What to Watch: Michigan

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch has scored four consecutive top-10 finishes entering today's race at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Kyle Busch enters today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway feeling he is a “solid lock’’ for the Chase with his three victories. 

It’s a much different feeling from last year when a spat of engine issues had him scrambling to make the Chase. He failed to do so at Richmond, losing the spot to Jeff Gordon and missing a chance to race for the title.

Busch admits this year’s success makes it “easier to walk around ... and to come to the weekend.’’

He is fifth in the points and has scored four consecutive top-10 finishes, including his victory last weekend at Watkins Glen International when he held off Brad Keselowski in a last-lap duel.

Busch’s three wins will keep him close to Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth when the Chase begins next month at Chicagoland Speedway and the points reset. Both Johnson and Kenseth have a series-best four wins, meaning they’ll have 12 bonus points to start the Chase. Busch’s three wins will give him nine bonus points.

Since he is in such a comfortable spot for the Chase, Busch has the freedom to take chances in the remaining four races before the Chase field is set. He could be one to watch today.

Busch, who starts 10th, is among the storylines in today's race. Here are others:

Jimmie Johnson - Michigan International Speedway has been his nemesis. He’s never won at this 2-mile oval. Johnson has run out of fuel, blown an engine and blown a tire while in the lead or contending for victories. 

The track struck early this weekend. Johnson spun and hit the wall in Turn 4 in Saturday’s final practice. He’ll go to a backup car and start at the rear of the 43-car field. He was to have started third. Johnson said he was confused why he crashed because his car had not been loose before that moment.

Regardless of if he finds the answer, the main question is what will happen to him next at this track?

Restarts - Drivers in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race talked about how difficult it was to gain positions while restarting on the inside lane. With track position pivotal and passing challenging, watch how those who are in the inside lane do during restarts. How much will they gamble? Those gambles could pay off or cause problems not only for themselves but for others.

Joey Logano - He starts on the pole and nearly won earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway, a sister track to Michigan. Logano is 16th in the points and needs at least one win to have a chance at a Wild Card spot. Logano knows this is a great chance to win. If he gets that chance, expect him to fight as hard as he did at Auto Club Speedway for the victory.

Jeff Gordon - After last weekend’s crash at Watkins Glen, Gordon fell to 13th in the points. He’s 15 points out of 10th. He knows he can’t afford too many more problems or he could miss the Chase for the first time since 2005. What will happen to him today?

 

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