2020 NASCAR Cup Series preview: Michigan 1

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Ford’s backyard at Michigan International Speedway for a doubleheader weekend at the two-mile oval.

With the 550 horsepower, high-downforce aero package, speed has been stripped from a track that used to produce cars going 210+ miles per hour going into the corners. The 2019 races saw single-file trains that never spaced out, and the opportunities to pass only occurred on restarts.

With the announcement earlier this week, the choose cone will make its debut in a points-paying race and will be active for the remainder of the season except at road courses and superspeedways.

Not only is the speedway Ford’s background, it is also the manufacturer’s playground as a Ford has won the last four races at Michigan and eight of the last 15 races.

In 2019, it was Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick taking the victories at Michigan. Logano has two wins on the year, but those came prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been inconsistent since the season resumed as he only has seven top-10’s in the last 16 races. Logano has an average finish of 12.2 and starts on the pole Saturday afternoon.

Harvick already has four wins on the year and is the defending winner at Michigan. He also boasts the second-highest average finish (11.7) of drivers with more than 10 starts at the track. With a third-place start on Saturday, look for him to be a strong contender all day long.

If Harvick is going to win Saturday, he will have to fight past his biggest rival of the year in Denny Hamlin. Hamlin has a series-leading five wins in 2020 and starts second on Saturday. However, he has not won at the track since 2011 and has showed inconsistencies in his finishes at the track. Hamlin will start second.

If there is a team that needs a solid weekend, its Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick has been behind the 8-ball for a majority of the summer with Chase Elliott being the only saving grace with a win at Charlotte in May. He will be a favorite Saturday as he has the best average finish among active drivers (7.6 in eight races) and starts eighth.

Stages for Saturday’s race end on lap 40, lap 85 and the finish on lap 156. TV coverage for the race begins at 4:00 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Network. The Motor Racing Network will provide radio coverage.

Starting lineup:

Pit stall assignments:

Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2020/08/04/goodyear-fast-facts-michigan-and-road-america/

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