Repeat winners not Michigan’s style

Jun 12, 2007 7:07 AM

The Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan this week will be where two major streaks collide.

Manufacturers at Michigan races are on center stage like no other track in NASCAR. For all the dominance that Chevy has displayed while playing the role of Superman, winning 12 of 13 Cup races this season, the Michigan International Speedway has been their Kryptonite over the last 11 races held there.

Jeff Gordon was the last Chevy to win at Michigan in the early race of 2001.

Since then, five Dodges and six Fords have won in the Motor City. Because of the history and skills of one particular driver on wide sweeping 2-mile tracks, a Chevy is not favored to win a race for the first time this season.

Matt Kenseth comes in as the top choice at 9/1, followed by a barrage of Chevy’s.

Kenseth won on Michigan’s sister track at California earlier this season, the only victory this season for Ford. Kenseth has won two years in a row at California and has averaged a 7½ finish position in his 15 career Michigan starts. He’s had two career wins at Michigan including the last Cup race held there.

Kenseth is likely bringing his best chassis to Michigan as well. Chassis #K-317 won at California, finished second at Texas, and hasn’t placed worse than fourth in four events this season.

Kenseth’s top competitors all come from Chevy, led by the Hendrick duo of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon at 10/1 each. Current points leader Gordon has won at Michigan twice and is the only Chevy to finish first at Michigan in the last 23 races. Gordon finished second to Kenseth in the last race held there.

For all of Johnson’s success at California, it hasn’t translated to a winning formula at Michigan the way it has for Kenseth and several other drivers. Johnson’s best finish at Michigan is fourth — his only top 5 on the track in 10 starts. Overall, Johnson has an average finish of 15.6 at Michigan.

Tony Stewart comes in at 10/1 with a great Michigan history that includes one win, two second place finishes and a third. The Childress camp also figures to be a major contender this week based on how well they did at California. Kevin Harvick comes in at 10/1 because chassis 174 may have been the best car at California in February. Not only did Harvick get penalized (sent to the rear) for speeding, but he got a flat left front tire late in the race reeling in Matt Kenseth.

Jeff Burton is expected to bring his best chassis (155) to the race. Burton has had his best success this season in that car with a win at Texas, and fourth both in Atlanta, and California (a sister track). Burton has had marginal success throughout his career at Michigan. In 26 starts, his best finish is third and has totaled only four top 5’s. However, this may be the best car Burton has ever brought to Michigan, including all the Roush Ford’s he used to drive.

The DEI team led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., rebounded last season on the horsepower tracks of California and Michigan after struggling the previous two years. Junior’s third in this Michigan race last season was a career high finish for him and his only top 5 there.

Earlier this season at California, both Junior and teammate Martin Truex Jr had fantastic qualifying and practice times. However, each quickly ran into engine problems and ended 40 and 42 respectively. Because of the struggles there, odds on Junior are higher than usual at 20/1. Truex has actually had his odds improve to 35/1 because he now belongs to the winners club.

The top Dodge contender based on the odds is Kurt Busch at 18/1, followed by teammate Ryan Newman at 20/1. The Penske teammates have combined to win three races over their careers on the track their boss Roger Penske built.

Two of the last three Michigan races have been won by an Evernham Dodge. However, 2007 is a completely different year as evidenced by the poor record. Kasey Kahne is a modest 30/1 to win this week. When Kahne won this race last season, he came in as the 6/1 favorite.

The new kid on the block, Toyota, has one driver expected to have a success this week. Brian Vickers is 60/1 to win — the lowest odds of all Toyota drivers. His 10th place run at California is an indicator they should be okay for this race. His great run at Charlotte a few weeks ago shows that the engine program is getting better on horsepower tracks.

Dale Jarrett, Michigan’s second all-time leader in career earnings and a four time race winner now driving a Toyota, is listed with the highest odds of 844/to 1.

ROBERTS TOP 5 at MICHIGAN

1.

#17

Matt Kenseth

(9/1)

2.

#29

Kevin Harvick

(10/1)

3.

#48

Jeff Gordon

(10/1)

4.

#31

Jeff Burton

(11/1)

5.

#20

Tony Stewart

(10/1)

EVENTS

WINS

TOP 10s

19

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