Who’s Hot, Who’s Cold entering this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan


Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway represents the last curveball for Sprint Cup teams when it comes to aero packages.

Teams will run what is expected to be next season’s reduced downforce package for the last time this year before reverting to the 2016 package. After being raced at Michigan in June — Joey Logano won there — and portions of it used in the May All-Star Race — also won by Logano — this package was last seen at Kentucky in July. Logano’s Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski won there.

The last four trips to the 2-mile speedway have been won by a different team – Team Penske (June 2016), Joe Gibbs Racing (Aug. 2015), Stewart-Haas Racing (June 2015) and Hendrick Motorsports (Aug. 2014). Logano is the only repeat winner in the last six races. Greg Biffle won consecutive races in Aug. 2012 and June 2013.

Here’s who hot and cold going into this weekend.

Who’s Hot

Brad Keselowski – Finished 33rd at Bristol, worst finish this season. Finished in the top 10 in 10 of the last 14 races including three wins and top-three finishes in the two of the last three races. Finished in the top 10 in the last five races at Michigan but has never won at his home track, best of second in this race in 2012. Finished fourth in June.

Joey Logano – Finished in the top 10 in nine of the last 11 races of 2016 including a win at Michigan. Top 10 finishes in the last seven races at Michigan with two wins (both from pole) including June.

Tony Stewart – Six top 10s including a win at Sonoma in the last nine races. Five top-five finishes this season, only had three total in the previous two seasons combined. Finished seventh at Michigan in June, his first top 10 at the track since June 2013. One Michigan win, June 2000.

Kurt Busch – Finished 38th at Bristol after a DNF accident that broke a 25-race streak of finishing on the lead lap. Sixteen top-10 finishes in 2016, second most. Finished top 10 in 14 of the first 16 races this season, only two in the last seven races. Three Michigan wins, last was June of last year. Finished 10th earlier this year, only his third top 10 at Michigan in the last 12 races there.

Denny Hamlin – Five straight top-10 finishes including a win at Watkins Glen, his longest streak of 2016. Eight speeding penalties this season, most of all drivers. Two-time winner at Michigan but not since 2011. Finished 33rd after accident in June, his eighth finish outside the top 10 in the 10 races at Michigan since his last win.

Who’s Cold

Martin Truex Jr. – Only four top-10 finishes in the 10 races since his Charlotte win. Has not finished in the top 10 in back-to-back races since Dover and Charlotte. Has had an issue in 18 of the 23 races this season. Finished third in both races at Michigan last year and 12th in June, led 10 laps before a spin.

Greg Biffle – Finished 16th or worse in the last four races after finishing in the top 10 in three straight races prior. Four-time winner at Michigan, his most of all tracks. Only one top 10 finish in the last five races at Michigan, 19th in June.

Ryan Blaney – Does not have a top-10 finish in the last nine races after having four top 10s in the prior five races of 2016. Three Cup starts at Michigan, best finish of 17th in June.

Chase Elliott – Finished 13th or worse in the last eight races after finishing in the top 10 in each of the prior six. One Cup start at Michigan, finished career best second in June, after leading 35 laps.

Jimmie Johnson – Finished seventh at Bristol, only his ninth top-10 finish this season, tied for the fewest through 23 races in a season (2003). Only three top-10 finishes in the last 14 races of 2016. Finished 16th or worse in six of the last eight races at Michigan. One MIS win, June 2014. Finished 16th in June.

Here are interesting notes heading into this weekend’s race:

  • Sunday’s race will be the 95th race at MIS. Michigan’s 95 races are the most of tracks that have yet to
    host 100 races (seven tracks have hosted at least 100 races).
  • Joey Logano won from the pole at Michigan in June, it was the 19th MIS race won from the pole, at least one race a year at MIS was won from the pole in the last four seasons, including the last two straight.
  • There has never been three straight Michigan races won by the pole winner.
  • One driver has earned their first career Cup series win at Michigan: Dale Jarrett (Aug. 1991) won in his 29th start, he is one of six drivers to get their first career Cup win driving for Wood Brothers Racing.

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.