NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway starting lineup breakdown


BROOKLYN, Mich. — Drivers will get to satisfy their need for speed Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

There will be 38 drivers who want more speed Sunday to catch the leader, but they all know they likely will hit ridiculous speeds at some point during the race on the 2-mile track.

Kurt Busch was at a top speed of 217 mph in qualifying during his pole-winning lap.

“To go 217 mph, to haul the mail going into the corner, I love that feeling,” he said.

He didn’t know how fast he was going at the time, but he knew it was fast.

“You don’t know the mph, but you definitely don’t have much time to think about what line to take or if you are going to adjust the throttle or whatever,” Busch said. “You just go for it. You go off instinct.

“That is what is fun about tracks like Michigan or Texas for us. The time I drove the Indy car at Indianapolis, the speeds are so high that you just go off instinct. You don’t have time to sit there and worry about it — you just go for it.”

The key could be the tire, which is new for this year at any track.

The left-side tire has new construction (the way the tire is made) that should allow the car to wear it longer. The right-side tire no longer has the multizone tread (the outer layer of the tire) but instead consists of a new compound that Goodyear hopes runs cooler while also increasing wear.

“I like Goodyear [but] I think they made the wrong decision this week,” said Brad Keselowski, one of the four drivers who participated in a tire test at Michigan. “It is what it is. We are here and we will get through the race and hopefully everything will be fine.”

Here’s the lineup breakdown for the FireKeepers Casino 400:

1. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford): Busch won a pole for the second time this season — he won the pole and finished seventh at Texas. He has three career Cup wins at Michigan, but his past four finishes at the track have been from 10th to 12th.

2. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford): A little frustrated that he hasn’t been able to win at his home track, Keselowski had six consecutive top-10 finishes at Michigan until last year, when he posted finishes of 16th and 17th.

3. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota): Michigan is not exactly a friendly track to Busch, who won in Cup at MIS in 2011, but he has had five finishes of 30th or worse in his past nine starts.

4. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford): This wasn’t one of his best tracks last year (13th and 14th), but he has seven top-5 finishes in his past 10 starts at MIS.

5. Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford): His 7.6 average finish in the past 10 Michigan races ties Harvick for the best in the series.

6. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford): He has zero top-10 finishes in 11 career starts here. Don’t be surprised if he has a finish that doesn’t match his history, just as he did last week with a seventh at Pocono.

7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford): Nine points ahead of Alex Bowman for the final playoff spot, Stenhouse has one career top-10 in Cup at Michigan.

8. Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota): This Michigan native has run well at his home track. He has two thirds, a fourth and a 13th in his national series starts at MIS.

9. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12 Ford): Blaney has one top-10 finish in six career Cup starts at Michigan, but his qualifying is not a surprise. He has five career top-10 starts at MIS, a place where he has finished better than he started only once.

10. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota): He has started 10th twice at Michigan. He won in 2011, and finished 16th in the race last August.

11. Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet): He finished fourth here in August, just his second top-10 in his past 10 Michigan starts.

12. Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford): All four SHR cars made the final round of qualifying. He has one top-5 in 24 career starts at Michigan.

13. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet): He has seen wins slip through his hands at Michigan, a place where he has finished second in three of his four Cup races.

14. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet): Byron has just two career starts at Michigan, with a second-place run in Xfinity and a fourth in the Truck series.

15. Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford): After a stretch of four consecutive top-10s at Michigan, Menard has finished outside the top 10 in his past five starts here.

16. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet): Dillon has three top-10 finishes in his past five Cup starts at Michigan.

17. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota): He qualified 15th at Charlotte and finished second, so he should have the confidence that he can rally from a disappointing qualifying result.

18. Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37 Chevrolet): This is his best starting spot in his fifth Cup race at Michigan. He finished sixth at MIS last August.

19. Matt Kenseth (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford): Kenseth struggled last week at Pocono but rallied for a 13th-place finish. With Stenhouse qualifying well, at least he should have someone to bounce ideas off of to get his car better.

20. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet): A fifth and an eighth the past two weeks, as well as earning stage points in each stage the past two weeks, have this team feeling it is making progress.

21. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet): Bowman ranks third in Cup in laps completed, having completed 98.83 percent of the laps this year. He finished seventh in an Xfinity race at Michigan two years ago.

22. Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota): He won the Xfinity race at Michigan a year ago, but he has struggled at the track in a Cup car.

23. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford): In eight career Cup starts at Michigan, McDowell’s best finish is 23rd.

24. Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet): Typically, out-qualifying his teammate would be a good sign for McMurray. But Larson will start right behind him.

25. AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet): This will be Allmendinger’s 20th career Cup start at Michigan. He still seeks a top-10.

26. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet): He knows how to win at Michigan — he has won the past three Cup races at the track — but the way he looked Friday in practice and qualifying, he’s a long shot to win a fourth.

27. David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford): With three top-20 finishes in his past five starts, Ragan has some momentum at Michigan.

28. Darrell Wallace Jr. (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet): This is Wallace’s worst start of his rookie Cup season. The good news? Last time Wallace raced at Michigan, he won in a Truck race.

29. Kasey Kahne (Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Chevrolet): A transmission issue ended his day early at Pocono, dropping him two spots to 28th in the standings.

30. Matt DiBenedetto (Go Fas Racing No. 32 Ford): His best career finish at Michigan — 26th — came last August.

31. Ty Dillon (Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet): He hasn’t finished better than 20th in his past three Michigan starts.

32. Corey LaJoie (TriStar Motorsports No. 72 Chevrolet): LaJoie has more-than-respectable finishes of 24th and 26th in his past two starts in this car.

33. Ross Chastain (Premium Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet): Chastain is doing his job — this car is 32nd in the owner standings with an 18-point cushion on 34th. The key is not to be in the last three spots among the 36 charter teams, as those that are in the bottom three for three consecutive years could lose their charters.

34. Gray Gaulding (BK Racing No. 23 Toyota): Gaulding has finished from 29th to 33rd in his past four starts.

35. B.J. McLeod (Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet): McLeod is making his third start of the season in this car.

36. Landon Cassill (StarCom Racing No. 00 Chevrolet): It could be another long day for Cassill, who finished three laps down at Pocono.

37. D.J. Kennington (Premium Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet): Kennington’s Canadian fan base will be glad to see him in this race, which attracts several from across the border.

38. Timmy Hill (Carl Long Motorsports No. 66 Toyota): This is the sixth start of the season for Hill.

39. Garrett Smithley (StarCom Racing No. 99 Chevrolet): The 25-year-old Smithley, who has 78 career starts with four top-10s in the Xfinity Series, makes his Cup debut.

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