Happy Father’s Day, race fans! Today, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Irish Hills of Michigan for the FireKeepers Casino 400, with pre-race coverage beginning at 2 p.m. EDT on FS1.
Today’s race is the 15th of 26 in the Cup regular season schedule. Already 10 different drivers have won in the first 14 races of the year and a lot of top drivers are still looking for their first victories of 2017.
Here are five questions that will be answered today at the 2-mile Michigan track:
Will a local hero rise up?
Brad Keselowski of Team Penske is a Michigan native and Michigan is where team owner Roger Penske’s vast global business empire is based.
While this race offers a lot of bragging rights for all three manufacturers competing in NASCAR, suffice to say winning here would mean even more for Keselowski and Team Penske.
It’s inconceivable that Joe Gibbs Racing is 0-for-14 this year after winning a total of 26 Cup races in 2015-16. The powerhouse Toyota team has been fast at times, and its performance seems to be improving in recent weeks.
Denny Hamlin won Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race in a Toyota, and he’s been fast in the Cup car this weekend, as has teammate Kyle Busch. This could be the weekend JGR finally breaks into the win column for 2017.
Can Johnson win from the back again?
Jimmie Johnson will start today’s race from the back of the field after a crash during practice sent him to a backup No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Ordinarily, that would seem to make his chances of winning a lot more difficult.
But Johnson won from the back of the field at Homestead last year to capture his seventh Cup championship, and he won from the back of the grid again this year at both Texas and Dover. Never count him out.
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So far in practice and qualifying, it’s been the Kyle and Kyle show at Michigan. Kyle Larson will start from the pole in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and he had the best 10-consecutive-lap average speed during Happy Hour.
But Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota have been right there with Larson. Busch qualified fourth and posted the fastest 10-consecutive-lap average speed in Saturday morning’s first practice.
Surprisingly, perhaps, a lot of top drivers are still looking for their first victories of 2017, including Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing, all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, three of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers and Jamie McMurray, Larson’s teammate. Will one of them break through today?