Key Michigan Cup storylines


Only two races remain the Cup regular season before the playoffs begin next month. Next up for the series is a visit to Michigan International Speedway (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN).

The track will be treated with resin instead of PJ1. Resin was used at Nashville Superspeedway and received positive reviews from competitors.

Time is running out for those seeking to nab one of the last remaining playoff spots before the field is locked in after the Aug. 28 race at Daytona.

Here’s what to look for Sunday at Michigan:

When will Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick win?

The two drivers who combined to win 16 of 36 races last year (Harvick won nine; Hamlin seven) remain winless two-thirds of the way through the NASCAR season.

Only three times since 2000 has a Cup driver won five or more races in a season and not won a race the following season.

Carl Edwards won nine races in 2008 and went winless in 2009.

Matt Kenseth won seven races in 2013 and went winless in 2014

Mark Martin won five races in 2009 and went winless in 2010.

Michigan International Speedway has been been a good track for Harvick and Hamlin. Harvick has won four of the last five Michigan races. He has five Cup wins overall at the 2-mile track. Hamlin has two wins at the track.

Hamlin was in position to earn his first win of the season last weekend on the Indy road course before he was spun from the lead by Chase Briscoe with less than two laps left.

NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan
Kevin Harvick swept both Michigan Cup races last year. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Playoff battle

Fourteen of the 16 playoff positions are set with two races left in the regular season.

Guaranteed a spot in the playoffs: Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell and Aric Almirola.

Kevin Harvick could potentially clinch the 15th playoff spot this weekend.

Tyler Reddick holds the 16th and final playoff spot. He is 28 points ahead of Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon.

Reddick said he and Dillon have been working well together.

“We’ve been working really hard,” Reddick said Wednesday. “The last four weeks were a really good time because we had those two off-weekends and two weeks of road course racing. Both of us worked really, really hard on the cars and the setups, which were very close together, that we took to these road courses.

“Things have been really good there between us. We’re really on the same page on what both of us need to go out to do. The teams, as much as it would seem like the doors would shut at this point in time in the season when it is the 3 and the 8 fighting for 16th and 17th (in points), the doors have never been more open. Lots of sharing going on.

“We both know that if we want to do well in the playoffs or make the playoffs, we need to keep, each of us, pushing the other along the way.”

Hendrick Motorsports vs. Joe Gibbs Racing

The two organizations will field half of the 16-driver playoff lineup next month, so this is a duel worth watching.

Hendrick drivers have won four of the eight races this season with the 550-horsepower package that will be used this weekend at Michigan. Kyle Larson has won two of those races. Alex Bowman and William Byron have won one each. Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won two of those races. Both of those wins are by Kyle Busch.

JGR has placed two drivers in the top five at those tracks in two of the last three races. Hendrick has had only one driver in the top five in the past two races with the 550 package.

The Gibbs cars appear to be closing on the Hendrick cars. Can that continue this weekend?

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.