Commentary

Good, Bad and Ugly: 3M Performance 400

Updated: August 15, 2008, 12:24 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Mark Garrow provides driver trends for Sunday's 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Key:

* A driver needs to qualify for the race based on time.
# A driver is eligible for the champion's provisional.

• Allmendinger has two Michigan starts here, finishing 19th earlier this season. He also has an 18th-place finish at Fontana, a track with similar characteristics.
• I can see Allmendinger finishing 12th to 18th, which is a nice finish for someone with a Stock Car Challenge value of 13.4 and allows you to squeeze in more top-shelf drivers. That his team can concentrate on the race setup coming off the truck, and not on qualifying, should mean he'll race even better on Sunday.

• Ambrose is attempting to make his second Cup Series oval race this weekend.

• He does have one NASCAR Nationwide Series start here, with a finish of 19th.
• I didn't give Ambrose enough love last week, but Marcos, this isn't Kansas anymore. It's not a road course but an oval, and the Wood Brothers have struggled on these types of track all year long.

• In addition to Biffle's two wins and four top-5s in the Cup Series at Michigan, he also has two top-5s in the Nationwide Series.

• Biffle finished in the top 10 in six of his first eight races here, including two wins, but has finished 19th or worse in the past three races.
• I rank Biffle 13th based on performances the past couple of weeks, but he still could easily finish in the top 10. Four of the Roush Fenway Fords did back in June when The Biff was 20th.

• Blaney has made 17 Cup Series starts on the 2-mile track in his career, scoring three top-10s and five top-15s.
• This should be a track at which Blaney's Toyota could do a little damage, but this team is struggling. He finished ninth at Dover in June. In the nine races since then, Blaney's best finish was 19th and he has finished 31st or worse five times. His SCC value has plummeted to 13.9, and he's been poison to any owners who have him on their team.

• In five starts here, Bowyer has never finished in the top 15. His average finish is 26.2, and he has finished on the lead lap only once.
• There's still too much risk, and you need to stay away from Bowyer. This team has negative mojo going and has been the model of inconsistency. Look at the past eight finishes. At an SCC value of 21.0, Bowyer is horribly overpriced and carries too much risk.

• Burton has an average Michigan finish of 15.9 and has not earned a top-10 since 2002.
• This is one of the worst tracks for Jeff Burton and RCR, and they've finished poorly here the past two seasons. Not to mention that his average finish the past four races is 19.0.

• Busch has two victories here and is the defending winner of this race. He's driving the same car he drove here earlier this season.
• Busch has six top-5s and an average finish of 19.1.
• I just can't see Busch winning again, and this is another guy who is bouncing all over the place when it comes to finishing up races. Busch was 22nd in June and should do a lot better than that. His SCC value of 18.5 will get some people curious to see whether that cap value will allow them to squeeze in another top-notch guy.

• Kyle finished 13th here earlier this year from the pole and was the runner-up for this race last year.
• Thank goodness he got out of that two-race slump with a win last week. I've got "Shrub" penciled in at second and think he could be a top-5 car and has a shot at his ninth win.

• He is driving the same car he drove to a 30th-place finish at Chicago, a similar track. In addition to the 24th-place finish here earlier this season, Carpentier has a number of open-wheel starts here.
• At best, Carpentier might be able to run top-25.

• Coleman is making his Cup Series debut this weekend. He has one Nationwide start here, finishing 15th.
• No telling what you've got here, so you might as well just forget about it. Team is struggling, and this is Coleman's series debut. That doesn't add up to anything good.

• Earnhardt won the June race, marking his first win, third top-5 and sixth top-10 in his 17th start at the track. Earnhardt has led 124 laps at MIS and completed 98 percent of all run (3,449 of 3,491 laps).
• Junior is driving the same car he drove to a sixth-place finish at Charlotte -- another high-banked, medium track -- earlier this year.
• Junior should be decent come Sunday afternoon. I've got him ranked fifth, and he should be a lock to run top-10. With his high SCC price, he's a little tricky to buy, considering there are cheaper guys who will run with him or possibly outrun the 88.

• In his eight Michigan starts, Edwards has one win, four top-5s and seven top-10s. His average finish is 7.2.
• Edwards is driving the same car he drove to a ninth-place finish earlier this year at Charlotte and I've got him ranked fourth because I can see a win or a top-5 coming. He has his groove back, with three top-5s, four top-10s in the past five races.

• Gilliland has an average finish of 27.5 at Michigan. Gilliland has completed 748 of 806 career laps here (92.8 percent).
• With engines and engineering help from Roush for this race, Gilliland should run pretty well here. We're going to keep a close eye on him for the Sunday chat because his SCC value is a nice 15.8 and some folks might use him to balance their ticket. The fact is he never has set the world on fire here, either, so you also should keep that in mind.

• In 31 starts at the 2-mile track, Gordon has two wins, five poles, 15 top-5s and 20 top-10s. He is also one lap shy of 900 laps led for his career at the Michigan track.
• I can't believe it, but I'm getting a little down on Gordon and have him 14th in my prerace rankings. In the past six races, Gordon has collected one top-5 and two top-10s. Not to mention, he was 18th here in June. Stats like that have him way, way overpriced for SCC at 22.3.

• Gordon has 17 starts here, with one top-10 and an average finish of 25.5 and three DNFs.
• I showed him some love last week, and he broke my heart. He won't get a chance to do it again. He's averaging a finish of 27.9 for a reason, and I won't forget that again.

• In five starts here, Hamlin has an average finish of 10.8, and he finished 14th here earlier this season. He's driving the same car he drove to a third-place finish earlier this year at Indy.
• I think Hamlin is going to be solid on Sunday. Absolutely better than he was in June and should come across the stripe somewhere in the top 10. Still not as consistent as I'd like him to be as recent finishes of third, 23rd and eighth indicate the team still has some work to do before the Chase starts.

• In 15 Michigan races, Harvick has two top-5s, five top-10s and an average finish of 15.7.
• Basically, Harvick has been a top-15 guy the past five races at Michigan, averaging an 11th-place finish, which is why I have him ranked 12th going in. This has just not been a great track for RCR in the past, and from what I saw in June, it still isn't. If you already have him, you might give a thought or two to keeping him because he probably will get you a finish no worse than 11th-13th and he's always pretty tough at Bristol, if you're thinking ahead.

• In his Cup debut on the 2-mile D-shaped oval in June, Hornish ran inside the top five for much of the race, at one point even passing Jimmie Johnson for the top spot, which he held for two laps; he finished 22nd.

• Hornish looked good back in June just as he has in several other races this year, but he always finds a way to mess it up. On the season, he has no top-10s yet and an average finish of 29. I know the way he ran the last time here and his SCC value of 13.7 will pique a little interest, but just don't do it.

Jimmie Johnson

• Johnson has made 13 Cup starts at Michigan, posting two top-5s and six top-10s with an average finish of 14.2. He's driving the same car he drove to runner-up finishes at Fontana and Texas this year.
• Johnson has been great recently, and getting him on a 2-mile banked track, a la Fontana, will bode well for this team. Johnson tops my rankings this week, and he is a must-have for fantasy.

• In nine starts at Michigan, Kahne has one win, five top-5s and five top-10s. After starting from the pole, he led 19 laps en route to his first victory at MIS in 2006.
• I like Kahne a lot this week. He was second in June, and I've got him ranked at sixth. That's because he's been basically a seventh-place type of car lately, but I think he'll do a little better than that Sunday. I also like his 20.8 SCC value.

• In his 18 Michigan starts, Kenseth has accrued two wins, eight top-5s and 12 top-10s. He has led 222 laps at MIS and completed 96.5 percent of laps attempted. He also has earned more points than any other driver in the past 10 races at this track.
• Kenseth has stumbled lately, so Michigan is coming at the right time for the Wisconsin native. He was third in June, and I have him ranked seventh going in. Like Kahne, Kenseth has a 20.8 SCC value, which is pretty nice for what should be a lock to finish 10th or better.

• Kvapil has an average finish of 24.4 at Michigan. Kvapil has completed 910 of 932 career laps at Michigan (97.6 percent).
• Kvapil was 16th in June, and I could see him possibly sneaking another top-20 run. His SCC value has been dropping like a rock, now to 17.9, which is starting to get into a territory where you could start considering him again as a "budget pick." It's still too high, though, and too many guys below him will outrun his Ford this Sunday.

• In 32 starts here, Labonte has 16 top-10s, nine top-5s, three wins and an average finish of 14.1.
• I think this is another one you need to stay away from. He was 31st at Michigan in June, and the past four races have been almost total disasters for the 43, with Bobby averaging a 30th-place finish in that span.

• Has 54 starts here with 13 top-10s, seven top-5s, and an average finish of 19.5.
• He'll just be making circles in a car that hasn't been competitive all year.

• This will be Martin's 46th 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 14 races at Michigan.
• Martin has been a virtual lock all season for at least a top-15 and has averaged an 11th-place finish in his past four starts. He did, however finish 25th in June after qualifying 15th, so keep an eye on the time trials. If he doesn't have the speed on Friday, he might not have it on Sunday, either.

• McMurray has three top-10s and a top-5 here in 11 starts. He's driving the same car he finished 10th with here in June.
• McMurray might be able to run top-10 again, but I basically have him penciled in for a top-15. We will check on him for race-day chat because if we get a sense he could grab another top-10, then his SCC value of 18.6 gets a lot more attractive.

• Mears has posted one top-5, two top-10s and four top-15s in his past six starts at Michigan. He posted his career-best MIS finish of fourth in June 2007.
• He had solid back-to-back outings at Sonoma and New Hampshire, but has struggled in the past five races. His SCC value of 16.2 is a little enticing because he's in a Hendrick Motorsports machine, but I can't get past his 30th-place finish in June and average finish this year of 23.4.

• Menard earned his best finish of the season here in June with an 11th-place effort. The Dale Earnhardt Inc. R&D team has been testing at Kentucky Speedway in preparation for this race.
• Menard may have been 11th here earlier, but that was an exception to the rule and he hasn't come close to that before or since.

• Montoya has made three starts at Michigan, with an average finish of 35.6. He's driving the same car he drove to a 12th-place finish at Dover.
• Back on an oval, JPM, the road course prince, will turn back to a frog. He's basically a top-25 or worse driver, and that won't change at Michigan.

• Nemechek has 29 starts here, with four top-10s and an average finish of 24.7. He finished 28th here earlier this season.

• Newman has two wins, one pole, four top-5s and four top-10s at Michigan. He's driving the same car he drove to a 15th-place finish at Las Vegas, a similar track, earlier this season.
• I didn't show Newman any love in my prerace ranking of 21st, not as much because he finished 42nd at Michigan in June when his engine failed as because Newman has been only average in the past four races. And we need more than average from someone carrying around an SCC value of 19.6.

• 2007 was his first year competing at Michigan, and his best finish was 18th -- in this race. He bettered that in his third race here earlier this year when he finished eighth. He's driving the same car he drove to an eighth-place finish at Chicago.

• I like Ragan a lot for a couple of reasons. I really think he can be a top-10 again, and his SCC value has dropped to 20.0, which makes him a little more attractive.

• Reutimann has three starts here, with an average finish of 24.3. He finished 35th here in June.

• Riggs has nine starts here, with a top-5 and an average finish of 23.2. He finished 33rd here in June.

• In 19 previous races, Sadler has one top-5 and four top-10s and has led three races for 22 laps.
• This team isn't as consistent as I would like it to be yet, but it definitely is heading in the right direction. Sadler was ninth here in June and has an outside shot to equal that finish. He should be a strong top-15 candidate at worst, and that makes his SCC 17.4 value very attractive. And he's been known to be pretty strong at Bristol, next week's race.

• Sauter has two Cup Series starts here, finishing 26th and 29th, respectively, in the races here last season.

• Skinner is replacing Michael McDowell in the 00 this weekend. In 15 starts here, Skinner has an average finish of 26.6.

• Smith has one Cup start here, finishing 32nd here earlier this season. He's driving the same car he drove to a 34th-place finish at Chicago.

• Reed Sorenson has made five starts at Michigan since 2006. He has one top-5 and two top-10s.
• He jumped up out of nowhere and finished sixth at Loudon, but has crashed back to earth in the five races since then with average finish of 25.2. His SCC price of 14.7 is not bad, but considering Allmendinger is cheaper, Sorenson isn't a value.

• Stewart has seven top-3s, nine top-5s and 13 top-10s in 19 Michigan starts. In 10 of his past 12 Michigan races, he has finished in the top 10. Stewart also has earned the second most points here in the past four races as well as in the past 10 races.
• As usual, when the weather gets hot, so does Tony. I've got him ranked fourth with a chance to win. Given what he has done lately, his two straight runner-ups and SCC price (22.5), he might be the best bargain among the top-shelf drivers.

• Truex has five starts here, with two top-5s and an average finish of 13.4. He has led 54 laps at Michigan.
• He definitely will be better than the 17th-place finish at Michigan in June, but the question is how much? That's why I have him ranked 16th. I also think that his SCC price (20.4) is too high and that there will be several in the same price range who should outrun him.

• In nine starts here, Vickers has four top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 18.4. In his past two races here, he has finishes of eighth and fourth, respectively.
• I have Vickers ranked 10th because he should finish somewhere in the top 10 and has a nice SCC price of 18.9. He'll get a lot of love this weekend.

• Waltrip will start in his 47th Cup race at the 2-mile track. In total, he has two top-5s and nine top-10s at Michigan. His average finish is 21st.
• Other than a second-place run at Loudon, Waltrip's best finish is 23rd, and that should be enough to get you to run the other way. If for some reason that's not enough, how about his season-long average finish of 29.5.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.