Michigan Viewer's Guide

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

Drivers can run from the top to the bottom at Michigan International Speedway because it's so wide, but it seems like one or two drivers always hit the setup there and put pressure on the rest of the field. It's also the kind of race where 400 miles and 200 laps go by pretty quick. You don't have a lot of time to find out where you're fast. You have to get to it quickly.

Who to Watch

  • Greg Biffle: Even though Biffle has struggled this year, his record at Michigan is fantastic with two wins, four top-fives and six top-10s in nine starts. Mathematically, he's still alive in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
  • Matt Kenseth: With two wins and 10 top-10 finishes in 16 starts, Kenseth will be one to watch.
  • Carl Edwards: Again, no surprise, these are all Ford teams. Edwards has a win, four top-fives and five top-10 finishes in six starts.
  • Jeff Gordon: In recent years, Gordon has gone up and down at Michigan with four top-10 finishes and three finishes of 30th or worse in the last eight Michigan races. Overall, he has an impressive 15 top-five finishes in 29 starts.
  • Tony Stewart: With a win and eight top-five finishes at Michigan, he's finished in the top 10 in 65 percent of his starts here so that bodes well for him.
  • Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman: Let's put the Penske teammates together because Newman has two wins and Busch has one. The way those guys are running right now, both have a good opportunity to finish in the money.
  • What to Watch

  • Slick, quick fuel-mileage race: The track is slicker in August than June because it's hotter. The June race was a learning experience with the smaller fuel cell. Fuel mileage is always a factor at Michigan, especially since the track produces caution-free racing. Only four races until the Chase, you may not see as many teams gamble on fuel mileage.
  • Handling and horsepower: A deceptively fast racetrack, drivers carry 200 mph going into the wide-sweeping corners, and even though everybody says they're wide-sweeping turns, they're carrying speeds of close to 200 mph into the corners so horsepower and aerodynamics are key. But handling is an underestimated part of the equation.
  • As the race turns: As far as specific adjustments, once the race starts, there really isn't anything you can do to the engine or the body so it comes down to how well how you can get the car to turn without turning too well. That's the trick. You don't want to jump the fence and make the back end loose.
  • Pit Perspective

    This week, Kyle Busch announced officially announced he'll go to Joe Gibbs Racing next year, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. learned he won't be able to take the No. 8 with him to Hendrick Motorsports. Even though they will be going in different directions, those drivers and teams will give 100 percent to make the Chase. Some people may wonder why teams won't switch now, but NASCAR is different than other sports. Teams have sponsor commitments. Plus, they are still in contention for the championship, which means a lot to racers with a handful of races left. If Dale Jr. and Kyle should falter and not make the Chase, it would change the dynamic, but right now, making the Chase is still a strong motivator for their respective teams.

    Speed Mail Steve

    Chase Perspective

    9th through 13th: Newman has always been good at Michigan, and Kurt Busch is strong in the transfer spot. The drivers in 9th through 11th — Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. — are under a lot of pressure. Harvick has two top-five finishes at Michigan, but he hasn't been to victory lane. And Michigan will also give us a clue about how they will run at California.
  • 14th: At Watkins Glen, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took a big hit. He's now 100 points behind Kurt Busch in the 12th and final spot in the Chase. As we come down to the wire, Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Eury Jr. have been happy with the way their cars are running, and their performance been above average. They've worked hard to overcome engine problems, but he needs to have a big day at Michigan. One hundred points isn't insurmountable, but it's a lot.
  • Finish Line

    Michigan is the kind of race that mirrors Daytona because it's so fast, both in time and in speed on the track. You'd better unload fast on Friday and get better during the weekend and then during the race. You've got to have the engine tuned just right with plenty of horsepower. Michigan is deceptive because it's so big and seemingly forgiving, but it requires a tremendous amount of performance from the car, team and driver. If a team doesn't have a fast car off the truck, I don't know that the crew can do enough on race day to overcome the cars that are fast off the truck. The car is a bigger part of the equation at Michigan than it is at Watkins Glen or Bristol.

    NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.

    Tagged: Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer

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