NASCAR viewer’s guide: Michigan International Speedway

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After a controversial race on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, the NASCAR Cup Series moves on to the wide open spaces of Michigan International Speedway this weekend.

The 200-lap, 400-mile race is scheduled for 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday (USA Network). Xfinity drivers are scheduled to race at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, also on USA.

Only four races remain in the Cup regular season as drivers search for spots in the playoffs. Fourteen drivers have qualified by winning races; Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. continue to sit in the 15th and 16th playoff positions via points.

Tyler Reddick won at Indy Sunday and became the sixth driver with multiple victories this year. Others are Chase Elliott (four), Ross Chastain (two), William Byron (two), Joey Logano (two) and Denny Hamlin (two).

Fords have had a rough year with only four Cup wins, but Ford drivers have won the past seven Michigan races. Over the span of the past eight races at MIS, Fords have led 66 percent of the laps.

The Rise of Suarez

Although teammate Ross Chastain has gathered in much of the publicity surrounding Trackhouse Racing this year, Daniel Suarez is showing strength as the playoffs approach.

Over the past seven races, beginning with his victory at Sonoma, Suarez has an average finish of 9.5. With finishes of 32nd and 27th in the past two races, Chastain’s average over that seven-race run is 12.1.

Suarez, who sits ninth in playoff points entering Sunday’s race, doesn’t have an impressive worksheet at MIS. In nine career starts at the fast 2-mile track, he has seven finishes of 11th or worse and has not finished better than fourth.

Larson: Mystery Man

Kyle Larson, the Cup Series’ defending champion and a race winner 10 times last year, continues to have a confusing season.

Larson’s winless streak has reached 20 races, the longest of his career with Hendrick Motorsports. He has 11 finishes of 12th or worse this year and has only one win, that coming in the second race of the season at Fontana, California.

Larson had a calamitous day at Indianapolis Sunday. He sailed at high speed into Turn 1, losing control of his Chevrolet and sailing into Ty Dillon‘s car. The impact lifted Larson’s car off the ground. Both cars were heavily damaged, although neither driver was hurt.

Hendrick Motorsports told NBC Sports there was no evidence of brake failure on Larson’s car.

The good news for Larson is that Michigan is one of his best tracks. His three victories there are his most at any track. He scored wins at MIS in 2016 and 2017 (twice) and has six top-three runs in his past nine Michigan starts.

Four Races To Go

Although the Indianapolis finish order was a bit quirky, with some new faces in the top five, the playoff picture after the weekend visit to Indiana remains much the same.

With races at Michigan, Richmond, Watkins Glen and Daytona remaining on the regular-season schedule, 14 winning drivers have qualified for the playoffs. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. sit in the 15th and 16th positions, based on points.

Blaney has lost 46 points to Truex over the past three races and leads Truex by only 25 points. Blaney has finished outside the top 10 in four of the past five races as he and Truex have floated around the bottom of the qualified list.

Kevin Harvick remains the first driver below the cutoff line. He lost 13 points to Truex Sunday and is 96 points behind Truex.

Following Harvick are Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Bubba Wallace and Austin Dillon.

Harvick has struggled this season but could join the list of race winners at Michigan, where he has won three of the past four races.

Entry lists

Austin Hill is among the non-regulars entered in Sunday’s Cup race.

Hill will drive a No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in his Cup debut. Among others on the 37-driver list are Noah Gragson and JJ Yeley.

Michigan Cup entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for 38 starting spots in Saturday’s Xfinity race.

Among the non-regulars are Blaine Perkins, Akinori Ogata, Kaz Grala, Josh Williams and Joe Graf Jr.

Michigan Xfinity entry list

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Aug. 6

Forecast: Sunshine and clouds mixed. High of 88.

  • 9:05 – 9:35 a.m. — Xfinity Series practice (NBC Sports App)

  • 9:35 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (NBC Sports App)

  • 12:35 – 1:20 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App)

  • 1:20 – 2:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (NBC Sports App)

  • 3:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (125 laps, 250 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)

Sunday, Aug. 7

Forecast: Mixed clouds and sun with scattered thunderstorms. High of 89. There is a 30 percent chance of rain.

  • 3 p.m. — Cup race (200 laps, 400 miles; USA, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)

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NASCAR viewer’s guide: Michigan International Speedway originally appeared on NBCSports.com