Car execs flock to Michigan

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Part 2 of the Motor City battle takes place Sunday 70 miles west of Detroit at Michigan International Speedway’s wide 2-mile layout for the 23rd race of the NASCAR Cup Series season. It’s a place where executives from the competing manufacturers proudly root for their brand from the luxury boxes and so far it’s the Ford camp doing the most cheering with 38 wins in the 100 races run since the track opened in 1969. 

Joey Logano’s Ford Mustang won the June 10 race at Michigan in dominating fashion leading seven times for 163 of the 203 laps. But I don’t remember it being boring. I remember it being a competitive race that had 20 lead changes among 11 drivers. While Logano was out front for most of the race, the racing behind him was pretty good which has been the case most of the season with the race package featuring aero ducts and engines with 550 horsepower. 

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This will be the 12th time this race package has been used in 2019 and we haven’t seen anyone stand out as the elite dominator with it. Denny Hamlin won with it the last time it was used at Pocono to give him two wins with it (Texas). Logano won at Las Vegas and Michigan using it and his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski won at Atlanta and Kansas. Kyle Busch won at Fontana and the first Pocono race and the other drivers to win with it were Martin Truex Jr. (Charlotte), Alex Bowman (Chicagoland), and Kurt Busch (Kentucky).

Parity is alive and kicking in the Cup Series this season and the past nine races have seen nine different winners. 

Chase Elliott kept the streak alive last week with a win at Watkins Glen, his second win of the season. So how about we identify a few drivers that can make it 10 straight different winners.

The first candidate to keep the streak going is Byron, Michigan native Erik Jones. He’s never won in any series on his home track, but he’s going to have a fast Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He’s currently on a run of finishing fourth or better in his last four starts. It hasn’t mattered what race package Jones has used, he’s been fast. He should be offered at most sportsbooks in the 20-1 range.

A Ford has won the last three Michigan races, a streak started last June by Clint Bowyer. It was his first career win at Michigan after 25 starts. In the June race, he qualified fifth, led a lap, but was involved in an accident and finished 35th. It’s part of the reason he’s on the verge of not making the playoffs as he sits 15th, only 12 points ahead of the 16th-pace cutoff mark. Desperation could give him that little extra push he needs to finally get in the winner’s circle this season.

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Kyle Larson didn’t win last season and hasn’t won so far in 2019, but of his five career Cup wins, three of them came at Michigan. It’s the track he got his first Cup win in 2016 and then in 2017 he won both Michigan races. He’s currently 14th in points, just 46 points above the cutline. What I really like about him this week besides his great past history is top-five finishes in his last three races using this package. He was runner-up at Chicagoland, fourth at Kentucky, and fifth at Pocono two weeks ago. He’s a driver worth shopping around town for the best price because I think his number will vary from 10-1 up to 20-1.

Brad Keselowski is from Rochester Hills, Michigan, but has never won a Cup race on his home track. He’s got two Xfinity Series wins there, but not winning a Cup race there gnaws at him. He wants it more than anything else in the series. He came the closest last season with runner-up and was sixth in the June race. He has three wins on the season but the last one came May 11 at Kansas. He’s gone 10 races without a win, so he’s kind of due. 

Kyle Busch only has one Cup win at Michigan (2011) in his 29 starts and he’s been sitting on four wins for the last eight races. He’s the driver who started the different driver streak at Pocono on June 2. He’s had top-five finishes in his last three starts at Michigan.

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