The NASCAR Cup Series preps for a weekend doubleheader with a Saturday-Sunday schedule at Michigan International Speedway (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM).
NASCAR’s Cup Series doubles up this weekend at Michigan International Speedway with a packed schedule that includes a Saturday-Sunday twin bill.
The Cup tour gets going Saturday with the FireKeepers Casino 400 (4 p.m. ET) and caps the weekend with Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 (4:30 p.m. ET). All Cup Series events are to be broadcast on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
With plenty of high-speed miles ahead in the Great Lake State, here’s the lowdown on all the particulars for the 21st and 22nd races of the Cup Series season. Just four regular-season events will remain after the weekend.
Michigan International Speedway opened for IndyCar-style racing in 1968 and held its first event for NASCAR’s top division one year later. Detroit-area developer Larry LoPatin built the speedway, using a design for a 2-mile D-shaped oval created by Charles Moneypenny, who had also designed the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. Roger Penske took ownership in 1973, and the track became part of the International Speedway Corp. (ISC) portfolio in 1999. ISC merged with NASCAR last year.
The track sits on more than 1,400 acres in Brooklyn, Michigan, roughly 65 miles west-southwest of downtown Detroit. Its sweeping turns are banked at 18 degrees, with the curving frontstretch banked at 12 degrees. The 3,600-foot backstraight has 5 degrees of banking for drainage.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough became the Cup Series’ first winner at the track, surviving a last-lap tangle with Lee Roy Yarbrough to take the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Mercury to Victory Lane. Saturday and Sunday will mark the 102nd and 103rd Cup Series races at MIS. Michigan has held two Cup Series events each year since it opened, with the exception of 1973. Only one race for the series was held there that year as Penske attempted to rescue the facility from bankruptcy.
In each event, Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 40, Stage 2 at Lap 85, with the final stage slated to conclude on Lap 156.
Both races are scheduled for 156 laps for a distance of 312 miles, a shift from the track’s traditional 200-lap, 400-mile standard designed to limit the wear and tear of running full-length races on consecutive days.
Both NASCAR Cup Series races will again be structured without practice and qualifying as the sanctioning body attempts to limit exposure for on-site personnel to limit the spread of coronavirus. The starting lineup for the front end of the doubleheader will be determined by a random draw among groups in the team owner standings:
- Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points
The starting lineup for Sunday’s event will be determined by an inversion of Saturday’s top 20 finishers, with the rest of the field from 21st on back filled out in Saturday’s order. Pit-stall selection for Saturday is based on the finishing order from last Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The 2020 NASCAR rules package for intermediate-sized tracks will be in effect with a tapered spacer used to set a target of 550 horsepower. The cars will use aero ducts in addition to other aerodynamic devices to increase downforce.
The NASCAR Cup Series and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will use the same combination of Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials this weekend. While this tire setup is new for Michigan, it has been used at a handful of intermediate-sized tracks — Texas Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway — already this season. Compared to the most recent Michigan race a year ago, both right- and left-side tires will feature a construction update; the left-side tires have a new compound to improve grip, and both sides will have compounds intended to introduce wear.
“With limited track time under the current schedules, teams enter this weekend‘s races at Michigan already being familiar with this tire setup,” said Greg Stucker, director of racing for Goodyear. “In the past, under more ‘normal’ conditions, teams would be able to work through the practice sessions to dial in on their car setups, with a big part of that being finding the balance on how the tire is working with the track. We‘ve aligned this recent group of race tracks based on the smooth track surfaces and similar factors like speeds and loads, and that helps teams as they build their notebooks from which to work. That will be enhanced this weekend, of course, as Cup teams will run races on consecutive days, so it will be interesting to see who unloads strong on Saturday and who will be able to make adjustments and improve for Sunday.”
Cup Series teams will be allowed six sets of tires for each race. Gander Trucks teams will have a four-set allotment for their 200-mile event Friday.
STATS TO KNOW
— Ford drivers have won four consecutive Cup Series races at Michigan, where the contest for manufacturer bragging rights runs especially high. The three automakers will be competing for the Heritage Trophy, which will reside with the top performing marque from the weekend. Chevrolet’s last Michigan win came in 2017, and Toyota last prevailed at the 2-mile track in 2015. Ford also leads all manufacturers with 39 Michigan wins, with Chevy second on the list at 26.
— Kyle Busch enters the weekend aiming to shake a season-long funk. His 20 winless races match the most to start a season since he joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 — this also happened in 2017 and he then won five of the next 13 races. Busch has one Michigan victory, which occurred in 2011. He has recorded top-10 finishes in each of his last six Michigan starts.
— Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have taken turns atop the Cup Series’ win column this year, and Hamlin enters the weekend with a 5-4 edge in the category. In the series’ most recent weekend doubleheader at Pocono Raceway, Harvick led Hamlin in a 1-2 finish in the Saturday opener, then the two flip-flopped their finishing positions as Hamlin won the Sunday capper. The two have finished 1-2 twice before at Michigan, in 2010 and 2019; Harvick won both times.
— Hendrick Motorsports has hit a recent rut, going the last five races without a top-five finish for any driver in its four-car fleet. Team owner Rick Hendrick has eight Michigan wins, but none since the 2014 campaign, when Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon combined for a season sweep.
— Aric Almirola is still enjoying what has been a career-best streak of consecutive top-10 finishes. The No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing driver pushed that string to nine last weekend at New Hampshire with a seventh-place run. He has also savored good fortune in the random draws for starting position, lining up in the No. 1 spot three times in the last seven races.
Source: Racing Insights, NASCAR statistics
Tune in to television coverage both days on NBCSN or on the NBC Sports App; Saturday’s start is set for 4 p.m. ET, with Sunday’s race scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET. For full radio coverage from Michigan, dial in to MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Channel 90.
RELATED: Ways to follow the races
For a more interactive experience, steer over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNERS
Joey Logano turned in a dominant performance in Michigan’s June race last year, starting from the pole and leading 163 of 203 laps in the FireKeepers Casino 400. He outlasted a charging Kurt Busch in overtime to net the 23rd win of his Cup Series career.
In August, Kevin Harvick kept the manufacturer laurels in the Ford camp, benefiting from fuel-stop strategy and edging Hamlin at the end. Harvick’s third Michigan triumph marked win No. 47 in his Cup Series tenure.
ACTIVE MICHIGAN WINNERS
Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth (three each); Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman (two); Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson (one).