless entering the third restrictor plate race of the year. However, he finished in the runner-up spot at Talladega, and he recorded his seventh career top-10 at Daytona in February. In 23 starts at Daytona, Biffle has an average finish of 19.2, and has three top-10s in the last five races at the track.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: This could be an opportunity race for Stenhouse as he has struggled on the intermediate tracks this year. Entering Daytona 27th in points with an average finish of 24.1, he needs a good run to get back into contention to make the Chase. In four career starts at Daytona, he has never finished worse than 20th, and he has improved his finishing position in each race he has run at the track.
- Kyle Busch: Busch is running the Nationwide Series race on Friday evening as well as the Cup Series race. However, he has just one win at Daytona in the Nationwide Series as well as one in the Sprint Cup Series. In 19 Cup Series starts at Daytona, Busch has six top-10s, but none have come since 2011. After a runner-up finish at Kentucky, he enters Daytona 10th in points.
- Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has been the victim of the runner-up curse this year. The two-time Daytona 500 is looking to capture his first July victory at the speedway as he will make his 30th career start at Daytona. Kenseth has 14 top-10s at Daytona along with six top-fives – leading 50 or more laps in three of the past five races at the track. He enters this race fifth in points as the No. 20 has still not secured a spot in the Chase.
- Trevor Bayne: Running his partial schedule for the Wood Brothers, this will be the final time Bayne races the No. 21 car at Daytona. Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, is looking for his first top-10 at the track since that victory.
- Joey Logano: Logano has two wins entering Daytona, so he can go for broke this weekend. With nine top-10s this season, he enters this weekend seventh in points. In 11 career starts at Daytona, he has three top-10s with an average finish of 20th.
- Alex Bowman: Bowman finished inside of the top-25 in his Cup Series debut at Daytona in February. His best finish this year is 22nd at Fontana.
- Jeff Gordon: Gordon is the point’s leader entering Daytona, and he has 13 top-10s this season with an average finish of 8.5. In 43 starts at Daytona, Gordon has six wins with 20 top-10s. He has also led 621 laps after completing more than 94 percent of all laps run at the speedway.
- Cole Whitt: After swapping teams before Richmond, Whitt has settled in as the leader at BK Racing. Whitt ran well during both restrictor plate races this year, and should be able to lock up his third top-25 finish this year if he can avoid wrecks.
- Paul Menard: Menard enters Daytona with nine top-10s this year as he is 11th in points. He has three top-10s at Daytona in 14 starts. In February, Menard led 29 laps as he was one of the strongest cars in the field.
- Joe Nemechek: Nemechek is attempting to make RAB Racing’s Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend. They attempted to make the Daytona 500 a few years ago with Kenny Wallace, but the team had mechanical issues during the Duel race.
- Ryan Newman: Newman ran his best race of the season at Kentucky last weekend. Entering Daytona, he has six top-10s this season with an average finish of 13.9. In 25 Daytona starts, Newman has one win (2008 Daytona 500) along with six top-10s.
- Terry Labonte: Labonte is making his last Sprint Cup Series start at the Daytona International Speedway. This will be his 889th Cup Series race and he will be making his 63rd career start at Daytona.
- Bobby Labonte: He has not raced since the Daytona 500 this year after recording a 15th-place finish. This will be his 44th career start and he is still searching for win No. 1 at Daytona.
- David Ragan: This will be Front Row Motorsports first of two chances to win a race after getting wrecked out of both plate races this year. Ragan won at Talladega in the past along with a Daytona win in 2011. In 15 Daytona starts, he has four top-10s with an average finish slightly worse than 20th.
- Reed Sorenson: Sorenson has three top-10s in 10 starts at Daytona. This is going to be an opportunity race for this team as well. Entering Daytona, he is 33rd in points with an average finish of 31.5.
- David Gilliland: Gilliland, like his teammate, wrecked at both plate races this year. However, he recorded a pole in his first Daytona start and has a pair of top-10s at the track in 12 starts.
- Landon Cassill: Cassill has had career-best runs at both plate races so far this season with 12th and 11th-place finishes, respectively. In five Cup Series starts at Daytona, Cassill has an average finish better than 25th.
- Kyle Larson: Larson has seven top-10s entering Daytona this weekend as he is 12th in points. However, after finishing outside of the top-30 during the Daytona, he ran inside of the top-10 at Talladega. He has an average finish of 16.2 this year.
- Aric Almirola: Almirola has had some bad luck at Daytona in the past as he has never recorded a top-10 finish at the track in six starts. He has three top-10s this season, but currently sits 23rd in points after being involved in three wrecks this year which forced him to park early.
- A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger earned a top-five finish at Talladega and is looking for his fourth top-10 this year. In 10 starts at Daytona, he has just two top-10s, but he’s led 16 laps at the track. Allmendinger enters Daytona 22nd in points.
- Jimmie Johnson: After a slow start to the year, Johnson has won three of the last six races. He sits second in points with 12 top-10s and an average finish of 10.6. He swept the Daytona races last season, but finished fifth in this year’s Daytona 500. In 25 Daytona starts, Johnson has 12 top-10s with three wins (two Daytona 500 victories).
- Justin Allgaier: Allgaier is making his second start at Daytona in the Cup Series, and he has been running well as of late for HScott Motorsports. This could be the team’s best race of the year as they look for their first top-10.
- Brian Vickers: Vickers finished inside of the top-five at Talladega, but struggled in the Daytona 500. The team has struggled over the past five races – finishing 14th or worse in each event. Entering Daytona, he has five top-10s this season as he is 19th in points. In 15 starts at Daytona, Vickers has three top-10s, but has never recorded a top-five finish.
- Michael Waltrip: Waltrip only runs the restrictor plate races at this stage in his career. In 52 Daytona starts, he has 15 top-10s along with three wins (two Daytona 500 victories).
- Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. blew an engine 30 laps into the Daytona 500, but the team’s momentum has slowly been coming back. Entering Daytona, they have three top-10s and sit 25th in points. However, in 18 starts at Daytona, Truex has just one top-10 finish as his average finish is 23.7 with four DNFs.
- Ryan Truex: He missed the Daytona 500, but ran well at Talladega until getting caught up in a wreck. Truex has DNQed three times this season, and he is 37th in points.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Going for the ‘Daytona Double’ this weekend, Earnhardt Jr. is looking for his third victory of 2014. This is his first multi-win season in a decade, and he is tied with Johnson for the second spot in the standings. Entering Daytona, he has 12 top-10s with nine top-fives. In 29 starts at Daytona, he has three wins with 17 top-10s – putting up an average finish of 13.4 for one of the best restrictor plate drivers in the sport.
- Michael McDowell: McDowell struggled during his Duel event at Daytona – missing the Daytona 500 in his first attempt of 20 scheduled events this year. He is coming off of a season-best 24th-place finish at Sonoma. In seven starts at Daytona, McDowell has one top-10 finish, but he has only been running at the finish in three of those events.
- Josh Wise: Wise has missed just one race this year (Phoenix) while driving for Phil Parsons Racing. They made a lot of noise at Bristol, and that created buzz around the internet world with their widely known Dogecoin community backing them. In four races at Daytona, Wise has a best finish of 24th.
- Carl Edwards: Edwards has two wins this season for Roush Fenway Racing – the only wins for the company. Entering Daytona, he has eight top-10s and sits sixth in points. In 19 starts at Daytona, Edwards has a best finish of second (twice), and has eight top-10s with an average finish of 18.1.
The journey to the top has been a long one for Brad Keselowski. However, time after time, the Michigan native has defied the odds.
Since he joined Team Penske in 2010, Keselowski has won a Nationwide Series title, a Sprint Cup Series title. Besides the championships, he has won 22 Nationwide Series events along with 11 on the Cup Series side. But ever since that broken ankle he had before Pocono in August of 2011, Keselowski has become more than just your average Sprint Cup Series driver that races for Roger Penske.
Using the Penske name, Keselowski has not only become one of the top drivers in NASCAR’s top-tier division, but his unique personality has created controversy on multiple occasions.
After missing the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup last season, the No. 2 team has a new look. No, it’s not just a new paint scheme. It’s a new level of confidence that has joined the organization after ending 2013 on a high note.
During the Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski showed that Team Penske is capable of contending for a title. Keselowski and his teammate, Joey Logano, led all but 31 laps in the 267 lap event. Kentucky marked the third time this season in which he led 95 or more markers in a race – matching the amount he had recorded entering this year. Now, he is determined to go after his second Sprint Cup Series title.
“I don’t want to win one championship and that be it for my career. I’m not gonna be happy with that, and I want to win another championship but I don’t want it to be five or 10 years from now. I don’t want to be a guy that contends for a championship every three or four years, I want to do it each and every year, and I know that opportunity is here and it is present, and I want to make the most of it. I’m not afraid to communicate that. I think when it comes to goals, when it comes to dreams and visions, you have to share them if you want them to become a reality,” Keselowski said during a post-race press conference on Saturday evening.
With his early season success, Keselowski currently sits fourth in the points standings with a pair of wins. He has all but locked himself inside of the Chase this year, and now is the time where he can prove that he is a force to win the title. As of now, he is on pace to lead more laps than he did in his championship season (735), and he is also on track to have the best statistical season of his career.
“Like I said, I don’t feel like we’re the dominant cars. We were tonight and I feel like we’re good cars with a really good team, but we have to keep pushing because, like I said, the Hendrick cars won three or four of the last five. You know the stat better than I do, but it’s something like that and that’s what it’s gonna take to win the championship. You’re gonna have to get on a streak in those 10 races and that’s where we need to be, so that’s where I want to push,” he said.
Even though they aren’t at the level which the Hendrick Motorsports team has been performing at – Team Penske is awfully close. At the five 1.5-mile tracks 17 races into the year, Penske cars have seven top-10 finishes.
Roush-Fenway Racing is heading in a new direction it appears for the 2015 season. After releasing lead engineer, Chip Bolin, rumors have swirled around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage area about two of Roush’s drivers, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.
According to reports, Biffle has signed a multi-year deal with the only team he has ever driven for at NASCAR’s highest level. However, it appears Edwards, 34, is on his way out. Even though he has been the strongest driver at the organization this season, Edwards has somewhat struggled at the intermediate tracks – just like his teammates, Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“We have done a really good job. The fact that we have a win is huge. That allows us to work really hard going into the Chase. A big reason to that is our crew chief, Jimmy Fennig,” Edwards said at Dover. “It appears to have (put us behind a bit). Historically, we have responded very well to change, but this change has been tough for us to stay ahead of. The time that we have before the Chase is really valuable to us.”
But even though he has stated on numerous occasions that he believes in Roush’s ability to get back to contending for wins on a weekly basis, Edwards is likely going to leave the team at the conclusion of this season. Although he was offered a deal from Richard Childress Racing, the 22-time Sprint Cup Series winner opted to decline the job with the Chevrolet team.
Motorsport.com reported on Thursday that Edwards will be going to Joe Gibbs Racing as a fourth car at the Toyota operation. Gibbs’ team has run three cars since expanding from two teams in 2005. However, at times – JGR has run four cars during race weekends as a R&D team.
Of course, there has to be drama in Edwards’ move.
He has driven for Roush since they took a chance on him in the Camping World Truck Series in 2003. When Jeff Burton headed out Roush’s doors, Edwards replaced him in the No. 99 car, and he has called the team home since. But now he is following his former teammate, Matt Kenseth, to create a new home.
This leaves Biffle as the lead driver at one of the two major Ford teams in NASCAR’s top-tier division. Biffle, 44, has also raced his entire career with RFR, but he has had just one year scoring more than two wins (2005). However, he has dealt with adversity rather well over the past few years, and will be a key mentor for Stenhouse Jr. as well as Trevor Bayne – who will drive the No. 6 Ford next year.
With Bayne moving to full-time competition with Roush, he might just be Edwards’ replacement. Even if another driver can find funding to move to Roush, they are clearly not in a position to expand to four cars.
The biggest struggle for them has been the ride height rules which NASCAR set in place this year. They have not been able to figure out the perfect setup, and now Edwards is off to another team which has also struggled in the same area.
Now, Roush will need to learn how to survive without a superstar. They are hoping that some of his sponsors will stay with the team – moving over to Stenhouse’s car. But if not – Roush will have to look for additional funding for the No. 17 car as the other two teams have sponsorship for the full season.
Michael Annett entered this season as an underdog. Annett, 28, is the oldest of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year class in 2014, but he also has the most experience in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series.
After starting out his career with Germain Racing, Annett landed at Richard Petty Motorsports after a year with Rusty Wallace Incorporated. It was at RPM where Annett started to contend for top-10s on a weekly basis, and arguably ran better than the equipment he was in. Last year, however, Annett suffered a major setback as he was severely injured in the season-opener at Daytona – sidelining him for nine races.
Annett came back, but did not run as strong as 2012 – earning just four top-10s in 25 races. Though he never truly contended for wins in the Nationwide Series, Annett showed that it was time to make the jump to the sport’s top-tier division, and that he did.
This year, Annett has been racing with Tommy Baldwin Racing – a team that started in 2009 as a start and park organization that was trying to piece together the right sponsorship package. Now that the team has grown, it was all but perfect timing for Annett.
Through 15 races in 2014, Annett has outrun the drivers he needs to outrun. No, he has not been stunning, but he has surely done better than initially thought. With his sponsor, Pilot/Flying J, following him to the Sprint Cup Series, he has the financial backing that might enable him to join a more established team in the future. But for now – the Iowa native is in the perfect setting where he doesn’t have to worry about having more pressure than needed along with unrealistic expectations.
However, the No. 7 team has begun to gain momentum. Tommy Baldwin Racing expanded their alliance with Richard Childress Racing over the off-season. No, it is not as heavy of an alliance compared to the likes of Furniture Row Racing and Germain Racing, but it is a partnership that has begun to help this underdog team.
Annett has three lead lap finishes this year. Although it doesn’t seem like a lot, all of those have been recorded at larger tracks – something that has been a weak point for this small team in the past. Over the past two weeks, Annett finished 20th and 21st, respectively. There is still room for improvement, but TBR has come a long way in a short time this year after running multiple laps down every single race to start the year. And so far this season, Annett has run slightly better than Dave Blaney did in the same car last year, as well as out running his teammate, Reed Sorenson.
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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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.