2012 NASCAR Pure Michigan 400
Michigan International Speedway – Brooklyn, Michigan
2 mile D-Shaped Oval – (200 laps)
Sunday, August 19, 2012, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Defending Champion: Kyle Busch
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
On Father’s Day this year, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won his first race since Father’s Day 2008. Coincidentally, both races were at Michigan International Speedway. Now NASCAR returns to Michigan for their annual August race. Earnhardt could definitely use another win, as he is in fourth place in the Race to the Chase standings with only 4 races before the Chase begins.
However, the margin is razor thin, as only 17 points separates first place Jimmie Johnson from 4th place Earnhardt. Actually, Johnson, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth are in a virtual dead heat, as Johnson leads Biffle by a single point and Kenseth by 2 points. However, Johnson has 3 wins this season, and the other three have only one win apiece. The seeds for the Chase are determined by number of wins. Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Brad Keselowski are the only ones with 3 wins. They will be the top 3 seeds unless something drastic happens over the next four races.
Mark Martin won his fourth pole of the season, and Carl Edwards completes the front row. Johnson originally qualified third but will start from the back of the field after an engine change. Earnhardt, Jr. originally qualified 22nd but will also start from the back after he rubbed against the wall during practice and had to go to a back-up car. Here is a complete look at the starting grid.
Here is a look at some of the favorites and contenders with their odds to win the race courtesy of Bookmaker.
Matt Kenseth (5/1)
Kenseth led the points for most of the year until he had his worst finishes of the year at Indianapolis (35th) and Pocono (23rd). He finished 8th last week at Watkins Glen, and is now in third place in the Race to the Chase, 2 points behind Johnson. In 22 races, he has 14 top 10’s, 9 top 5’s and a win at the Daytona 500. He needs another win to improve his seeding in the Chase. He qualified 4th at Michigan this week, and finished 3rd in the June race here. It was his fourth straight top 10 finish at Michigan, and third top 5 in the last 4 at the track. In 26 career Michigan races, Kenseth has 17 top 10’s, 12 top 5’s and wins in 2002 and 2006. He should contend at the end barring accident or engine problems.
Jimmie Johnson (11/2)
Johnson is a 5 time Sprint Cup champion, and looks to regain the title he lost to Tony Stewart last year. He took over the points lead by a single point over Greg Biffle last week after Johnson’s third place finish at Watkins Glen. For the season, Johnson has 16 top 10’s, 11 top 5’s, and wins at Dover, Darlington, and Indianapolis. Michigan and Watkins Glen are 2 of the 5 tracks at which he has never won along with Chicagoland, Homestead-Miami, and Kentucky. It won’t be easy as he start from the back of the field to get his first win at Michigan. In 21 career Michigan races, he has 9 top 10’s and 4 top 5’s. Two of his top 5’s have come in the last 2 races including a runner-up in this race last year, and 5th place in June. Johnson can win any race at any time on any track, no matter his starting position, but I think a top ten is more likely this week.
Greg Biffle (13/2)
Biffle is second in points, one point behind Johnson. He has 13 top 10’s this season in 22 races, including 9 top 5’s and a win at Texas. Like Kenseth, he needs to win to improve his seeding in the Chase. He hasn’t finished lower than 24th in any race this season. He came in sixth at Watkins Glen last week. Biffle qualified 13th this week at Michigan and finished 4th in the June race here. In 19 career Michigan races, Biffle has 11 top 10’s, 8 top 5’s and wins in 2004 and 2005. He hasn’t finished higher than 4th since 2005 though. A top 10 is probable.
Carl Edwards (7/1)
Edwards is in danger of missing the Chase. He is 12th in points 127 behind Johnson, but only the top 10 drivers automatically make it into the Chase. He is 43 points behind Denny Hamlin for 10th place. Edwards needs to win to have a chance for one of the two wild card spots for the Chase. In 22 races, he has 10 top 10’s and 2 top 5’s. He came in 14th last week at Watkins Glen. He hasn’t finished higher than 5th at any race this season. He will start second this week at Michigan, and came in 11th in June. Edwards usually does well at Michigan. In 16 career starts, he has 12 top 10’s, 9 top 5’s, and wins in 2007 and 2008. Edwards has a great chance to win this week, and if he does, he will join Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, and Kyle Busch in a tight battle for the last wild card spot.
Kyle Busch (8/1)
Busch is currently locked in that battle with Gordon and Newman for the last wild card spot. Newman leads Busch by 6 points and Gordon by 10 points. Each has one win, but if any of the three win one or more of the last 4 races then they can pretty much guarantee their spot. Busch has 10 top 10’s, 6 top 5’s and a win at Richmond. He was leading going into the white flag lap last week at Watkins Glen but spun out and finished 7th. Busch has been really unlucky in the last 10 races, with only 3 top 10’s and 7 finishes of 16th or worse. Four of those have been 29th or worse. Busch qualified 23rd this week, and came in 32nd in the June race. In 15 career Michigan starts, Busch had 5 top 10’s, 3 top 5’s, and a win in this race last year. Busch is my pick to break his slump and win the race.
Tony Stewart (10/1)
Stewart is 8th in points, 61 behind Johnson. Stewart is the defending Sprint Cup Champion and will likely be one of the top 3 seeds in the Chase. Stewart has 11 top 10’s, 9 top 5’s and 3 wins at Las Vegas, California, and in the July race at Daytona. Last week, at Watkins Glen, an accident took him out of contention for his 6th win at the track, and he finished 19th. Stewart will start 14th this week, and came in second in the June race. In 27 races at Michigan Stewart has 19 top ten’s, 11 top 5’s and a win in 2000. Stewart has finished in the top 10 at Michigan in 10 of the last 12, including the last 5.
Kasey Kahne (10/1)
Kahne looks to have a firm grip on one of the two wild card spots because of his two wins at Charlotte and New Hampshire. Kahne is 30 points behind Hamlin for 10th so their is an outside shot he could catch him for one of the automatic qualifying spots. Kahne has 11 top 10’s and 6 top 5’s in addition to his two wins. Kahne finished 13th at the Glen last week, his seventh straight finish of 14th or higher. Kahne will start 5th at Michigan this week, and he finished 33rd in June. In 17 career starts at Michigan Kahne has 7 top 10’s, 6 top 5’s and a win in 2006. He has finished 28th or worse in the last 2 races here.
Jeff Gordon (12/1)
Gordon is 10 points behind Ryan Newman and 6 points behind Busch for the last wild card spot. Gordon has 9 top 10’s, 4 top 5’s, and a win at Pocono in a rain-shortened race. He was in the top 10 last week going into the final turn at Watkins Glen but he spun out and finished 21st. It broke a streak of 7 straight 12th or better finishes. He qualified 11th this week at Michigan, and finished 6th in the June race, his second straight at the track. In 39 career Michigan starts Gordon has 25 top 10’s, 18 top 5’s, and wins in 1995 and 1999.
Mark Martin (12/1)
Martin won his fourth pole of the season, impressive when you consider he isn’t running a full schedule and is splitting his ride with Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip. In 14 races this season, Martin has 5 top 10’s and 2 top 5’s. In his career at Michigan, Mark Martin has 31 top 10’s, 18 top 5’s and 5 wins. The last came in 2009. Martin started running at the track in 1982, 30 years ago. He came in 29th in the June race, after posting top 10’s in both races last year.
Other contenders include Denny Hamlin (15/1), Brad Keselowski (16/1), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (17/1), Martin Truex, Jr. (19/1), Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer (both 25/1), Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose (both 35/1), Ryan Newman, Jeff Burton, Juan Montoya, and Kurt Busch (all 40/1), and the field is 25/1.
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