Coming off a race at Pocono Raceway where passing was next to impossible, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway this weekend. The track will host Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400, the first of two races at the D-shaped oval over the summer stretch and the second race of 2019 at a two-mile track.
After doing the exact opposite of creating exciting racing last weekend at Pocono, the 2019 rules package will no doubt be hammered in the court of public opinion over the course of the week. I am by no means a fan of the package. In fact, I think way more horsepower and way less downforce is the way to go. That being said, I think we will get a much better show Sunday at MIS than we got at Pocono because of the higher corner speeds and multiple grooves.
From a fantasy standpoint, I think this will be another week to try to lean on as many big names as possible. Let’s face it. Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have this rules package figured out better than the rest of the competition. Stewart-Haas Racing is close, and Hendrick Motorsports is making strides. After that, you just have a few individual drivers like Kurt Busch who consistently battle for Top 10s.
In the first race of 2019 at Auto Club Speedway in March, JGR and Penske drivers claimed six of the first eight spots, and when you add in SHR cars, you have eight of the Top 10 finishers. Kurt Busch and Austin Dillon were the only outliers. As important as it is to budget your starts in formats like the Driver Group Game and NASCAR Fantasy Live, you aren’t going to want to get too cute with your lineups.
If you do decide to fade dominant drivers like Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, I would still stick with drivers from the top teams. Feel free to roll with guys like Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman or Daniel Suarez, but you could get yourself in a lot of trouble swinging for the fences with too many sleepers this weekend at Michigan.
1. Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing
Michigan hasn’t been his best track, but fresh off his fourth win of 2019, how can any other driver be viewed as the top option. Plus, Busch hasn’t been bad at MIS. He has four straight Top 10s at the track, leading double-digit laps in three of those starts and finishing fourth and third in the two races here last year. He also clobbered the field at Auto Club in March, leading 134 laps on his way to a win. I’ll gladly take my chances with Busch in any fantasy contest this weekend.
2. Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
The No. 4 bunch keeps finding ways to give away races, but Harvick should be right back in the mix for the win this weekend. He led 49 laps and finished second in a rain-shortened race last June, and he led 108 laps in his win in the August race. In 10 starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick has seven Top 5 finishes, including five finishes of either first or second.
3. Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
Team Penske always seems to run well at Michigan, and Keselowski is a perfect example of the trend. He has cracked the Top 10 in eight of his last 10 starts here, leading laps in seven of those races. Keselowski finished sixth and second in two races at MIS last year, and he led 42 laps and finished third at Auto Club back in March. He looks like an elite option in across all formats.
4. Chase Elliott, #9 NAPA Auto Parts, Hendrick Motorsports
He stayed hot with a fourth-place finish at Pocono last weekend, and I certainly don’t expect Elliott to slow down this weekend. He has finished in the Top 10 in all six of his starts at Michigan, posting a 5.3 average finish and notching three runner-up efforts. I plan to target him in Fantasy Live.
5. Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske
Logano has been ridiculously consistent at Michigan since joining Team Penske in 2013. In 12 starts here in the No. 22, he has logged 11 Top 10s, winning twice and leading 20-plus laps six times. I’d have no problem building a lineup around him in both season-long and DFS contests.