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NASCAR Starting Lineup for Sunday's Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway

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NASCAR Starting Lineup for Sunday's FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway

Points leader Kyle Larson starts on the pole for the second-to-last race before the start of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs

NASCAR returns to the Irish Hills of Michigan International Speedway this weekend with the running of the Firekeepers Casino 400. It’s the only time they’ll visit the two-mile oval this year as the track has been reduced to one Cup Series date.

It’s the first time since its first NASCAR race in 1969 the Michigan schedule has been cut. The track’s wide, sweeping turns provide plenty of room to race and once made this track both a driver and fan favorite. A midsummer race in 1981, for example, featured a whopping 65 lead changes in only 200 laps.

However, this oval has suffered competition-wise in recent years as the aero push has made it more difficult to pass. Even a reduction to 550 horsepower hasn’t helped under the current handling package; the track averaged just 11 lead changes in its two races last year.

Raw speed was once the story here with Jeff Gordon qualifying at over 206 miles an hour in 2014. But the low horsepower package has toned that down some, too, along with the track eliminating qualifying due to COVID-19 protocols. Instead, the field was set using the metric outlined below.

50% of the metric is based on finishing position from the previous race (split between driver and owner).
35% of the metric is the team’s current position in the NASCAR Cup Series owner point standings.
15% of the metric is based on the team’s fastest lap during the previous race.

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The team with the lowest total starts on the pole, then the next lowest, etc. until the starting grid is complete. It’s the best compromise NASCAR could make while attempting to limit each team’s at-track time and respecting COVID-19 restrictions still in place. Indeed, some of those masking mandates in particular have increased this week, perhaps in anticipation of the series returning to a hotspot next weekend down in Florida.

Only 37 cars entered the race at Michigan, leaving the 40-car grid three short. For this one, just the 36 teams who have guaranteed spots are entered along with the “open” car of JTG Daugherty Racing (Ryan Preece, No. 37).

1. Kyle Larson
2. Chase Elliott
3. Ryan Blaney
4. Matt DiBenedetto
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Kurt Busch
7. Kyle Busch
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Alex Bowman
11. Chris Buescher
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13. Erik Jones
14. Tyler Reddick
15. Bubba Wallace
16. Ryan Newman
17. Justin Haley (i)
18. William Byron
19. Joey Logano
20. Brad Keselowski
21. Chase Briscoe (R)
22. Ross Chastain
23. Aric Almirola
24. Corey LaJoie
25. Michael McDowell
26. Austin Dillon
27. Cole Custer
28. Christopher Bell
29. Josh Bilicki
30. Daniel Suarez
31. Quin Houff
32. Ryan Preece
33. Garrett Smithley (i)
34. James Davison
35. Anthony Alfredo (R)
36. BJ McLeod (i)
37. Cody Ware (i)

(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points

Qualifying Notes

- Kyle Larson (pole) is starting up front for the fifth time this season. He only had nine career poles prior to the start of this year.
- Ryan Blaney (3rd) is the highest-qualifying Ford.
- Matt DiBenedetto (4th) has his best starting spot of the season.
- Martin Truex Jr. (5th) is the highest-qualifying Toyota.
- Kevin Harvick (8th) is the defending race winner.
- Justin Haley (17th) has the best starting position of his Cup career
(25 starts).
- Chase Briscoe (21st) is the highest-qualifying rookie.
- BJ McLeod (36th) replaces road course ringer Andy Lally in his self-owned No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Ford.

NASCAR Race Breakdown

Race: Firekeepers Casino 400
Track: Michigan International Speedway (Brooklyn, Mich.)
Date: Sunday, Aug. 22
TV: NBCSN, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 laps (400 miles)
Stage 1: 60 Laps
Stage 2: 60 Laps
Final Stage: 80 Laps

Pre-Race Preview

Christopher Bell stops by the Frontstretch podcast to chat about his feud with Kyle Larson, prepping for the Cup playoffs and so much more. That’s before host Davey Segal and company turn their attention to the Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.