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Fantasy Racing: Michigan

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 13 2009

Carfax 400
Michigan International Speedway
Sunday August 15, 2:00 PM ET, ESPN

carfax400 logoRace Facts:
Brian Vickers has won the last two pole positions at Michigan. I like his odds to make it three in a row…  Terry Labonte and the #08 team withdrew from the race this week, which is a little odd because Labonte would have been guaranteed a spot in the field due to the Past Champion’s provisional… Mark Martin has 29 top 10s at Michigan. That ties him for the most of any driver with Bill Elliott, who’s racing this weekend with the Wood Brothers… Contrary to a published internet report, the new Ford engine is not making it’s debut this weekend, so don’t automatically gamble with one of Roush or Yates’ backmarkers… This race in 2006 set the Michigan record for cautions with 10. I have a feeling that won’t happen on Sunday.

Drivers to Watch:

Jeff Gordon: Heck, at this point, any driver with Hendrick equipment can be considered a Stone Cold Lock or a Driver to Watch. By virtue of a bad fuel mileage gamble by Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson, Gordon finished second in June at Michigan, and that was after his primary engine expired in the first practice session. Gordon badly needs a win for the Chase standings, and this is the best place to do it because of the physical toll that Bristol may take on his back. And, most importantly, he needs to help me save face after getting caught up in that vicious wreck Monday at Watkins Glen.

Martin Truex Jr.: Ever since finishing second in both Michigan races in 2007, Truex’s performance in Brooklyn has gotten progressively worse. This is nothing more than a hunch pick, but Truex is due some good luck, and given how well that Juantoya ran here in June, we know that EGR has the equipment to give Truex a good opportunity. He won’t win the race, but a top 10 isn’t out of the question by any means.

Denny Hamlin: Except for the one race that the Hammer had engine trouble—and a 39th place finish—in, he’s finished no worse than 14th. Hamlin’s comfortably enough in the Chase that he can go for wins, and given his past history, it’s foolish to think that he won’t be near the front at the end on Sunday (Monday), except if the patented Denny Hamlin fluke equipment failure strikes again.

Drivers to Watch Out For:

Jeff Burton: Again, what the heck is wrong with the RCR cars on intermediate tracks? While Bowyer and his team have shown some promise lately, and Harvick has actually shown flashes of getting out of his slump, Burton and company have been consistently mid-pack. And since they’ve been consistently mid-pack, they’ve been in the hornet’s nest during the DOUBLE FILE RESTARTS SHOOTOUT STYLE. If Burton happens to get caught up on another wreck right after a restart, at this point the only thing to do is chuckle and feel sorry for him.

Reed Sorenson: Sorenson’s best finish in his last five Michigan races is 23rd. Ugh. On an unrelated note, what does it say about James Finch and his Nationwide operation that the best driver they could get for this weekend is Sorenson? Finch and Marc Reno made a remarkably stupid decision letting Mike Bliss go because he “didn’t win enough.” (according to Bliss.) Sorry guys, but don’t let that fluke win at Talladega by Brad Keselowski in the Cup series go to your head. And Bliss won at Charlotte earlier this year. With the Gibbs boys, Keselowski and Carl Edwards in the series, it’s not like there are many wins to come by on Saturdays.

John Andretti:
Yeah, this seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but I’m just making sure that no one gets tantalized by June’s 10th place qualifying run, or a good qualifying run on Friday. You know where he finished in June? 33rd. You know what Andretti’s best finish is in his last eight Michigan races? 20th. He’s not going to get near that Sunday.

Stone Cold Lock of the Week:

Carl Edwards: When the heck is Carl going to win? He attributed his success at Watkins Glen on Monday to a hot and slick track, and outside of Tony Stewart, no one is better at driving a car on a hot and slick track than Edwards is. For about the fourth time this season, this weekend is the one where Edwards finally gets his first Cup win of the season. Heck, I’ll even go out on a limb and say that he’ll qualify well too, which is something of a rarity for Edwards these days.

Last Week:

To Watch: R. Gordon 18th, Ky. Busch 4th, Harvick 35th
To Watch Out: K. Busch 7th, Ragan 24th, Biffle 5th
Stone Cold Lock: J. Gordon 37th

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 13 2009
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