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The NASCAR Cup Series’ recent history at Michigan International Speedway gives us some confusing trends to unpack.
Ford cars have been to Victory Lane in each of the last seven Michigan races. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick has four wins, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Clint Bowyer have one each. Blaney is the defending champion at the track.
That would seem like great news for Blaney and Harvick, who are both in search of their first victories in the 2022 season.
However, the nine winners at Michigan already had a victory in that current season, per Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass.
Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 could follow that trend and the Cup Series will leave Michigan still with 14 winners on the circuit, or Blaney, Harvick or another driver can end it and make the playoff picture even tighter than it already is.
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Chase Elliott (+650; bet $100 to win $650)
Kyle Busch (+700)
Kyle Larson (+700)
Denny Hamlin (+750)
Ross Chastain (+900)
Ryan Blaney (+1000)
William Byron (+1200)
Tyler Reddick (+1200)
Martin Truex Jr. (+1500)
Christopher Bell (+1500)
Joey Logano (+2000)
Kevin Harvick (+2000)
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
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The trip to Michigan must be a welcome sight for Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick in their searches to make the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Blaney and Harvick own the last four and five of the last six Cup Series wins at Michigan.
The drivers of the No. 12 and No. 4 cars are two of the most notable competitors without a victory in 2022. Blaney is safe to make the playoff field as of now because he has the most points of any non-winner. Martin Truex Jr. is second on that list.
Harvick is on the outside of the playoff bubble and needs a win to qualify for the postseason, which begins in September.
The recent success of both drivers—and Ford as a manufacturer—at Michigan suggests that both drivers have a chance to come away with the checkered flag on Sunday. But the statistic that the last nine Michigan winners have not been first-time victors that season looms large over them, too.
Blaney was close to a win last week at the Indianapolis road course, but he was pushed back to 26th because of a handful of wrecks at the end. He has not finished inside the top 15 in each of his last three races.
Harvick found himself inside the top 12 in five consecutive races before landing in 27th and 33rd in the last two weeks. The two poor finishes failed to let him gain any ground on Blaney and Truex in the points standings.
Both teams should be going for the win to provide some playoff security, and that may mean an alternate pit strategy could be used, as Blaney did at Indianapolis, or more aggressive drives come from the pair with so much at stake.
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Ford comes into the weekend on a seven-race winning streak at Michigan.
Chevrolet and Toyota have come close to ending Ford’s dominance at the top of the leaderboard over the last few races at the track.
Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet) and Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) placed five cars in the top 10 in last year’s race at Michigan. Ford had just three cars finish inside the top 10.
In 2020, Ford placed four cars in the top seven in the second race at Michigan. The other three cars in the top seven came from the Gibbs garage. The first race that season featured three Fords and three Gibbs cars in the top six.
The results from the last three Michigan races suggest the Gibbs cars are best positioned to end the Ford dominance.
Martin Truex Jr. probably loves those statistics the most. He finished 10th, third and third in his last three Michigan appearances and is the only Gibbs driver without a victory in 2022. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell are locked into the postseason.
If Truex does not end up in Victory Lane, it would not come as a surprise if Busch, Hamlin or Bell lands there. Hamlin could use another win before the playoffs after his win at Pocono was taken away after a failed post-race inspection.
The team to watch outside of Hendrick and Gibbs is Trackhouse Racing. Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez have consistently been at the front of the field all season, and they could bring home the win for Chevrolet instead of Hendrick.
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