The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will square off Sunday in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Up next are the top five storylines to watch.
1. Does one of the Big Three step up?
Three drivers have clearly distanced themselves from the field this season: Jimmie Johnson has won a series-high four races; Kevin Harvick has 10 top-two finishes and has 13 top-10 finishes in 14 races, as does last weekend’s winner, Martin Truex Jr.; and in each of the last four races, Truex has led the most laps. Collectively, these three drivers have won half the races so far this season and led 45.4 percent of the laps. On any given Sunday, these are the three to beat.
2. Will someone new win?
At this point last year, 10 different drivers had won during the first 14 races of the Sprint Cup season. Guess what? The numbers are exactly the same this year — 14 races, 10 different winners. Last year, there were only three new winners in races 15-26. The three winless drivers highest in points right now are Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. And Kyle Busch still is hoping to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which will be a tall order.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesSarah Glenn
3. Will Jeff Gordon rebound?
Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon has had an erratic final season so far behind the wheel of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Things blew up last weekend at Pocono, where he and crew chief Alan Gustafson launched a bevy of F-bombs at each other when Gordon got stuck in traffic. It makes one wonder whether team owner Rick Hendrick brought the two in for milk and cookies this week as he famously did when Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus were feuding.
Getty ImagesJerry Markland/Getty Images
4. After last year’s disaster, will Roush Fenway Racing rebound?
In its long history, Roush Fenway Racing holds the record for Sprint Cup race victories at Michigan International Speedway, with 13. Six different drivers have driven Roush Fenway Fords to victory at the 2-mile track, but only one of them — Greg Biffle — is still with the team. Last year in this race, Biffle finished 20th, Carl Edwards 23rd and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 27th. It was a humiliating outing in the backyard of both Roush Industries and Ford Motor Co.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
5. Which Joe Gibbs Racing team shows up?
Joe Gibbs Racing was red hot at Charlotte last month, where Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Carl Edwards captured the Coca-Cola 600. Since then, not so much. At Dover, Edwards was the highest-finishing JGR Toyota, in 19th, and at Pocono, the team failed to crack the top five. Yes, the team has three drivers in the Chase already, but they are awfully hit and miss so far.