Driver Handicaps: Michigan

    This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the 3M Performance 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
  • June winner Carl Edwards leads all drivers with a 7.3 average finish.
  • Two-time winner Matt Kenseth has only finished outside of the top 15 twice in 16 starts.
  • Jeff Gordon has the best finishing average (11.7) among all drivers that have entered every race since 1998.
  • Mark Martin has four victories and 27 top 10's in 43 career starts.
  • Tony Stewart has finished in the top five in four of his last five starts.

    Keep an Eye on at Michigan
  • The Roush Fenway team has 10 wins at Michigan.
  • Jimmie Johnson has the third-best average running position in the last five races at Michigan at 9.7.
  • Martin Truex Jr. will be driving the same car that finished second at Michigan in June.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished sixth or better in the last three races at Michigan.
  • Kevin Harvick will be driving the same car that won the All-Star Challenge and finished fourth at Chicago.

    Track Performers
    Jeff Gordon leads all active full-time drivers with five wins and 1,386 laps led on 2-mile speedways. Carl Edwards, who has made 12 starts, holds the best finishing average on 2-mile tracks at 7.9. Gordon is second in average at 10.2 and Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth round out the top four at 10.7 each. Mark Martin leads all drivers with 35 top 10s and Gordon leads all active full-time drivers with seven poles. Part-time driver Bill Elliott, who will make his 11th start of the season with the Woods Brothers, has seven wins and seven poles on tracks 2 miles in length.

    Michigan Rookie Report
    Paul Menard is the only Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate that has made two NEXTEL Cup starts at Michigan International Speedway. In June, Menard and David Reutimann were the top rookies, finishing 12th and 15th, respectively. Also, both Menard and Reutimann are the only rookies that have raced in the Busch Series at MIS, each scoring a best sixth-place finish. David Ragan, who finished 21st in the June Cup race, also raced in the Truck Series at MIS along with Reutimann. Juan Pablo Montoya's worst Cup finish came at Michigan when a crash relegated him to a 43rd-place finish. Rookie Standings

    Qualifying Tidbits
    In the last 15 events at Michigan International 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. Last year in the June event, Kasey Kahne became the 15th driver at MIS to win from the pole. J.J. Yeley is the most recent pole winner at Michigan. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Michigan Winners

    Race to The Chase
    Jeff Gordon leads all drivers that are currently seeded for "The Chase" with four poles, 15 top fives and 20 top 10s at Michigan International Speedway. Click Here to view a video to see how the eligible Chase drivers stack up at Michigan.

    Michigan Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2007)

    *Fastest Early in a Run
    *Fastest Late in a Run
    Avg. Running Position
    1. Matt Kenseth
    1. Carl Edwards
    1. Carl Edwards - 7.6
    2. Carl Edwards
    2. Greg Biffle
    2. Greg Biffle - 9.0
    3. Greg Biffle
    3. Tony Stewart
    3. Jimmie Johnson - 9.7
    4. Kurt Busch
    4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 11.2
    5. Jimmie Johnson
    5. Jimmie Johnson
    5. Kurt Busch - 11.8
    Laps in Top 15
    *Quality Passes
    *Driver Rating
    1. Carl Edwards - 806
    1. Carl Edwards - 274
    1. Carl Edwards - 114.2
    2. Greg Biffle - 781
    2. Greg Biffle - 237
    2. Greg Biffle - 109.9
    3. Jimmie Johnson - 732
    3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 229
    3. Matt Kenseth - 101.4
    4. Kurt Busch - 694
    4. Kurt Busch - 209
    4. Jimmie Johnson - 100.6
    5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 648
    5. Denny Hamlin - 125
    5. Kurt Busch - 100.1

    *Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
    *Driver Rating : Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.

    Dale Jr. Reality Cup Tiebreakers

    Last Five Number of Lead Changes

    Average: 20.8

    Last Five Number of Cautions Laps

    Average: 29.0

    *RacingOne Staff Picks

    Jeff Wackerlin: Matt Kenseth
    Pete Pistone: Jamie McMurray
    Jorge Mondaca: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    Rachael West: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    *Note: Drivers can be selected only one time per season. Race points will be added up each week. This is the 20th race of the season for this section of the handicaps. Standings

    Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

    1. Jeff Gordon (Points: 3384): Gordon has two wins, four poles, 15 top fives and 20 top-10 finishes in 29 starts at Michigan International Speedway. His four Bud Poles is currently tied with Bobby Labonte for the active full-time driver lead. Gordon is first among active full-time drivers in laps led, with 874. In the last three events at MIS, Gordon has yet to finish worse than ninth. This weekend he will have crew chief Steve Letarte back after his six-race suspension.

    2. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -344): Hamlin's best finish at Michigan International Speedway came in this event last year when he placed ninth. It was his second of three top 15s in as many starts, giving him an 11.7 overall average finish. This weekend he will be back in the same car (chassis No. 121) that swept Pocono in 2006. It will mark the fifth start of 2007 for the car.

    3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -432): With the exception of the race this past June, Kenseth has put together a stellar career in 16 races at Michigan International Speedway. The last race saw Kenseth record his first DNF, and first finish outside the top 20, after crashing on lap 75. He has two wins, 10 top 10s, including six-straight from 2002-2005, and has led 150 laps at MIS. Kenseth's win last year in this event lowered his finishing average to 10.1, which is third best among all drivers. He will be racing the same car (chassis RK-323) that led 87 laps last year at MIS en route to the win. This car most recently raced last month at Chicago where it finished second.

    4. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -445): Stewart finished third in his last two starts at Michigan International Speedway for his seventh and eighth career top five at the track. Stewart's 41st-place finish in the 2006 June race marked his third - first since 2000 - DNF at MIS. His lone win at Michigan came in the 2000 June race.

    5. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -560): Edwards won his first NEXTEL Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in June after leading 63 laps from the 12th starting position. The win was his fifth top 10 in six career starts at MIS. Edwards, who has led a combined 137 laps in the last four races at MIS, will drive a brand new car (chassis No. RK-320) in the 3M Performance 400.

    6. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -578): Burton has captured eight top-10 finishes in 26 starts at Michigan International Speedway, all coming with Roush Racing from 1996-2004. Michigan is one of three tracks on the circuit in which Burton has yet to post a top 10 with Richard Childress Racing. His worst finish (42nd) with RCR came in this event last year when the No. 31 Chevrolet lost an engine on the 17th lap after starting from the pole position. This weekend he will race the same chassis (No. 178) that finished seventh at New Hampshire last season.

    7. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -595): Johnson posted his best finish (fourth) in 11 races at Michigan International 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. This past June, Johnson led 56 of his track total 139 laps en route to a 19th-place finish. This weekend he will be behind the wheel of the same chassis (No. 359) that won at Atlanta in March.

    8. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -627): Busch started 17th and finished ninth in his first career NEXTEL Cup start at Michigan International Speedway. In the second race that same year, he started fourth and led 28 laps before the car overheated and fell out of the race on lap 81. Busch finished 14th and 29th, respectively, and led a combined 12 laps last year at Michigan. This past June, Busch scored his best qualifying effort (third) and finish (sixth) in his fifth career start at the track. This weekend Busch will race chassis No. 307. Although the car has a new body on it, this particular chassis has not been in action since 2005.

    9. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -717): Bowyer's 29.3 average finish is hampered by an accident not of his doing in the June event and an engine failure in this event in 2006. He was running third with three laps to go when the engine failed in the No. 07 relegating him to a 33rd-place finish. In June, Bowyer posted his best finish at MIS in 16th. This weekend he will pilot the same car (chassis No. 156) that finished 16th in April at Texas.

    10. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -729): Harvick's best finish at Michigan International 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 the June race in 2001, 2006 and 2007. He will race chassis No. 179 for fourth time in 2007. This is the same car Harvick raced to victory in the All-Star race in May at Lowe's Motor Speedway and to a fourth-place finish in July at Chicago.

    11. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -797): Martin Truex Jr. has made three starts at Michigan and has finished in the top 10 once, a second-place finish in June of this year. He led 54 laps in that race after starting eighth. The team is bringing chassis no. 053, which was last raced at Pocono this month to a 22nd-place finish.

    12. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -855): As he fights to hold on to his 12th-place spot in the preliminary Chase standings, Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led No. 2 Penske Racing team will introduce a new car this weekend at Michigan - chassis No. PSC-111. Busch has captured one victory at MIS and finished in the top 10 five times in 13 starts there. His average finish at the track is 20.3 but since joining Penske, he has a 24.7 average finish in three starts at MIS.

    13. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -951): Ten of Newman's starts have been from within the top 10, including one start from the pole in 2005. Newman has won twice at Michigan and has finished in the top five four times. He has two other finishes inside the top 15 and four of 25th or lower. The No. 12 Alltel team is bringing chassis PRS-108 to the track this weekend. This is the same car Newman drove in Chicago in July to an eighth-place finish.

    14. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -955): In the past three races at Michigan International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had the best success of any driver. Earnhardt Jr. posted a third and a sixth place finish there in 2006 and managed a fifth-place finish earlier this summer despite suffering a flat rear tire during the race. In all three of those races and the last race at MIS in 2005, the driver of the No. 8 led at least one lap. Prior to this recent success at Michigan, Earnhardt Jr. had failed to finish in the top five and hadn't seen the top 10 since the first race of 2003. The team is bringing it and Dale Jr.'s favorite intermediate and two-mile speedway chassis - no. 039. This is the same chassis that has finished sixth or better in the last three Michigan races. It has also been raced this season at Fontana and Las Vegas.

    15. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -1067): Biffle is coming off his worst finish, in 38th, after the team missed the setup on the No. 16 Ford in June at Michigan International Speedway. In the five races prior, Biffle captured five consecutive finishes of seventh or better, including two consecutive wins starting with the 2004 August race. On Sunday he will be driving the same car (chassis RK-315) that most recently finished 15th at Indianapolis two weeks ago.

    16. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -1153): Casey Mears scored his career-best NEXTEL Cup Series result at Michigan International Speedway in June with a fourth-place finish. In nine Cup starts at the two-mile oval, Mears has posted two top-10 finishes. Mears saw victory lane at Michigan in the 2003 ARCA RE/MAX Series, winning the event from the pole position. The team is unloading chassis no. 384, which was used at Pocono this month when the primary car was damaged in practice. Mears drove it to a 10th-place finish.

    17. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -1171): McMurray battled from the 35th starting position to finish eighth in June at Michigan International Speedway. It was the first time McMurray had finished inside the top 10 with Roush Fenway Racing in three starts at the track. His only other top 10 came in 2004 when he raced the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge to a fourth-place finish. This weekend McMurray will return in the same car (chassis RK-450) that finished 28th last month at Chicago.

    18. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -1201): Mark Martin is going to be a busy man this weekend, as he returns to the No. 01 in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series after a weekend off and takes part in his fourth Busch Series race of the season in the No. 5. But who better to pull double-duty at Michigan International Speedway than Martin. In 43 Cup starts, Martin has won four times and posted 16 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes. In the last 11 starts there, he has finished in the top 10 seven times, including a fifth-place in this event last year.

    19. Juan Pablo Montoya (Points Behind: -1206): Juan Pablo Montoya is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 43rd-place finish in his NEXTEL Cup debut at Michigan in June. The seasoned rookie hit the outside wall after his car experienced a blown tire. Montoya has won at once Michigan in 2000 driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in the CART Series. He led 39 laps after starting from the seventh position in that race. The previous year he started third, led for 28 laps and finished second. The No. 42 team is bringing chassis no. 706 to MIS. This car has been used four times this season and finished twice in the top 10 - Atlanta, fifth and Texas, eighth.

    20. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -1258): Bobby Labonte heads to Michigan with a new crew chief, Doug Randolph, for his 31st NEXTEL Cup Series start at the track. He has won three times there, last in 1999. His average start, supplemented by four poles, is 12.6. On the strength of 15 top 10s and nine top fives, Labonte's average finish is 13.7.

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