NASCAR Preview & Picks: Pure Michigan 400

NASCAR PREVIEW – PURE MICHIGAN 400

NASCAR arrives for its second race of the 2015 season at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday for the Pure Michigan 400. Kurt Busch looks for a season sweep after taking the rain shortened Quicken Loans 400 in June at this track, but his brother, Kyle, has been the hottest driver on the circuit recently and is looking to make up for lost time.

WHAT:           Pure Michigan 400

WHERE:         Michigan International Speedway

TIME: 2:30 PM EST  

Michigan International Speedway has always been a unique track. The two-mile D-shaped oval is not as large as the super-speedways at Talladega and Daytona, but larger than the 1.5 mile cookie cutter tracks that dominate the modern day circuit. The only similar track on the current circuit is Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Fuel mileage often plays a factor here and teams that gamble can often squeeze out a win on fumes, but we have also seen that those who live by the sword; die by the sword, and just as many drivers have lost this race running out of fuel in the last few laps.

We will try to narrow down the contenders and pretenders to provide you with an idea how this race may play out on Sunday.

Contenders

Kurt Busch – Busch won here in June, but he has had an uphill climb after being suspended for the first four races of the season by NASCAR for domestic abuse allegations. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has worked his way into the Top 10 in points and collected two wins so far on the season.

Kyle Busch – After missing the first three months of the season with leg and foot injuries suffered in the season opening Xfinity race at Daytona, Kyle Busch has returned and been the hottest driver in NASCAR for Joe Gibbs Racing. Even after missing the first three months of the season he has driven himself into a spot in the Chase for the Championship if it started today. In his last seven races Kyle Busch has 4 wins and a runner-up finish last week at Watkins Glen when he ran out of gas on the final lap. Michigan has not been kind to Kyle Busch as he has finished 31st, 41st, 39th and 43rd in his last four starts here, but he has been so hot recently that he has to be considered a contender.

Kevin Harvick – No one has been hotter in 2015 on the circuit than Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick. We are twenty-two races into the 2015 season and Harvick has 19 Top 10 finishes (86.3%). Harvick has also been hot at MIS where prior to this season he finished as the runner-up in four straight races at this track. The Sprint Cup defending champion and current point’s leader seems to find a way to get into contention each week and he finds a way to remain there until the finish.

Joey Logano – Logano and his Penske Racing team seem to have put it together this season. After a season opening win at Daytona, he has consistently turned in good performances to be trailing only Harvick in the Sprint Cup point standings. He is coming off a win last week at Watkins Glen and has Top 10 finishes in four of his last seven starts at MIS.

Brad Keselowski – Penske Racing driver Keselowski has not won at this track, but it is not for lack of trying. Since August 2011 he not finished worse than 13th and has 3 Top 3 finishes at MIS. The 2012 Sprint Cup Champion is fifth in the point standings and has been competitive at this track.

Jeff Gordon – This is a sentimental pick, but Hendrick Racing driver Jeff Gordon is the defending champion of the Pure Michigan 400 and as he winds down his retirement tour this season he is still seeking that elusive win. With 19 career Top 5 finishes at MIS he may give the crowd at Michigan one last memory.

Pretenders

Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs racing driver had a stretch from 2009-2011 where he had four Top 5 finishes out of five races, but he has cooled off considerably at MIS. Hamlin’s best finish since his win here in June 2011 is a 7th place finish in last year’s Pure Michigan 400 and he has finished 20th or worse in five of his last eight attempts.

David Gilliland – In 18 career starts at MIS, Gilliland has never finished in the Top 10

A.J. Allmendinger – In 14 career starts at MIS, Allmendinger has also never cracked the Top 10.

Buckle up on Sunday as Michigan is always a wild ride.

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