FOX fantasy picks: Guess who is the top choice at Michigan?
After a pretty solid weekend at Pocono Raceway, it's time to turn our attention to Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Raceway.
A high-speed, strategic race, Sunday's event will come down to horsepower and fuel mileage, with many looking to win their way into this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Remember, this is just the second week of this 13-race stretch, so plan your season out and don't waste all of your drivers' four starts early in the stretch. Drivers such as Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson may be fast on Sunday, but they could also come in handy later during this stretch leading up to the Chase.
Just like each week, these are simply suggestions, so pick your team wisely, and best of luck. If you haven't done so yet, be sure to sign up for FOX Fantasy Auto Racing, create your team and start playing today!
Captain: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Michigan stats: 2 wins; 6 top 5s; 10 top 10s; Average finish: 16.3
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is coming off his second win of the season, and is loose and relaxed heading into Sunday's Quicken Loans 400.
The perennial fan favorite has two wins at the two-mile D-shaped oval, but struggled there in both races last year. He blew a motor and finished 37th in the June race, while he cut a tire and hit the wall as he was running seventh in the August event.
Earnhardt Jr. was quick to point out on Friday that despite his two victories, the package teams are racing this weekend at Michigan is dramatically different. Good news for Junior fans and those looking to put him on their fantasy roster? The No. 88 team has been pretty good under this current package.
"We haven't raced here with the cars slammed to the ground and all the new rules that we've got this year," he said. "We've got some new competitors in the battle. The No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) has been lightning fast every week, so you've got to be looking at him to see how they are because they're going to be fast. And you've got a lot of new players and some new cars that are going to be up front trying to compete. And, a lot of new challenges that you're going to have to face that you didn't face last year or the year before."
Despite the new challenges, Earnhardt Jr. and his Steve Letarte-led team have been able to adapt and adapt successfully at each turn this season.
Earnhardt's two previous Michigan wins came thanks in part to fuel mileage, and this team has shown they're plenty capable of playing the strategy game with success.
Look for the No. 88 team to be among the strongest on Sunday, leading laps and contending for the race win, all while leading to a great day for your fantasy roster.
Driver #2: Jeff Gordon
Michigan stats: 2 wins; 18 top 5s; 25 top 10s; Average finish: 12. 5
"Big Daddy" Jeff Gordon will be looking for another big day this Father's Day in Michigan. Much like his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Gordon has shown strength throughout the weekend, putting the No. 24 Chevrolet near the top of the charts and starting Sunday's race from the outside of the front row.
While last year's June race at Michigan was a disaster for Hendrick Motors, they have certainly showed their strength already this weekend.
If Earnhardt Jr. wants to score back-to-back wins this weekend, he'll have his Hendrick teammates to beat, Gordon top among them.
Driver #3: Kasey Kahne
Michigan stats: 1 win; 7 top 5s; 9 top 10s; Average finish: 16.4
Kasey Kahne is due for a solid weekend, and that could very well come Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has had a rough start to the 2014 season, but the No. 5 Chevrolet has been fast all weekend long at the two-mile oval.
Kahne's lone win at Michigan came back in 2005, but he has one top-five and three top-10s in his last five starts.
Like his Hendrick teammates, Kahne has shown power thus far at MIS. He ended opening practice atop the leaderboard, and just missed out on the final round of qualifying in the 13th spot.
Kahne is facing questions about his poor start to the season, his contract and his continued rivalry with Kyle Busch, and he knows the team needs to step up this weekend to quite much of the talk.
"We just need to step up, and if we do that, I feel like, 'Yes, there is going to be pressure, we want to be in the Chase.' But we have fast enough cars," he said. "We have all the equipment; everything there to do it. We just need to put those weekends together. Put ourselves in position, and there is still plenty of time to win races."
That first win of the season may not come on Sunday, but expect Kahne to be a contender and lead to some strong fantasy numbers for your roster.
Driver #4: Kyle Larson
Michigan stats: Making Sprint Cup Series debut
It's been a big weekend for Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson. The 21-year-old announced on Friday he would be a father for the first time, then had a solid day in the car during both practice and qualifying.
While Larson is making his first-career Sprint Cup Series start at Michigan, he was runner-up in his lone Nationwide Series start and has shown already this year he is a threat on the intermediate tracks. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was second to Kyle Busch at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway, and has shown strength on the 1.5-mile tracks as well.
Could the young hot-shoe cap off his big weekend with a big win? Either way, Larson should have a solid day in the No. 42 Chevrolet with Hendrick power under the hood.
Driver #5: Paul Menard
Michigan stats: 0 wins; 2 top 5s; 3 top 10s; Average finish: 20.3
If you're looking for a dark horse pick this weekend at Michigan, look no further than Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard.
While his overall stats at Michigan are not all that impressive, the driver of the No. 27 Chevrolet has one top-five, two-top 10s and three finishes of 14th or better in the last three Michigan races.
In addition, Menard was fast on Friday, putting his car 12th on the speed charts in opening practice and qualifying fifth for Sunday's race.
Menard may not break through to score the win, but he should have a solid day and lead to a great day for your fantasy roster.
If you put more faith in the Las Vegas odds, check out this week's "Let it Ride" segment from NASCAR Race Hub.