Fantasy NASCAR: FireKeepers Casino 312 at Michigan International Speedway Driver Rankings

Fantasy NASCAR expert Brian Polking gets you ready for a doubleheader of Cup Series action in the Irish Hills with his Driver Ranking for Michigan International Speedway.

Jun 10, 2019; Brooklyn, MI, USA; Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Logano (22) takes the checkered flag for the win during the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway this weekend for a doubleheader at the D-shaped, two-mile oval. First up is Saturday’s FireKeepers Casino 312, followed by the Consumers Energy 312. As has been the case with the other double dips this season, Sunday’s field will be set by inverting the Top 20 finishers from Saturday’s event with the rest of the drivers starting where they finish in Race No. 1.

With Auto Club Speedway the only other two-mile track on the schedule, we don’t have a ton of data to go on when building lineups this weekend, especially considering the current rules package has only been used for a year. With that in mind, I focused heavily on results at Michigan from last year and from the result of the March race at Auto Club when compiling my rankings.

While you can definitely have success by leaning on big names, I think this weekend’s race are a an opportunity to get a little creative with your Fantasy NASCAR lineups and save some starts from the big names in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game. Despite Michigan’s wide surface, passing can be surprisingly difficult with the current rules package, and fuel mileage strategy and restarts can cause some chaos with stage points and with the finishing order.

At the very least, I think you can use the first race as a chance to identify potential sleepers for Sunday’s event. Getting the opportunity to see how drivers perform at a track and then have them return the next day with the same cars is fantasy gold. Take advantage to help sure up your driver allocations for the big names.

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1. Kevin Harvick

Harvick has always run well at Michigan, and he has actually scored the most points in the last 10 races here. More importantly, he has been the model of consistency at the two-mile ovals with the current rules package, cracking the Top 10 in all four races since the start of last season. Harvick has a 5.2 average finish in those starts, picking up a win at Michigan last August.

2. Denny Hamlin

He’s been fast all year, and Hamlin hasn’t finished worse than 11th at a two-mile oval with this rules package, posting a 6.5 average finish in four starts. He was the runner-up at Michigan last August, and he finished sixth at Auto Club in February after starting 28th.

3. Martin Truex Jr.

Truex is no stranger to running up front at Michigan, and he has led at least 25 laps in four of the last six races here. He finished third and fourth in the two races here last season, leading 43 laps in the August race. Truex also ranks as a Top 5 scorer at the 2.0-mile ovals since the start of last season, posting a 7.2 average finish in the four races.

4. Kyle Busch

While he hasn’t been dominating races week in and week out in 2020, Busch did continue his run of success at the two-mile ovals with a runner-up effort at Auto Club in March. Since the start of last season, he leads the series with 178 points scored and a 3.5 average finish in the four races at 2.0-mile tracks.

5. Joey Logano

He has shown an ideal blend of consistency and upside at Michigan, logging a series-best eight Top 10s in the last 10 races while leading the most laps of any driver. Logano put on a dominant performance in the June race here last season, leading 163 of the 203 laps on his way to the win, and he led 52 more laps in the August race.

6. Ryan Blaney

Blaney has cracked the Top 10 in three of his four starts at Michigan with Team Penske, and he has led laps in all four races at two-mile ovals with the current rules package. In fact, Blaney had a strong run going at Auto Club back in March, leading 54 laps and finishing second and first in the two stages before a cut tire in the closing laps cost him a Top 3 finish. He should be a threat for the win in both races this weekend, and he is the No. 1 Group B option in the Driver Group Game.

7. Brad Keselowski

Like his Team Penske cohorts, Keselowski has shown a high floor at MIS. He has seven Top 10s and an 8.8 average finish in the last 10 races, and he led 66 laps in the most recent trip here. Keselowksi has been solid at two-mile ovals in general under the current rules, finishing sixth or better in three of the four races and leading at least six laps in all of them.

8. Chase Elliott

Elliott opened his Cup career with three straight second-place finishes at Michigan, and while his pace has slowed a bit, he still has seven Top 10s in eight starts at the track. Throw in a fourth-place run at Auto Club back in March, and he certainly has Top 5 upside this weekend.

9. Aric Almirola

His Top 10 streak sits at nine races heading into this weekend, and Almirola owns a 5.6 average finish over that stretch. He has been hit and miss in the four races at two-mile ovals since 2019, but considering he finished eighth at Auto Club in March before he went on his current run, you have to think a pair of Top 10s could be on tap.

10. Alex Bowman

Bowman continues to show pockets of speed, but delivering consistent finishes has been an issue for the No. 88 team for a while now. However, a trip to Michigan could be just what the doctor ordered. Bowman cracked the Top 10 in both races at MIS last year, and he smashed the field at Auto Club back in March, leading 110 laps on his way to the win. He could be a real force in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game this weekend.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

11. Kurt Busch

Busch has wins at both Auto Club and Michigan in his career, and he continues to deliver quality results at the two-mile tracks. He has finished sixth or better in three of the four races at 2.0-mile tracks since the start of 2019, finishing second at MIS last June and third at Auto Club back in March. Busch could be a sneaky Top 5 option in either race this weekend.

12. Tyler Reddick

The sample size is small, but Reddick more than held his own in his first Cup start at a two-mile oval, notching an 11th-place finish at Auto Club in March. Of course, the finish looks less surprising now that we’ve seen the rookie challenge for Top 10s on a regular basis throughout the year. Reddick has to be considered the No. 1 Group C option in the DGG.

13. Matt DiBenedetto

If you look back to the top of my rankings, you will notice all three Team Penske drivers sitting seventh or better. Well, DiBenedetto is essentially driving a fourth Team Penske car. He finished 13th at Auto Club back in March, and I expect him to challenge for Top 10s in both races this weekend. You may want to double down on DiBenedetto in the Driver Group Game.

14. Erik Jones

He has been delivering on his upside more frequently in recent weeks, but Michigan might not be the best place to take a chance on Jones, at least in season-long contests. He has just one Top 10 in six starts here, and a 10th-place run at Auto Club in March is his best finish at a two-mile oval with this rules package.

15. William Byron

He hasn’t been dominant by any means at the two-mile ovals, but Byron has three Top 15s in the four races since the start of 2019 and a 14.0 average finish. He has also been running better in recent weeks, notching seven Top 15s in the last nine races and finishing 11th or better six times. Byron could be a sleeper Group B option for the DGG, but I really like him as a GPP play at the DFS sites.

16. Jimmie Johnson

While Johnson hasn’t had a ton of success at the two-mile tracks recently, he did make some noise at Auto Club back in March. He started on the front row, led 10 laps and finished seventh after finishing third in both Stage 1 and Stage 2. Keep Johnson in mind for your DFS lineups, especially if he draws a mid-pack starting spot for Saturday’s event.

17. Clint Bower

Bowyer is a former winner at Michigan, but his luck at the two-mile ovals recently has been horrible. Since the start of last season, he owns a 33.2 average finish in the four races, crashing out of both Michigan races last year. He’s a high-risk, high-reward play this weekend.

18. Ryan Newman

He was unable to race at Auto Club this year after his crash in the Daytona 500, but Newman did finish eighth and 12th in the two Michigan races last year, gaining a total of 18 positions. Granted, he hasn’t shown his typical Top 15 floor in 2020, but if he starts outside the Top 20 either day, I’d be willing to use him as a cheaper option at the DFS sites.

19. Chris Buescher

Buescher’s numbers are down a bit compared to 2019, but his results at the two-mile tracks are encouraging. Dating back to last season, he has finished between 14th and 16th in all four starts, compiling a 15.5 average finish. Depending on how the qualifying draw plays out, he could be at least be a great source of cap relief for the first race.

20. Austin Dillon

It has been a mixed bag of results for Dillon at the two-mile tracks with this current package. In the four races, he has two Top 15s and two finishes of 24th or worse. On the plus side, he has been having one of his better years, but I still don’t see using him in season-long contests.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

21. Cole Custer

We don’t have a lot of data to go on, but Custer had a decent outing in his first Cup start at a two-mile track, finishing 18th at Auto Club. The rookie has also been enjoying the best stretch of his young career, so at the very least, he should have a shot at Top 20 finishes in both races this weekend. If you are running low on starts from Tyler Reddick in the Driver Group Game, Custer should make a useful alternative.

22. Christopher Bell

An engine issue ended his afternoon at Auto Club after just 80 laps, so Bell doesn’t even have a full Cup race under his belt at a 2.0-mile oval yet. His Top 10 upside is likely to remain, but you may want to see how he performs Saturday and then decide how to use him in the second race.

23. Matt Kenseth

This weekend’s races will be Kenseth’s first taste of a two-mile track with the current rules package, and based on his performance in the No. 42 this year, there could be a learning curve. Kenseth’s results have been trending up in recent weeks, but I wouldn’t count on more than a Top 20. He’s a potential Group C play, but I think the rookies offer more upside.

24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

For as often as he wrecks, Stenhouse has actually been decent at the two-mile ovals lately. He has three Top 20s in the four races since the start of last season, including a 20th-place run at Auto Club in March. He will be a risky play, but I he starts in the back half of the field in either race, he could be a GPP option.

25. Bubba Wallace

Wallace is enjoying a solid season, but the two-mile ovals have been a trouble spot for him. Since the start of last season, he has finished 27th or worse in all four races, posting a 28.0 average finish overall. A Top 20 run wouldn’t be a total surprise, but he’s a reach in season-long contests and probably not worth the risk in DFS contests.

26. John Hunter Nemechek

The rookie made his first start at a two-mile oval at the Cup level back at Auto Club in March, and he came away with a 25th-place finish. Nemechek has actually been a staple of the Top 25 all season, and he has shown Top 20 upside more often than expected. If he starts around the 30th spot in either race this weekend, I will be all over him as a low-priced play at the DFS sites.

27. Ty Dillon

He delivered an 11th-place run at Michigan last August, but Dillon has finished outside the Top 20 in the other three races at two-mile ovals since 2019, finishing outside the Top 25 twice. There isn’t much upside here, but if starts outside the Top 30 either race, he could provide some cap relief for DFS lineups.

28. Michael McDowell

McDowell’s value will be limited to DFS contests, and even then, his price tag and starting spot will be the real determining factors. He has a 23.8 average finish in the four races at 2.0-mile ovals since last year, finishing between 22nd and 27th in all of them. You can’t expect more than a Top 25 out of him.

29. Ryan Preece

He had a random seventh-place showing at Michigan last June, but in his other three starts at two-mile ovals, he has been the 25th-place driver we’ve come to expect. Throw in his bad luck throughout 2020, and even if Preece starts outside the Top 30, he’s a shot-in-the-dark DFS play, at best.

30. Corey LaJoie

LaJoie finished a forgettable 29th at Auto Club earlier this year, but he had two decent showings, especially from a DFS standpoint, at Michigan in 2019. He gained nine spots and finished 23rd in the June race, and he gained 10 spots and finished 21st in the August event. If LaJoie starts outside the Top 30 for either race, he could be worth a flier as a punt play at DraftKings.