Driver Handicaps: Michigan

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    This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads back to Michigan International Speedway for the GFS Marketplace 400. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 200-lap event.

    Who's HOT at Michigan
  • Kasey Kahne won the June race and will return in that same car this weekend.
  • Greg Biffle has five finishes of sixth or better, including two consecutive wins starting with the 2004 August race.
  • Carl Edwards has a 5.3 average finish in four starts.
  • Matt Kenseth has the best finishing average among all drivers that have started the last 10 events at 6.4.

    Keep an Eye on at Michigan
  • Mark Martin leads all active full-time drivers with 26 top 10s.
  • Jeff Burton has the best finishing average (12.5) among all drivers that have entered every race since 1998.
  • Besides Biffle, Ryan Newman is the only other driver with multiple wins in the last 10 races.
  • Tony Stewart has finished ninth or better in six of the last eight races.
  • Reed Sorenson was the top finishing rookie in June at MIS.
  • Elliott Sadler will be making his first start with the team that won this race one year ago.
  • Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson both finished in the top 10 in June.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. is coming off his best Michigan finish (third).

    June Michigan Race Recap
    Kasey Kahne battled back from an unscheduled pit stop on lap 46 when a hot dog wrapper got stuck on the front grill of the No. 9 Dodge, to win the rain-shortened 3M Performance 400 from the pole. It was the third time this season Kahne has won after winning the pole position in qualifying. Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Greg Biffle and rookie Reed Sorenson rounded out the top five in the race that ended on lap 129. Tony Stewart finished 41st after he was clipped by Jeff Green on lap 22 as they raced through Turn 3. Jeff Gordon had the best driver rating in the race at 125.7.

    Track Performers
    Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five wins and 1,312 laps led on 2-mile speedways. Carl Edwards, who has made eight starts, holds the only finishing average of 10.0 or better on 2-mile tracks at 4.9. Matt Kenseth and Gordon are second and third in finishing average, respectively, at 10.3 and 10.7. Mark Martin leads all drivers with 33 top 10s and Gordon leads all active drivers with six poles.

    Michigan Rookie Report
    All of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates made their first NEXTEL Cup start at Michigan Int'l Speedway in June. Reed Sorenson was the top rookie in the rain-shortened race, finishing fifth. He was also the only rookie to lead a lap in the event after holding the No. 41 out front for three laps. The rookies have made at least one Busch Series start at MIS with Martin Truex Jr. posting the best finishes of third and fourth, respectively, in 2004 and 2005. J.J. Yeley (fifth) and Denny Hamlin (eighth) are the only other rookie drivers to post a top-10 finish. Clint Bowyer has led the most laps at MIS after leading 62 laps en route to a 30th-place finish in the 2005 NBS race. Yeley is the only driver that has made a Truck Series start at Michigan. David Stremme dominated the June ARCA race at MIS by lapping the entire field on his way to victory lane. Although he's not a Rookie of the Year candidate, Todd Kluever will attempt to qualify for his second career Cup race this weekend driving the No. 06 Ford for Roush Racing. He finished 41st in his debut at Chicagoland last month. Another driver will hit the track in a Cup car for the first time at Michigan. David Gilliland will make his debut behind the wheel of the M&M's Ford on Sunday marking his second career Cup start and first on an oval.

    Qualifying Tidbits
    In the last 12 events at Michigan Int'l Speedway there have been three drivers - Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon - that have won multiple poles. Both Labonte and Gordon are tied for the lead among active full-time drivers with four poles each. Ryan Newman is the current qualifying record holder with his June 2005 lap of 194.232 mph. Joe Nemechek captured his first pole at MIS last year in this event. In June, Kasey Kahne became the 15th driver at MIS to win from the pole. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Winners

    Michigan Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2006 season)
  • Tony Stewart is the fastest driver early in a run during the first 25 percent of a green flag run at 182.003 mph (Must have completed 75% of scheduled laps). Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Casey Mears and Matt Kenseth round out the top five.
  • Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, respectively, hold average running positions of 6.5 and 7.4.
  • Tony Stewart is the fastest driver late in a run at 177.757 mph (Fastest speed during last 25 percent of standard green flag run. Must have completed 75% of scheduled laps).
  • Greg Biffle (176.607), Carl Edwards (175.978), Ken Schrader (175.450) and Jimmie Johnson (175.439) complete the top five.
  • Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, respectively, have completed 136 and 126 quality passes (Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag).
  • Greg Biffle has the best Driver Rating at 121.5.

    Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing Tiebreakers

    Last Five Number of Lead Changes
    2006-17
    2005-19
    2005-20
    2004-25
    2004-17

    Last Five Number of Cautions Laps
    2006-37
    2005-30
    2005-23
    2004-33
    2004-33

    RacingOne Staff Picks

    Jeff Wackerlin: Carl Edwards
    Pete Pistone: Kasey Kahne
    Jorge Mondaca: Carl Edwards
    J.J. O'Malley: Matt Kenseth
    Shawn Akers: Matt Kenseth

    More Driver Notes - In order of point standings

    1. Jimmie Johnson (Points: 3241): Johnson posted his best finish (fourth) in nine races at Michigan Int'l Speedway in the June event in 2004. In the August race that same season, Johnson started from the pole - after rain washed out qualifying - but his day ended after 81 laps when the engine expired in the Lowe's Chevrolet placing him 40th, his worst finish and only DNF at MIS. In the 2003 August race Johnson led 50 of his track total 83 laps. Johnson will be behind the wheel of the same chassis (No. 48385) that finished sixth at Michigan in June. The next month at Chicagoland the car went on to finish sixth again.

    2. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -124): Kenseth has competed in 14 races at Michigan Int'l Speedway. He has one win (June 16, 2002), nine top 10s, including six-straight from 2002-2005, and has led 63 laps at MIS. His 6.4 finishing average currently leads all drivers that have started more than five races over the last 10 events. Kenseth will be racing the same car (chassis RK-323) that led 40 laps at California en route to his first win of the season. This will be the first race for this car, which has led in five races this year, since it was tore up at Chicagoland on the last lap.

    3. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -323): Harvick's best finish at Michigan Int'l Speedway was second in the 2003 August race. The finish came after leading 46 laps. It was the second time in Harvick's career he led laps at MIS. The other time came in the summer prior when he held the lead for 42 circuits en route to a third-place finish. Harvick's only other top-10 finishes came in his first track start in 2001 and in this year's June race - both 10th-place finishes. He will race chassis No. 134 for third time in 2006. This is the same car Harvick raced at Michigan in June. The car also finished 34th in the Coca-Cola 600 in its debut.

    4. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -362): Burton has captured eight top-10 finishes in 25 starts at Michigan Int'l Speedway, all coming with Roush Racing from 1996-2004. In his four Michigan track starts with Richard Childress Racing, Burton has finished 12th, 11th, 26th and 11th, respectively.

    5. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -370): Busch started 17th and finished ninth in his first career NEXTEL Cup start at Michigan Int'l Speedway. In this event last year he started fourth and led 28 laps before the car overheated and fell out of the race on lap 81. Busch finished 14th in this year's June race at MIS.

    6. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -426): Martin has finished 17 and 27th, respectively, since scoring his 15th top five at Michigan with a third-place finish in June 2005. His 26 top-10 finishes at MIS currently leads all active full-time drivers. Martin's last of four victories at Michigan came in the June event back in 1998. He has led 24 races at MIS for a total of 882 laps. Martin will return in the same car (chassis RK-381) that finished fifth in its debut at Indianapolis.

    7. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -447): In this event last year, Stewart scored his ninth top-10 finish at Michigan Int'l Speedway when he finished fifth. That fifth-place finish was the last of three consecutive top 10s that included a runner-up finish in 2005 (June race) when he led 97 laps. Stewart's 41st-place finish in this year's June race marked his third - first since 2000 - DNF at MIS. His lone win at Michigan came in the 2000 June race. This weekend Stewart will race chassis No. 122 for the sixth time in 2006. This car's best finish came at Texas when it placed third.

    9. Jeff Gordon (Points Behind: -485): Gordon has two wins, four poles, 14 top fives and 18 top-10 finishes in 27 starts at Michigan Int'l Speedway. His four Bud Poles is currently tied with Bobby Labonte for the active full-time driver lead. Gordon is second among active full-time drivers in laps led, with 844. In June, Gordon started second and led 50 laps en route to an eighth-place finish.

    10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -515): Earnhardt Jr. has finished inside the top 10 three times at Michigan Int'l Speedway, most recently in this year's June race when he placed third. Michigan is the only track where Junior has earned multiple poles (August races in 2000 and 2002). He finished 17th and 18th, respectively, in both events last year.

    11. Kasey Kahne (Points Behind: -569): This past June, Kahne captured his first win at Michigan Int'l Speedway after leading 19 laps from the pole in the rain-shortened race. It was his first pole and third top five in five career starts at MIS. This weekend Kahne will look to capture his fifth win in the same car (chassis No. 128) that he posted all four victories with in 2006.

    12. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -687): Busch has one win (June 15, 2003) at Michigan Int'l Speedway in 11 starts. In June, Busch made his first start at MIS with Penske Racing and finished ninth for his fifth top 10 at the track. In his first two track starts, he got off to a rough start finishing last for two of his three DNFs at Michigan. Busch, who has led seven races at MIS for 195 laps, will race a new chassis (No. PRS-086) that was tested earlier this year at Nashville.

    13. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -695): In seven career races, Biffle has five finishes of sixth or better at Michigan Int'l Speedway, including two consecutive wins starting with the 2004 August race. He will be driving the same car (chassis No. RK-201) that most recently finished 24th at Pocono in one of its four starts in 2006. Biffle also has two wins in the Truck Series at Michigan.

    14. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -706): Edwards has finished in the top 10 in all four of his starts at Michigan Int'l Speedway. Edwards' runner-up finish in June is currently his best-to-date. Edwards, who has led a combined 37 laps in the last two MIS races, will drive the same car (chassis No. RK-270) that he raced at MIS in June.

    15. Brian Vickers (Points Behind: -875): Vickers equaled his best finish (ninth) at Michigan Int'l Speedway in this event last year. In June he led his first laps (17) at MIS before finishing 17th in the rain-shortened event.

    16. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -890): Newman has yet to score a top 10 finish in his four starts at Michigan Int'l Speedway since winning this event in 2003 and then the June race in 2004. His win in this event came after completing the final 52 laps without a pit stop. Newman has started ninth or better in seven of his 10 races at MIS, including a pole in the 2005 June race. His starting average took a hit this past June after he had a tire go down on his qualifying attempt. He started 42nd. Newman will make his first start in chassis PRS-048 since winning the pole and finishing third with it at Phoenix in 2003. He did test the car at Kentucky this season.

    18. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -903): McMurray posted his only top-10 finish (fourth) at Michigan Int'l Speedway in the 2004 August race. This past June, he finished 23rd in his Michigan debut with Roush Racing. McMurray will race the same car (chassis No. RK-273) that he tire tested with at Atlanta last week. This car last ran at Lowe's Motor Speedway where it finished 18th.

    19. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -904): Mears is coming off his best finish, and only top 10, at Michigan Int'l Speedway with his seventh-place finish in June. His best start at MIS (second) came in the 2005 June race when he led his only laps (7) at the speedway. Mears will drive the same chassis (No. 403) that most recently finished 23rd at Indianapolis.

    20. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -1026): This weekend Sadler will make his first start with Evernham Motorsports driving a Dodge. On Wednesday he recorded his first laps in a Dodge in a test session at Kentucky Speedway. Sadler scored his best finish (fifth) at Michigan Int'l Speedway in the June event in 2004. The next season Sadler captured his second top-10 finish in the June event after he started 18th and finished eighth. In 2004, Sadler led in both races for a combined total of 21 laps - the last time he led at MIS.

    22. Scott Riggs (Points Behind: -1045): Riggs finished a career-best second last August at Michigan Int'l Speedway in his fourth start at the track. He finished 29th in June, which marked his first track start in the Evernham Motorsports Dodge.

    24. Dale Jarrett (Points Behind: -1176): Jarrett has four wins and 15 top-five finishes in 39 career starts at Michigan Int'l Speedway. In 2004, Jarrett finished third in both races for his 12th and 13th top-five finish in the last 20 races. Jarrett is third among active full-time drivers in laps led at MIS with 356. The last time he led one of those laps came in June 2004. Friday will mark the 15th anniversary of Jarrett's first career NEXTEL Cup Series win, which occurred at MIS. The UPS Team will be bringing the same car (chassis No. 69) development driver Stephen Leicht drove when he attempted to qualify for the Brickyard 400.

    25. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -1185): Labonte has three wins and 15 top-10 finishes at Michigan Int'l Speedway in 28 starts. In June, Labonte finished 28th in his first start at MIS with Petty Enterprises.

    26. Robby Gordon (Points Behind: -1190): Gordon's 18th-place finish at Michigan Int'l Speedway was his best finish at the track in three starts with his No. 7 team. His best finish (sixth) at the track, and only top 10, came with Richard Childress Racing in this event in 2003. Gordon, who will also be driving Dale Earnhardt Jr's Busch car on Saturday, will be driving the same Cup car (chassis No. 104) on Sunday that last raced at Chicago where it finished 19th.

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