With just three races to go in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season, Michigan International Speedway hosts its second race of the summer, Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400. Here are five things to keep an eye on this weekend at the 2-mile MIS track:
Getty Images for NASCARJerry Markland
With the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup fast approaching, the pressure is on, especially for winless drivers who are on the wrong side of the Chase cut line. Guys like Kyle Larson (pictured), Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney and others and others need to win and win soon if the want to make the Chase. And Chris Buescher needs to have another solid finish to stay in the top 30 in points.
Getty ImagesMatt Sullivan
For the second time, Alex Bowman is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. On Wednesday, the team announced that Earnhardt will miss at least two more races because of his concussion. Jeff Gordon had a prior obligation and is not driving the No. 88 this weekend, although he will be back in the cockpit next weekend at Darlington.
Getty ImagesChris Trotman
With Ford Motor Co. and General Motors both based within two hours of MIS, this is a race that’s very, very important to the two automakers. Bragging rights in your own backyard are a big deal, and this weekend is no exception, especially since Toyota is leading the manufacturers’ standings at the moment.
Getty ImagesRaymond Boyd
Speaking of Toyota, at the first Michigan race in June, the all-conquering Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas had a rare afternoon of struggle. JGR’s four drivers have collectively won 10 races this season, but at the first Michigan race, the only JGR driver to finish in the top 10 was Carl Edwards, who came home sixth. Presumably, they will be stronger this time out.
Getty ImagesJerry Markland
On the low-down
For the third and final time this year, NASCAR will use its ultra-low downforce aero package this weekend. The first time it was used was here in June, when Team Penske’s Joey Logano won. Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, won at Kentucky when the package was used for a second time. Will the third time be a charm for Team Penske?