With wide grooves in the corners, Michigan International Speedway is a track on which drivers can often stay out of trouble. As a result, they are capable of stringing together long streaks of top 10s. Last year, five drivers swept the top 10 in Michigan’s two races – and what makes that even more impressive is that three of them also had sweeps in 2016.
Kyle Larson’s three wins and a third in the last two years put him at the top. But Chase Elliott’s three runner-up finishes and an eighth makes him almost as impressive. Both of them have found some magic at the track. Jamie McMurray is the other driver with a four-race, top-10 streak, but only one of these was a top five.
This is a track on which past records means a lot. Seven of the 10 drivers profiled below have three-year averages of better than 10th, so there are plenty of solid options for this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster.
1. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 3.50 in four starts)
Few drivers have gotten off to as strong a start as Elliott at Michigan. Three runner-up finishes in his first three attempts seemingly increased the certainty that a Cup win was just around the corner, but last August he slipped to eighth. Coming off a solid Pocono performance, the topic of his first win has to be foremost in fantasy players’ minds once more.
2. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 6.00)
Larson is chasing a record held by Chase’s father. From 1985-87, Bill Elliott won four consecutive races at Michigan. Larson enters the weekend with three wins. If Larson is successful, a footnote will be added to the record books because both drivers kicked off their winning streak with a third-place finish in the race immediately preceding it.
3. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 7.67)
Last week’s winning performance at Pocono has many experts putting Truex in the same category as Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Earlier this year, he won on the other 2-mile track (Auto Club Speedway) and a second-place finish at Michigan last August puts him on fantasy owners’ radar screens.
4. Erik Jones (three-year average: 8.00 in two starts)
One of Jones’ best opportunities to win as a rookie last year came on this track. He finished behind Larson and Truex in the Pure Michigan 400. A 13th-place finish in the Firekeepers Casino 400 wasn’t bad either and it suggests he is going to maintain a great average after Sunday’s race is complete.
5. Joey Logano (three-year average: 9.00)
Logano entered last August’s Michigan race with a nine-race streak of top 10s, but fell two laps off the pace and finished 28th. So far in 2018, Logano has 11 top 10s in 14 starts, which puts him on par with Harvick and Busch. He has only five top fives this year, but one of those came at Auto Club this March.
5. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 9.00)
McMurray has made his way onto this list a few times in 2018 because of his remarkable consistency over the past three years. He has not lived up to expectations for the most part, but his last two races this season showed some promise. He finished sixth at Charlotte Motor Speedway and ran better than last week’s 15th-place finish suggests.
7. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 9.17)
Keselowski does not have the same long record of top 10s as his teammate Logano, but he was impressive in the previous four years. He entered the 2018 Firekeepers Casino 400 with six consecutive top 10s that included a sweep of the top five in 2016. He fell to 16th and 17th last year, however, and should not be activated on fantasy rosters unless he shows speed in practice and qualification.
8. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 11.00)
Busch has been the model of consistency at Michigan during the past two seasons. He finished 10th in the first race of 2016 and has been either 11th or 12th in the three events that followed. If he gets track position late in the Firekeepers Casino 400, he might even be able to replicate the victory he earned in the rain-shortened 2015 Quicken 400.
9. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 11.17)
This could be the week Kenseth returns to the top 10. He hasn’t had one at Michigan since winning the track’s second race of 2015, but he came close on three occasions in the last four races with top-15 finishes. After struggling at Kansas Speedway, he has gotten progressively better in the last two races with a 17th at Charlotte and a 13th at Pocono.
10. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 11.13)
Before a fantasy player considers this might be a good time to leave Harvick in the garage because he failed to crack the top 10 at Michigan last year, they should look at the four years that preceded that. In eight races there, he earned five second-place finishes and two fifths.
Pole Winner: Larson and Keselowski took the top spot in Michigan’s two races last year, but only one of them has enough momentum to be considered a legitimate threat to win this week’s pole.
Segment Winners: Truex swept the stages and race at Auto Club earlier this year. He won one of the two stages last week at Pocono, so he deserves the nod this week to take those bonus points again.