XFINITY Race Preview: Michigan

Michigan

The NASCAR XFINITY Series heads north this weekend to Michigan for the Irish Hills 250. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Schedule of Events | 1st Practice Speeds | Final Practice Speeds

NASCAR XFINITY Series news, notes and fast facts in advance of Saturday's Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway.

Radio: MRN, 1:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: FS1, 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Race Distance: 250 miles (125 laps)
Stage Lengths: Stage 1 (Ends on lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 60), Stage 3 (Ends on lap 125)

Races: 25
Pole Winners: 22
Youngest Pole Winner: Jeff Gordon (8/15/1992 - 21 years, 0 months, 11 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Mark Martin (8/19/2006 - 47 years, 7 months, 10 days)
Race Winners: 18
Youngest Race Winner: Kyle Busch (8/21/2004 - 19 years, 3 months, 19 days)
Oldest Race Winner: Michael Waltrip (8/17/2002 - 39 years, 3 months, 18 days)
Races Won from Pole: 3
Last Race Won from Pole: Brad Keselowski (8/14/2010)
Race Record: Mark Martin - 169.571 mph (8/19/1995)
Qualifying Record: Joey Logano - 193.637 mph (6/13/2015)

  Last Race Most/Largest Fewest/Smallest
Cars: 40 43 - 15 Times 34 (8/15/1992)
Lead Changes: 11 21 (8/17/2002) 3 (8/18/2001)
Leaders: 7 13 (8/19/2006) 2 (8/19/2006)
Cautions: 3 9 (8/19/2006) 0 - Twice
Caution Laps: 14 33 (8/21/2004) 0 - Twice
Lead Lap Finish: 19 31 (8/21/2004) 5 (8/19/1995)
Running at the Finish: 31 43 (8/15/1998) 24 (8/15/1992)
Laps Led (Winner): 4 119 (8/18/2001) 3 (8/15/2009)
Margin of Victory*: 0.28 6.998 (8/18/2007) 0.192 (8/19/2000)

*Since 1993 (advent of digital timing and scoring); does not include races completed under caution

JR Motorsports Teammates Separated By One Point In Championship Standings
After leading 13 laps, capitalizing on stage points and bringing home a runner-up finish this past weekend at Pocono Raceway, Justin Allgaier has finally supplanted his JR Motorsports teammate Elliot Sadler from the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings lead.

Sadler had held the top spot for 10 consecutive races dating back to Atlanta in the beginning of March. With a one point advantage, Allgaier, crew chief Jason Burdett and the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet team head to Michigan International Speedway looking to build on their lead.

If recent history is any indicator, increasing the No. 7 team’s points lead at Michigan is doable. Over the past three seasons, the series leader has increased his lead on average by 9 points in the Michigan race – in 2016, standings leader Daniel Suárez increased his lead by seven points; in 2015, points leader Chris Buescher increased his lead by 10-points after MIS and in 2014, then points leader Regan Smith increased his lead by 10 points as well after MIS.

Though history might be on Allgaier’s side, don’t expect Sadler to go down without a fight. The veteran from Virginia has built his title run this season on consistency. In 12 starts this season, he has five top fives and 10 top 10s. Michigan is a track he can rebound at, he has made 12 starts at Michigan posting two top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 12.6

Allgaier looks poised to sets his sights on a title this season, though. In six starts at Michigan, he has posted one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 9.7.

Kyle Busch Returns To Make It Three-In-A-Row At Michigan For Joe Gibbs Racing
The winningest driver in series history (87 wins), Kyle Busch has returned this weekend to compete in the Michigan 250 on Saturday, June 17 (1:30 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to give Joe Gibbs Racing their third NASCAR XFINITY Series Michigan International Speedway win in as many seasons.

Busch took the checkered flag at MIS in 2015, then last season’s series champion, Daniel Suárez, backed it up and gave JGR the win in 2016. The victory was Suarez’s first in the series. Now Busch is back to make it three-in-a-row.

Joe Gibbs Racing currently has four NASCAR XFINITY Series wins at Michigan International Speedway, second only to Roush Fenway Racing’s five. Gibbs is looking to tie Roush this weekend for the series lead in wins at MIS.

Busch hasn’t competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series since Auto Club Speedway back in March earlier this season. But don’t expect Busch to be rusty. He has made nine starts at Michigan, posting one pole (2014), two wins (2004, 2015), eight top fives and an impressive average finish of 3.9.

Gibbs will also have Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Tifft in the No. 19 Toyota this weekend. Tifft is eighth in points following Pocono, 125 points back from the series standings lead. This will be Tifft’s series track debut this weekend at Michigan.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Denny Hamlin will also be in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on Saturday, contributing to the JGR effort. This will be Hamlin’s third start of the season. Hamlin has made five previous series starts at Michigan, posting one win (2007), four top 10s and an average finish of 11.4.  

Going, Going, But Not Gaughan
Richard Childress Racing’s Brendan Gaughan, who at one point this season had dropped to 17th in points, appears to have righted the ship, and is making moves to get in contention to make the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs.

Gaughan is coming off his third top 10 of the season, after he finished sixth this past weekend at Pocono Raceway. The strong finish has moved him into 13th in the driver standings, 28-points behind the final playoff transfer position – 12th-place Dakoda Armstrong.

At this time of the year last season, Gaughan began to hit his stride. Heading into Michigan, with 14 races until the 2016 playoffs, Gaughan rallied off seven top 10s and made the cut for the post season. 

Gaughan has made five series starts at Michigan posting an average finish of 22.6. He finished 18th in this event last season. Gaughan will have his work cut for him to catch Dakoda Armstrong at Michigan, as he has an average finish of 19.6 in three starts at MIS. 

Will We See An Eighth Different Series Winner At Michigan This Weekend?
Over the last seven races at Michigan, we have had seven different winners dating back to the 2010 event. Which begs the questions, will we see number eight?
The past seven winners are: Daniel Suárez (2016), Kyle Busch (2015), Paul Menard (2014), Regan Smith (2013), Joey Logano (2012), Carl Edwards (2011) and Brad Keselowski (2010).

Kyle Busch (two wins), Brad Keselowski (two wins), Daniel Suárez (one win), Paul Menard (one win) and Denny Hamlin (one win) are the former winners entered this weekend. 

Only two drivers in series history have recorded their first career series win at Michigan – Daniel Suárez (2016) and Ryan Newman (2000).

Crew Chiefs Burdett, Meendering Setting Themselves Apart
JR Motorsport’s crew chiefs Jason Burdett and Kevin Meendering are arguably a couple of the best in the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage this season. Both crew chiefs have their respective teams within one point of each other atop the series driver standings after 12 starts this season.  Their next nearest competitor in the standings is 62 points back. Now heading to Michigan this weekend, can Burdett and Meendering keep their teams pulling away from the field?

Burdett began serving as crew chief for JR Motorsports full-time in 2015. He has worked with Regan Smith and Justin Allgaier over the past three seasons. Burdett led driver Justin Allgaier and the No. 7 Chevrolet team to the standings lead on the strength of four top fives and six top 10s this season. With a one-point advantage over their teammates, finishing well at Michigan will be important.  In their first appearance together at Michigan last season, Burdett and Allgaier finished eighth. 

Kevin Meendering joined JR Motorsports and the No. 1 Chevrolet team with driver Elliott Sadler last season, leading the team to three wins and a runner-up finish in the final series standings. This season, the duo of Meendering and Sadler are at it again. Until this past weekend at Pocono, the No. 1 JRM team had held the driver standings lead for 10 consecutive races dating back to Atlanta, the second race of the season. Expect Meendering and Sadler to give Burdett and Allgaier a run for their money this weekend, as last season the pair finished fifth in their MIchigan debut together.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.
NASCAR In Michigan: The series has hosted 25 races at Michigan International Speedway – the only track the series has competed on in the state of Michigan. There have been 22 different NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light pole winners at Michigan, led by Austin Dillon with two poles – the remaining 21 pole winners each have one. The 25 series races at MIS have produced 18 different race winners; led by a seven-way tie between Carl Edwards, Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Mark Martin all with two wins each. 

Monster Names to Watch For: A total of five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will attempt to compete this weekend in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race – Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

Milestones: Joe Gibbs Racing (four wins) can tie Roush Fenway Racing (five wins) for the series lead in wins by car owners at Michigan this weekend. … Kyle Busch can break the seven-driver tie (two wins each) for the series lead in wins at Michigan with a victory this weekend, becoming the sole leader in wins at MIS.

 

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