Good, Bad and Ugly: LifeLock 400 at Michigan
Mark Garrow provides driver trends for Sunday's LifeLock 400 at the 2.0-mile Michigan International Speedway.
* A driver needs to qualify for the race based on time.
# A driver is eligible for the champion's provisional.
• He made this race last year finishing 31st. • Coming off a career-best 12th last week at Pocono, Allmendinger could be a bargain again this week. The track is forgiving and the Red Bull team has found a chassis setup that is finally letting it use all that Toyota horsepower.
• Biffle has 10 Michigan starts with six top-10s, four top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 13.4. He has led a lap in seven of 10 races at Michigan, 190 total. • Biffle is going to continue his hot streak this week at Michigan. He had two straight top-three runs before Pocono and that should have been at least another top-5 if not for some late race issues. I rank him fifth and see him as a top-5 contender with an outside shot to win.
• Blaney has made 16 starts at the 2-mile track. He has three top-10s and five top-15s at Michigan with a career best of sixth. • When this team found out the CAT sponsorship might being going away, it dug in and is improving. Two top-10s in the past four races and could have been three for four the way he was running at Pocono. Blaney should be a top-15 car.
• In four starts at Michigan, Bowyer has a disappointing 26.3 average finish. • Bowyer is heading in the wrong direction. Since winning at Richmond his finishes have been 15th, 29th, 33rd and 36th. He's got the bad mojo right now and I think you need to keep him on the sideline.
• In 28 starts at Michigan, Burton has posted four top-5s and eight top-10s. • Tied for the spot of second-most expensive driver in Stock Car Challenge, Burton is a little overpriced in my opinion. After all, he's not, at this point, going to challenge for wins. But what he will do is top-10 you to death. With a worst finish of 13th in the opening 15 races, no one has been more consistent in scoring points, albeit in an unspectacular way. He's not sexy, and a tough guy to pick up now with a value of 23.6. I rank him eighth.
• Busch's stats here include two wins, six top-5s and an average finish of 18.9. • I can't see Busch winning at Michigan for a third time and don't see a top-5 either. He was pretty solid last week at Pocono and came home with a top-10 and I can see a repeat this weekend. Despite his Michigan success, it's unlikely someone with an average finish of almost 21 this year will jump out of nowhere and finish top-5 or win. Not going to happen. He should finish no worse than 15th, but I rank him 16th.
• In six starts at Michigan, Kyle has led 40 laps while earning two top-10s. • I've got Kyle ranked third. Forget about last week, it happens. Don't forget the five races before Pocono, where he scored three wins, a second and a third. He'll bounce back big this week. This is a horsepower track and he's got plenty of ponies under the hood.
• This will be Carpentier's first stock car event at Michigan. • He may finish in the top 30, maybe.
• In 17 Michigan starts, Junior has recorded two top-5s and five top-10s. • I've got Junior ranked eighth, although I think he could be capable of finishing in the top five, which is where he's finished in three of the past four races. The only exception was getting wrecked at Dover. With a SCC value of 23.2, he needs to finish in the top five. Not sure he can do that at Michigan, but he's a lock for a top-10.
• He has scored top-10s in his past five races. His average finish at Michigan is 7.3. • Edwards is my top pick this week. He's been rolling lately and has a great history at Michigan. Tied with Burton for SCC cost, Edwards should outscore him. I'd be really surprised if Edwards finished outside the top five.
• Elliott has 56 starts here with 29 top-10s, 17 top-5s, seven wins and an average finish of 13.8. • Elliott and Terry Labonte both have champions' provisionals to use this weekend. Labonte will have the first provisional as he is the most recent champion. If Labonte must use the provisional, Elliott will have to qualify on time for the race. • This is Elliott's favorite track, but he's just making laps. The Wood Brothers don't have car that can run up front or in the top 15 either.
• This weekend marks Franchitti's first Cup start at Michigan. • Trouble seems to come and find Franchitti these days so get something between you and him in a hurry.
• Gilliland has three starts here with an average finish of 27.7. • Like last week, Gilliland will be one of my SCC bonus babies this week, a driver with a low value but a potential high return. On our Sunday morning chat last week, I brought him up and was told I was crazy because he was starting way in the back. Turns out he came through to finish 16th at 17.2 price. That could happen again as this is big Roush track and Yates Racing is a satellite team of theirs.
• Along with his two wins, Gordon has five poles, 15 top-5s and 20 top-10s in 30 starts. • In the second race of the 2008 season, at "sister" track Auto Club Speedway in California, Gordon led 68 laps en route to a third-place finish. • I can see Gordon finishing in the top 10, which he's done in four of the past five races. The lone exception is a 15th at Pocono. He's been ugly but effective. But at 22.4 SCC value, Hamlin just above and Biffle just below are probably better picks, if you're looking at potential winners in that price range.
• Gordon has 16 starts here with one top-10 and an average finish of 24.6. • Things are just plain old ugly right now for Robby. Partnering with Gillette Evernham is not paying off yet. It'll be awhile before he can finish any better than the top 25.
• In four starts here, Hamlin has not finished worse than 14th and averages a 10th-place finish. • Hamlin is my No. 2 this week. If he doesn't win, he should finish in the top five. He's got the car and horsepower to be one of the straws that stirs the drink this week.
• In 14 races at Michigan, Harvick has earned two top-5s and five top-10s. He sports a 16th-place finishing average. • Harvick has been junk the past four races and that's why I've ranked him 19th. Still, he's driving one of his favorite cars and finished in the top 10 with it at Fontana earlier this year, so he has top-10 potential. But lack of success will keep him off my team.
• Chassis PRS-556 is the primary car and was last driven by Hornish at Texas Motor Speedway in April, resulting in a 32nd-place finish. • I can see Hornish finishing in the top 25, maybe, and as prone to spinning as he's been lately don't even touch this guy with a 10-foot pole.
• Johnson has made 12 Cup starts at Michigan International Speedway, one of only seven tracks in which the back-to-back champion hasn't won. He has gathered two top-5s and five top-10s. • I've got him ranked ninth. He might be able to sneak a top-5 and should do no worse than a top-10.
• In nine starts at Michigan, Kahne has one win, four top-5s and four top-10s. • This guy is red hot and he's moved up to fourth in my ranks. He could finish in the top five, but not sure he can fight his way to another win. Watch how his car runs down the straightaways cockeyed. They have got a handle now on bending the rear-end housing and the car is now really getting through the corners. The SCC price of 20.1 is a steal.
• In 17 Michigan starts, Kenseth has achieved two wins, seven top-5s and 11 top-10s. His average finish is 9.7, third-best all time among drivers with two or more starts. • He's moved up to seventh in my rankings. He's back to his old self cranking out top-10s on a weekly basis and has had a top-10 feast at Michigan, nine in the past 11 tries. Kenseth has four top-10s in a row and he'll make it five at Michigan.
• Kvapil has four starts here with an average finish of 26.5. • I like Kvapil for a top-20, top-15 kind of performance. He'd be a nice SCC pick if his price was lower. Right now he's overpriced by a lot and is simply too expensive, with the risk factor, to put on your team.
• In 31 starts here, Labonte has 16 top-10s, nine top-5s, three wins and an average finish of 13.5. • Bobby has been 11th twice in the past three races. I don't see him running that strong at Michigan, but can see him maybe barely squeaking into the top 15, which wouldn't be too shabby for SCC considering his 18.2 value.
• Labonte has 53 starts here with 13 top-10s, seven top-5s and an average finish of 19.3. • The other Labonte is making laps and that's it.
• Leffler has four starts here with an average finish of 24.5. • Nothing to write home about here.
• This will be Martin's 45th run at MIS, where he boasts four wins, 16 top-5s, 27 top-10s and a pole. Martin has finished inside the top 10 in seven of his past 13 races at Michigan. • I've got Mark ranked 11th because I think he's a take-it-to-the-bank top-15 finisher, with a possible 10th-place finish like last week at Pocono.
• Is making his first-ever NASCAR start at Michigan. • He'd love a top-30 and so would his fantasy owners.
• In 10 starts at Michigan, McMurray has one top-5 and two top-10s. • McMurray is a decent sleeper pick this week to jump up and finish in the top 10, but more likely the top 15. With a SCC value at 17.8, he's worth serious thought.
• Casey Mears has 10 starts here with two top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 18.5. • The past five races have been so ugly you could feature them in a horror movie. If you think he's going to duplicate last year's fourth-place finish, forget it. There are too many questions and no answers for this driver and team right now.
• Menard finished 12th in last year's June race, and has nine top-25 finishes to date in 2008. His average finish at Michigan is 23.7. • It looked for a while like this guy was beginning to put it together, but he's slid the other way, so stay away.
• This will be Montoya's third Michigan race. He is averaging a 34th-place finish after finishing 43rd in the June event in 2007. • This team is treading water right now and at 18.4 for SCC, JPM is way overpriced. Buyer beware.
• In 2005, he had two top-10s at Michigan and started from the pole in the second race. • Nemechek has 28 starts here with four top-10s and an average finish of 24.6.
• Ryan Newman has two wins, one pole, four top-5s and four top-10s in 13 starts at Michigan. • I've got Newman ranked 14th. He might run well enough and luck into a top-15. At Newman's current SCC value, Kahne just above and Matt Kenseth just below are better picks in that price range.
• Ragan's best Michigan finish was 18th in the fall 2008 race. • I have him at 13th in my ranks this week, because I believe all of the Roush cars are going to be good. I see him finishing in the top 15.
• Raines has eight starts here with an average finish of 34.2.
• Reutimann has two Michigan starts with an average finish of 19th. • He was 10th at Charlotte and 19th at Pocono, so he's got a shot to finish in the top 20, but I think he's more likely to finish 20th to 25th. The problem with picking Reutimann in SCC is that Blaney is cheaper and will be a better pick
• Riggs has eight starts here with one top-5 and an average finish of 22.0. • Riggs may finish in the top 20 and like Reutimann is higher priced than Blaney in SCC. So, at that price, Blaney is the pick and blow off any thoughts of Riggs.
• Sadler has one top-5 and three top-10s while leading three races for 22 laps. • The team has had some fast cars, but the finishes have been pretty ugly. No reason to put him on your team unless you're a giant Sadler fan and want to throw his recent finishes out the window, forgetting the pain they caused fantasy players.
• Smith is making his first NASCAR Cup Series start at Michigan. • He's beginning to show signs of improvement and could be turning into a consistent top-25 car. He's not quite there yet, but moving in the right direction.
• Sorenson has made four starts at MIS. He has one top-5 and two top-10s. • This team is a mess right now. He may have finished in the top 10 in his first two Michigan starts but after that he was 23rd and 38th. That's going in the wrong direction, unfortunately, like his career.
• In 18 starts here, Stewart has 12 top-10s, eight top-5s, a win and an average finish of 12.9. In the past 11 races here, Stewart has finished outside the top 10 only twice. • Stewart's average finish for the past four races is 28th, but that's not really indicative of how well he ran in those events. So, despite those stats, I've got him ranked 10th. He's too good to stay in this slump much longer and if you can time it right, at 21.2 SCC value you could really ride his upside for a while. This week could be the week. He's finished in the top 10 three straight times at Michigan and has won at Sonoma too. I see his stock price on the rise.
Truex has four starts here with two top-5s. • I have Truex ranked 17th this week, but can still see him potentially finishing in the top 10. His team has been a little inconsistent, so it's hard to get a firm handle on Truex. At 19.4, his SCC value is decent, but Kurt Busch is cheaper and the better pick this week.
• In eight starts here, Vickers has three top-10s and an average finish of 20.2. • Vickers and the Red Bull Team are starting to come around, turning into a solid top-15 team that will occasionally jump up and do something more spectacular. At 18.1, he has a nice SCC price, but at 18.0 Mark Martin may be the safer pick. We are going to pay close attention to Vickers for Sunday's race day chat, so tune in. If his crew chief Kevin Hamlin feels they could be as good as they were at Pocono, then Mr. Vickers will become one of my Michigan "bonus babies."
• His best Michigan finish is fourth. In total, he has two top-5s and nine top-10s. • If you're fan of Mikey put him on your team, otherwise don't click on his picture.
• Yeley has four starts here with an average finish of 32.5. • A top-30 for this guy would be great. It won't happen, but it would be great.
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.
MORE NASCAR HEADLINES
- Wallace Jr. wins Eldora's Mudsummer Classic
- Elliott holds off Bayne for Nationwide win
- Stewart wins in return to sprint car racing
- Jones docked 10 points following Iowa victory