Who should be on your roster for Sunday's race up in the Irish Hills?
"Hello again, my old friend."
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Aug. 11 for the Consumers Energy 400. As you may recall, the track is two miles long, but this time the PJ1 traction compound was applied to the outer lane closest to the wall. Cars will be equipped with the lower horsepower, aero duct package.
For the first time in a few weeks, the drivers held their first practice and qualifying on Friday. Since this is not an impound race, any driver who fails pre-race tech inspection will drop to the rear during the warm-up laps. Those drivers will be scored from where they qualified, so keep that in mind Sunday.
Two months ago, Joey Logano completely dominated the race, leading 163 laps after starting on the pole. Up until last week's event at Watkins Glen International, he was the only driver to win from the pole position this season. However, such a feat isn’t all that unusual for this racetrack. Several times throughout Michigan's 50-year history, drivers were victorious after starting in the front.
What does this mean for daily fantasy? Well, obviously you will more than likely want the driver starting at or near the front in your lineup. They can score the most points if they lead the most laps. Many different racers posted fastest laps throughout the field in the first Michigan race this year, so while it does give you extra points, you don't necessarily need to focus on that as much. Finally, you will need drivers capable of finishing higher than where they started. They can earn you bonus points on top of where they end the race. Here are the rules for DraftKings' NASCAR fantasy game.
Kevin Harvick ($11,800)
Career at Michigan: 37 starts, 2 wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 11.9
Harvick was one of my picks in June and finished seventh after starting third. I just had to include him again for this race. He won this event a year ago and led a race-high 108 laps. Since 2013, all but three Michigan races were top 10 finishes, including six runners-up. In the past three races here, he's led a total of 172 laps.
The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford finally earned that elusive win three weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and looks to defend his race title at MIS. Since he qualified second, he is in prime position to lead laps if he can get around pole-winner Brad Keselowski. If you think he will win again and stay at the front of the field throughout the race, plug him into your DraftKings lineup!
Joey Logano ($10,200)
Career at Michigan: 21 starts, 3 wins, 6 top fives, 15 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 12
As mentioned previously, Logano won the June event earlier this season and led a whopping 163 laps. He was also less expensive back then – $500 less to be precise. This time around, he starts eighth, but I believe he still has speed enough to get to the lead. After all, his Team Penske teammate qualified on the pole.
Since 2013, he only has one finish outside the top 10 at Michigan, which came in this race two years ago. That's an incredible streak for the No. 22 Ford driver. It's this kind of consistency you need for your daily fantasy lineups. While it's not a guaranteed lock, his track history proves he has a good shot to help you cash your contests. Plus, I think he would like to sweep the 2019 Michigan races and tie his cohort Keselowski at three wins on the season.
Chase Elliott ($9,400)
Career at Michigan: 7 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 7.4
Elliott has the best average finish of all the drivers in the field with at least three starts. This statistic, as well as his recent win at the Glen, isn't really reflected in his price. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports wheelman is slated to begin Sunday's race sixth, which is significantly better than where he had been starting in the last few years.
Also, up until the first 2019 Michigan race, he never ended a race at this track outside the top 10. That event went into overtime, and crazy things tend to happen in those brief two laps. This could be why he finished 20th. Still, the odds aren't really stacked against him, though it is starting to be crunch time for many trying to make the playoffs. Elliott is too fast for me to not consider adding him into my DraftKings lineup.
Kurt Busch ($8,900)
Career at Michigan: 37 starts, 3 wins, 7 top fives, 14 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 18.2
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver's win at Kentucky four weeks ago feels so long ago. He did get a top 10 last week at Watkins Glen, but that's a road course. At Michigan in June, he earned his third straight top 10 at this track with a runner-up finish. He, too, was part of the perfect lineup, as well as Logano. However, you don't need to be perfect to finish in the green on DraftKings. Busch will start 13th on Sunday and has a good chance to earn you bonus place differential points.
Ryan Newman ($7,900)
Career at Michigan: 36 starts, 2 wins, 6 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 16.1
Newman is another guy who has the capability to finish better than where he qualified. He has three top 10s in the previous eight Michigan events, including the one in June where he earned an eighth-place position. He awarded DraftKings users who rostered him 47 fantasy points thanks in part to his 10 spots gained. Newman's done wonders for the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team, who struggled on non-superspeedways in previous years. He has eight top 10s so far this season, including a fifth-place finish at the summer Daytona race. Since he starts Sunday's race 20th, he has even more potential to earn many DraftKings points, especially if he ends up 10th or higher.
Chris Buescher ($7,300)
Career at Michigan: 7 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Michigan: 22.4
You may notice a trend here: another driver with the proven ability to complete races in a greater position than where he qualified. In fact, Buescher finished 15 spots higher than where he started in the first Michigan race this year. It was his best finish since the 2017 event where he concluded the race in sixth. This season has been one of his best yet, and I think he will continue his top-20 streak Sunday. He qualified 25th, so he has a great chance to patiently race his way to the front half of the pack.
Dark Horse Performer
Austin Dillon ($7,100)
Career at Michigan: 14 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 16.2
"What? Austin Dillon?" Yes, but hear me out. Apart from Daytona, Michigan is probably his best track on the schedule. He (as well as his teammate Daniel Hemric) proved that in both the first practice and qualifying Friday. However, both were found to have violated rules, and their qualifying times were thrown out. That will probably raise Dillon's ownership significantly, but you should still add him to your lineup.
In last year's race he finished fourth, and two years ago he was seventh at the checkered flag. He has two top fives here and has a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet powerful enough to drive to the front. He did earn a 10th-place result at Chicagoland a few weeks ago after starting on the pole. Dillon is absolutely a lock in my DraftKings lineup, and should be in yours.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)