The NASCAR Cup Series continues today as it visits Michigan International Speedway for the 2023 FireKeepers Casino 400. This 2 mile oval, which opened in 1968, is arguably the fastest non-superspeedway track on the schedule, with speeds reaching upwards of 200 mph thanks to the 18 degrees of banking in the corners. Michigan has typically been the Ford Smoke Show of late, with the last 8 Michigan races being won by Fords. With 3 Toyotas starting in the top 5 today, could a changing of the guard could be close at hand? Last year’s edition was won by Kevin Harvick, who ended a 65-race winless streak to pick up his 6th career Michigan victory.
Driver to Fade:
Josh Berry has had a nice 2023 campaign as a fill-in driver in the Cup Series, with 3 top 10 finishes in 8 starts while filling in for both Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. Berry has once again been recruited to fill in, this time in relief of Noah Gragson at Legacy Motor Club. Berry is an excellent driver, but he’s only as good as his equipment. The 42 car has an average finishing position of 28.24 with Gragson behind the wheel, with just 2 top 20 finishes to boot. It looks to be more of the same this weekend, as Berry was one of the slowest in practice and qualified in 35th position for today’s race. The 42 car will once again finish outside the top 20 today.
It’s been a bit of a down year for Austin Dillon. After a playoff appearance last year, Dillon has had just 1 top 5 and 6 top 10 finishes this season, not to mention a 60 point penalty for an illegal car modification at Martinsville that leaves him sitting at 29th in the point standings. There is room for hope though, as Dillon has had some solid runs at Michigan in the past, with 2 top 5’s and 5 top 10’s in 19 career starts. With 6 top 15 finishes at Michigan in his last 9 trips here, there’s no reason to believe that Dillon can’t bring home another top 15 finish.
After going winless last season, Martin Truex Jr. came back with a vengeance this season, with 3 wins, 8 top 5’s, and 12 top 10’s in 22 starts, not to mention that he is the regular season points leader with just 4 races to go until the playoffs begin. Truex has never won at Michigan, but he has still been very successful, with 10 top 5’s and 15 top 10’s in 32 starts. Truex’s recent track record here is very solid too, as he has 6 straight Michigan top 10’s. Truex was fastest in practice and will roll off from 5th place this afternoon. There’s no reason why Truex can’t bring home a 7th straight top 10 finish at Michigan today.
In his first season with Richard Childress Racing, Kyle Busch is looking like the dominant Kyle Busch of yesteryear, with 3 wins, 8 top 5’s, and 13 top 10 finishes. Busch is almost always a perennial contender at Michigan. Prior to a 36th place finish last year, Rowdy had finished in the top 10 at Michigan in 9 straight races. Most importantly, Busch won earlier this season at Auto Club, another two-mile track that runs very similarly to Michigan. Busch showed top 10 pace in practice and the 8 car will start today’s race from 8th place. Perhaps that symmetry is a sign of things to come and perhaps it isn’t, but we predict that Kyle Busch will pick up his 4th victory of the season and his second career Michigan win!