NASCAR Cup Series is set to bring all the high-speed action to Michigan

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Sparks are flying as the NASCAR Cup Series regular season is winding down and with just four races to go, the competitors head to Michigan International Speedway this weekend for the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday, August 7 at 3 p.m. ET (USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Victory Lane has had a rotating door this season with 14 different Cup winners having already secured their spot in the Playoffs heading into this Sunday at Michigan; including last weekend’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course winner, Tyler Reddick, who wrestled away his second victory of the season in impressive fashion.

Challenging the competitors this week will be the massive Michigan International Speedway, which sits on more than 1,400 acres in the “Irish Hills” of southeastern Michigan. Ground-breaking for the facility took place on September 28, 1967 and the two-mile asphalt paved track with 18 degrees of banking in the turns was created – the only track with those dimensions on the schedule.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway was held on June 15, 1969, and the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough in the Wood Brothers Racing’s No. 21 Mercury at an average speed of 139.254 mph.

The NASCAR Cup Series events at Michigan International Speedway have been run at multiple different lengths. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan was 500 miles in length; the second was scheduled for 600 – one of only three tracks all-time with a Cup Series event scheduled for 600 miles or more; joining Charlotte Motor Speedway and Trenton (New Jersey) Speedway. Michigan was re-measured to 2.04 miles for the last race in 1970 and both races in 1971 – with the race distance being 402 miles. All other races have been scheduled for 400 miles, except for the two 2020 races during the pandemic that were 312 miles each and run on consecutive days.

Michigan International Speedway has hosted a total of 104 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 50 different pole winners and 39 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in wins at Michigan with nine victories (1969, 1972 sweep, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 sweep, 1978). Kevin Harvick (2010, 2018, 2019, 2020-1, 2020-2) leads all active series drivers in wins at Michigan with five victories. Seven of the 39 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Michigan are active this weekend.

Active Michigan Race WinnersWinsSeasons
Kevin Harvick52020 sweep, 2019, 2018, 2010
Joey Logano32019, 2016, 2013
Kurt Busch32015, 2007, 2003
Kyle Larson32017 sweep, 2016
Denny Hamlin22011, 2010
Ryan Blaney12021
Kyle Busch12011

A total of 50 different drivers have qualified on the pole at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson with 10 poles (1969, 1974 sweep, 1975, 1976, 1977 sweep, 1978 sweep and 1979). Joey Logano leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in poles at Michigan with four (2013, 2016 sweep, 2019).

Active Michigan Pole WinnersPolesSeasons
Joey Logano42019, 2016 sweep, 2013
Kurt Busch32018, 2011, 2010
Brad Keselowski22019, 2017
Denny Hamlin12018
Kyle Larson12017
Kevin Harvick12014
JJ Yeley12007

This weekend at Michigan, the NASCAR Cup Series on-track activity kicks off with practice on Saturday, August 6 at 12:35 p.m. ET directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 1:20 p.m. ET – both events can be viewed on the NBC Sports App at 12:30 p.m. ET.

The first starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more NASCAR Cup Series winners (22) than any other starting position at Michigan International Speedway: 21 winners from the pole and one from the first starting position due to qualifying being cancelled – 1985 (Bill Elliott). The most recent driver to win from the pole at Michigan was Joey Logano in 2019. The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Michigan is 32nd, by NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin in the spring of 2009. 

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney returns to Michigan looking to go back-to-back

Needing a win to secure his spot in the Playoffs this season, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney revisits Michigan International Speedway with hopes of returning to Victory Lane this weekend and making it back-to-back victories at the two-mile facility. If Blaney wins this weekend, he will become the 11th different driver to win consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway joining:

  • Bobby Allison (1971 sweep),
  • David Pearson (1972 sweep – 1973), (1974-1975),
  • Cale Yarborough (1983 sweep),
  • Bill Elliott (1985 sweep – 1986 sweep),
  • Bobby Labonte (1995 sweep),
  • Mark Martin (1997-1998),
  • Ryan Newman (2003-2004),
  • Greg Biffle (2004-2005), (2012-2013)
  • Kyle Larson won three-straight at Michigan (2016-2017).
  • Kevin Harvick (2019, 2020-1, 2020-2) – only driver to win in consecutive days at a single track. 

The 28-year-old from High Point, North Carolina, Blaney, is currently ranked 15th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff outlook, 121 points ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick in 17th – the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. In 22 starts this season, Blaney has scored five stage wins, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.

Last season, Blaney only led the final eight laps of the race after taking the lead on the final restart en route to his win. In total, Blaney has made 13 starts at the two-mile track, posting one win (2021), four top fives and six top 10s. His average finish at Michigan is 15.231 – 10th best among active drivers.

Outside Looking In: Harvick circles Michigan as winless streak continues

This week, Stewart-Haas Racing announced a reshuffle of their competition leadership within the organization and one driver hoping it pays dividends in their success is veteran Kevin Harvick, who sits 17th in the Playoff outlook standings 96 points back from the postseason cutline with just four races left in the regular season.

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season wins leader (nine wins), Kevin Harvick, returns to Michigan International Speedway still riding a winless streak that dates back to Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 19, 2020 – 65 races ago. 

Looking to snap his winless stretch this weekend and lock himself into the Playoffs, Harvick will be making his 42nd career start at the two-mile facility in the Irish Hills. And luckily for him, Michigan has been a bastion of success, as he leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in wins at the track with five (2010, 2018, 2019, 2020-1, 2020-2); including becoming the first driver in series history to win on back-to-back days at the same track (2020). In 41 starts at Michigan, the Bakersfield, California native has managed to put up five wins, 15 top fives and 21 top 10s. He finished 14th in the Michigan race last season.

Race to the Playoffs: Winning might be the only option soon

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 14 different winners, tied with the 2017 season for the most different winners through 22 races during the elimination-style Playoff Era (2014-2022), leaving just two spots still up for grabs on points as the series heads to Michigan International Speedway for race No. 23 of the season.

Just four races remain in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season and tensions are running high in the garage for the competitors that haven’t secured their spot in the postseason. Currently, the final two remaining transfer Playoff spots on points are occupied by Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney (15th, +121 points above the cutline) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. (16th, +96 points above cutline).

Heading into Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, several former winners at the track will be looking to return to Victory Lane this weekend, especially those that are winless this season. Of that group, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick bolsters the most success at the two-mile track with wins in all three of NASCAR’s national series; including the series-most among active drivers (five) in the NASCAR Cup Series. He also has a victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2003) and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2011). Harvick and Kyle Busch are the only two active drivers with wins in all three NASCAR national series at Michigan. Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney is the only other former active Cup Series Michigan winner still looking for his first win of the season.

RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski (two wins) and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon (one win) each have NASCAR Xfinity Series victories at Michigan International Speedway, and both need a win this season to get into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. In last season’s Cup race, Keselowski finished ninth and Dillon was caught in an incident relegating him to a 36th.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola each have NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at Michigan and are looking for their first wins of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. Last year, Almirola finished 17th and Wallace 19th in the Cup race.

Austin Hill to make NASCAR Cup Series debut at Michigan

Richard Childress Racing has had an action-packed few weeks winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course over the weekend with Tyler Reddick, and then announcing this week that rising star Austin Hill will be making his NASCAR Cup Series career debut for the organization this Sunday, August 7 in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Hill will become the 42nd different driver to make a start in the NASCAR Cup Series for Richard Childress Racing. 

Prior to this weekend, Hill has been spending his 2022 season competing for a championship in the NASCAR Xfinity Series piloting the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. In 20 Xfinity Series starts this season, Hill has accumulated two wins (Daytona, Atlanta), eight top fives and 13 top 10s. He also leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Hill will pull double duty this weekend competing in both series races at Michigan. 

“As a kid growing up in this sport, getting the chance to run a NASCAR Cup Series car is the ultimate dream, especially with a team like Richard Childress Racing that has so much history and success,” said Hill. “I’m so thankful that Richard Childress and everyone at RCR have so much faith in me. It will be a learning weekend, for sure, but I’ve had success at Michigan International Speedway in the past and can’t wait to take on the track’s wide, sweeping corners in a NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet.”

Austin Hill won at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2019.

Keselowski & Jones chasing home track success this weekend at Michigan

RFK Racing driver Brad Keselowski from Rochester Hills and Petty GMS Motorsports’ Erik Jones from Byron are returning to the great state of Michigan this weekend to compete at their home track – Michigan International Speedway. 

A total of 101 different drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Michigan, and nine of the 101 have won at least one race in a NASCAR national series. Michigan drivers have combined to win 158 NASCAR national series races, led by RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski, who has won a combined 75 NASCAR national series races – nearly half of the state’s total.

Winners From Michigan:

Brad Keselowski3539175
Paul Goldsmith9009
Erik Jones29718
Johnny Benson131418
Tim Fedewa0404
Butch Miller0213
Tracy Leslie0101
Jack Sprague012829
Bob Keselowski0011

Next to Martin Truex Jr.’s 31 winless starts at Michigan, Brad Keselowski has made the second-most starts among active drivers at Michigan without a trip to Victory Lane at 24. But in his 23 previous starts, he has put up seven top fives and 13 top 10s; including three runner-up finishes (2012, 2018, 2020). His average finish is 12.5 – fourth-best among active drivers.

Petty GMS Motorsports’ Erik Jones is tied with Johnny Benson Jr. for the third-most combined NASCAR national series wins by a driver from Michigan with 18 wins each, behind only Keselowski with 75 and Jack Sprague (Spring Lake) with 29. Jones has made nine Cup Series starts at Michigan posting one top five (third in 2017). His average finish is 16.6, and he finished 18th at Michigan last season.

Michigan could be the place Kyle Larson rights the ship

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season’s wins leader (10 victories), Kyle Larson, rolled into Michigan International Speedway last season already with five victories under his belt, fast forward to this season and the California native heads back to the two-mile track having not celebrated a series win since Auto Club Speedway back in February. With the Playoffs looming, and the series heading to a similarly shaped two-mile track this weekend, could Michigan be the site in which Larson gets back to his winning ways?

The phenom from Elk Grove, California, Larson, is looking to build some momentum heading into the Playoffs as he continues his quest to become the first driver since Jimmie Johnson (2006-2010, 2013, 2016) to win consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championships and join Kyle Busch as the only active multi-time title holders.

Larson has made 13 NASCAR Cup Series career starts at Michigan International Speedway posting three wins (2016, 2017 sweep), six top fives and seven top 10s. Larson (2016) and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett (1991) are the only two drivers in NASCAR Cup Series history to win their first career series race at Michigan.  

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