Battle in the Backyard at Michigan

Whenever there is a race at Michigan there is talk of the “Big Three” automakers and the fight to claim victory in their backyard. It’s always exciting talk but often the results fail to live up to the hype. Last year Denny Hamlin drove a Toyota to victory in the June event, while Kevin Harvick drove his Chevrolet to the checkers in August.

Of those currently on the NASCAR circuit the best of the best may be the Ford Fusions of Roush Fenway drivers Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. All three drivers have won twice and Edwards’ average finish of 6.3 is trailed closely by Kenseths 9.8.

After winning last week Jeff Gordon is assured of being in the Chase this year. A two-time winner at the 2 mile track in the hills of Brooklyn, Gordon has finished half of his starts (18 of 36) inside the top-5 at Michigan. He’ll look for more bonus points. In his last four starts at the track he’s run 2, 2, 4, and 27.

Denny Hamlin saw his disappointing 2011 continue last week as tire issues destroyed what was a good run. He did win the first race at Michigan last year and has 6 top-10 runs in 10 starts.

Last week Tony Stewart complained about transmission problems due to the shifting at Pocono. This week he’ll head to a track he ran 5th and 6th at last year. Stewart always heats up with the weather but it’s worth noting his lone Michigan win came back in 2000.

It’s tricky to recommend Kevin Harvick. Sure he won here last year, has won three races this year and is a real championship contender but he did finish 19th here in the early race last year, and it would be difficult to move him ahead of the aforementioned.

The same goes for Jimmie Johnson. Sure Johnson’s numbers (18 starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5’s and 7 top-10’s) aren’t what we are used to but this is Jimmie Johnson. Michigan is one of 4 tracks Johnson has never won at and if I have my wish it will remain that way.

The buy low candidate this week is Joey Logano. Logano has finished inside the top-10 in his last three races at Michigan. In his four starts there he has completed all but one lap.

Michigan is one of those tracks where it is almost easier to tell you who not to pick, or who to be leery of.

It again is tough to expect a bunch from Kyle Busch. While his on and off track issues with RCR is well documented so are his numbers at Michigan. Busch has made 12 starts and finished inside the top-10 just 3 times. Last year he finished 20th and 18th. His last top-10 came in 2008.

It’s also been feast or famine for his older brother Kurt. Kurt Busch has two victories at Michigan the last coming in 2007. Aside from two top-10 runs he’s finished 21st or worse in four of his last six tries.

Clint Bowyer has also had troubles. He has just 2 top-10’s there in 10 starts. Bowyer ran 22nd and 13th there last year. His lone top-10’s came in 2009. Bowyer has moved up to 8th in the point standings and no one has seemed to notice that yet.

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