What to Watch: 2022 Michigan

·7 min read

FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway
(⏰ 3 p.m. ET | 📺 USA Network, NBC Sports App | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan, the 23rd regular-season event of the 2022 campaign.

Race-day info 📝

Where: Brooklyn, Michigan
Approximate start time: 3 p.m. ET (UNDERWAY AFTER DELAY) | Full weekend schedule
TV/Radio: USA, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio | Full TV schedule
The purse: $7,125,085
Forecast: A slight chance of showers, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. ET, according to NOAA.gov | Weather tracker
Race distance: 200 laps | 400 miles
Stages: 45 | 120 | 200
Pit-road speed: 55 mph
Caution car speed: 65 mph
Michigan 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup: Where drivers will start

Pit stalls:
Where drivers will pit
UPDATE: Kurt Busch out for third week

Key things to watch 🔑

Big story line

Ford is sputtering a bit lately and is on a winless streak that dates back to Joey Logano’s victory at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway — eight races ago. Heading to a track in the manufacturer’s backyard, one it has historically dominated, is the perfect week for them to pick up the pace. Still fighting for a guaranteed playoff berth, Kevin Harvick has five wins and nearly 700 laps led in his 41 races here. Defending race winner Ryan Blaney is also chasing that elusive win on a team where he is the only winless driver. These two drivers each have a strong case to win Sunday, and Ford has not lost a race here since 2017, on an impressive seven-race stretch. Will the Blue Oval continue the streak with the debut of the Next Gen cars?

Who’s hot? Who’s not? 

Has the early season aggression finally caught up with Ross Chastain? His last two races ended in finishes of 27th or worse, including the controversial run-in with Denny Hamlin at Pocono Raceway. The reality is, drivers on the track just aren’t giving him many breaks. Nonetheless, the No. 1 car has been one of the most consistent this season based on raw speed. A big, 2-mile track like Michigan should provide Chastain and his Trackhouse Racing team with a bit more comfort this weekend as they aim to get back on track.

In the last three weeks, Bubba Wallace has been on fire. Wallace and the No. 23 Toyota team have registered three consecutive top-eight finishes, marking the first time Wallace has achieved the feat in his Cup Series career. After some bad runs and early misfortune, Wallace and company have found a groove down the final stretch of the regular season. But based on point standings, they will need to secure a win to get into the playoffs. With opportunities to reach Victory Lane dwindling down, look for them to be more aggressive this weekend at Michigan.

Driving under the radar

If you just tuned in for the first time last season, it can be easy to forget how capable Kevin Harvick is. Still searching for a result to end his 65-race winless streak, Harvick has rarely been the favorite entering a recent race weekend. But pump the brakes. The stats show that the No. 4 team is starting to find its form, with four top 10s in the last seven races and a bit of misfortune at Pocono and the Indy Road Course costing the group solid finishes there, as well. Michigan is arguably Harvick’s best race track. And it is also arguably his best chance to win during this final slate of regular-season action. Before Blaney’s 2021 win, Harvick won three straight and three of the last four. Don’t count him out just yet.

Qualifying

It was the Toyotas who stole the show during Saturday’s two-round qualifying session, led by Bubba Wallace who earned his first career Busch Light Pole Award. Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch filed in behind, trailed by Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin in seventh and ninth to round out a strong top-10 showing. Ty Gibbs, making his first Cup Series start on a traditional oval, flashed excellent speed and will roll off 11th. Joey Logano and Austin Cindric put together the best showcase for the Blue Oval group, earning the fourth and fifth starting spots, respectively. Defending race winner Ryan Blaney will start 24th. | Full qualifying recap

Ryan Blaney prepares to hand the checkered flag to a young fan.
Ryan Blaney prepares to hand the checkered flag to a young fan.

Race-day staples ✅

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Paint Scheme Preview: See the latest colors for Michigan | Pick a favorite
• Power Rankings: Logano leapfrogs his way up the ladder | Updated drivers rankings
• NASCAR betting: BetMGM odds for Sunday’s race | Underdogs, value bets
• Fantasy Fastlane: Ford looks to continue dominant streak on home turf | Top plays, sleepers
• Bubble Watch: Which drivers are close to the cutline? | Read more
• Stacking Pennies:
Denny Hamlin joins the podcast | Listen to full interview

Catch the pack 💨

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Downtrend: No. 48 crew chief Greg Ives opens up about summer struggles | Read more
• Is it over?:
Denny Hamlin chats about feud with Ross Chastain | Listen now
• Kyle Busch:
Two-time champ opens up on family, more | Read more
• Keselowski’s committed:
Driver-owner standing strong through RFK’s rebuild | Read more
• Cup Series debut:
Austin Hill is set to drive the No. 33 for RCR at Michigan | Read more
• No appeal:
Front Row Motorsports drops penalty appeal | Read more
• Sad news:
Longtime driver Buddy Arrington dies at 84 | Read more
• Fire suits:
Inside technological advancements and safety | Read more
• eNASCAR:
Wilson wins All-Star Race on Chicago Street Course | Race recap
• ICYMI:
Erik Jones will return to Petty GMS in 2023 | Read more

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

• BetMGM: Despite form, Reddick enters Sunday as an underdog | Read more
• The Action Network:
The favorite bet to lock in for Sunday’s race | Read more
• More betting insight:
Guide to betting the Suárez vs. Wallace matchup | Learn more
• Play it LIVE: Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
• Going all the way:
2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

Michigan moments 🚘

The automobile industry has strong ties to Michigan, so it is not surprising that NASCAR has a share of it.

• Do you remember?: Most memorable moments at Michigan | Relive them here
• Last year:
Ryan Blaney holds off Kyle Larson, William Byron | Full race recap
• Race Rewind:
Video highlights, key moments from 2021 race | Watch now

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Kevin Harvick has won four of the last six races at Michigan.
JGR has eight Michigan wins but the last came in August 2015 with Matt Kenseth (11 races since).
Bubba Wallace is on a career-best three-race top-10 streak.
Ford leads all manufacturers at Michigan with 42 wins, 16 more than Chevrolet‘s 26; Toyota has five.
• Current points leader Chase Elliott has 10 top 10s at Michigan; his most at any track.

Say what? 🎙

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“We‘re just approaching it the same we have all year. Our goal is to go there and win the race. If we can‘t do that, then we need to get the best finish possible. I do have confidence going to Michigan based on how our cars have been trending on the bigger tracks lately. I feel like the Toyotas as a group have been getting a lot stronger lately, so we should have an opportunity. We just have to make the most of it.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

• “Every race weekend for NASCAR is a big weekend, but especially Michigan as our home race, as our manufacturer, with our employees, our families, our executives.  There‘s a lot of pressure on us to win every race, but especially here at Michigan in front of all of those people.  It‘s important for our teams, too.  They know it as well, so looking forward to having everybody there and putting on a good race.” — Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsports

“You always want to run good when you go home and I think when we look at the remaining tracks, Michigan is one where we feel like we can win. So, multiple reasons it‘s important to us. I feel like it‘s going to be an opportunity for us to win and an opportunity to win at home as well. We want to take advantage of both of those things. Every time I go to Michigan, I just want to run well for friends, family, everybody there. Hopefully we‘ll have a good showing.” — Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet