Michigan International Speedway is the site of this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, the 2018 Consumers Energy 400. Michigan is a huge 2-mile venue that is actually the fastest track on the schedule, as drivers will be routinely hitting 210+ mph before heading into turn 1 on Sunday. Last time we were here, rain shortened the race and it was Clint Bowyer that went to victory lane thanks to a two-tire strategy call by his crew chief before the final restart. Kevin Harvick had the best car that day, though, and he finished 2nd. This weekend, the rain has pretty much stayed away, but there’s about a 30% chance of popup storms on Sunday. Still, we should be able to get the full 200 laps in.
We typically don’t see a large amount of wrecks and cautions at Michigan International Speedway, so you can expect about 70-75% of the race to be run under green flag conditions on Sunday as long as the rain stays away. This equates to around 70 FPTS up for grabs when it comes to fastest laps in addition to the 50 FPTS for laps led.
GPP Drivers I Love For The Michigan 2 Consumers Energy 400
Denny Hamlin ($10,200) – Winning the pole at Michigan is a huge advantage, but with Kyle Busch ($11,900) and Kevin Harvick ($12,200) starting 2nd and 3rd (respectively), it’s going to cause a lot of DraftKings players to stay away from Denny Hamlin and forget about that advantage. Looking at the last five Michigan pole sitters, we had Kurt Busch lead 34.6% of the race back in June before finishing 3rd, with Brad Keselowski leading over 100 laps in this race last season before finishing 17th thanks to a bad late restart. Kyle Larson won from the pole and led nearly half of the race in the June 2017 event, while leading just over 10% of the August race the year before, ultimately finishing 10th. In the June 2016 race, Logano won from the pole after leading 69% of the race (nice). Now, as you can see from my chart below, I do have Harvick and Rowdy as the two dominators on Sunday, but Hamlin doesn’t have a terrible race car to work with. He was super fast throughout all of Friday and had the best time in all three rounds of qualifying as well. In terms of Saturday’s practice sessions, Denny wound up 9th-fastest in the morning session before turning the 7th-fastest lap in Happy Hour. He also had the 5th-best ten-lap average in that session. Also, don’t discount that #1 pit stall, which is just another advantage along with Hamlin’s super fast pit crew. Denny is a two-time Michigan winner, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to get around this place…
Ryan Blaney ($8,700) – Don’t sleep on Ryan Blaney this weekend. He’ll start 8th for Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400, but this #12 Ford is more than capable of finishing inside the top 5 and collecting some dominator points along the way. Over the last two years at 2-mile tracks, Blaney ranks 6th in terms of fastest laps per race, and at Michigan specifically, he’s averaging just over 10 fastest laps per race over that same time frame. Back in June, Ryan led his first career laps here at Michigan International Speedway (15 to be exact) and ended up finishing 8th when the rain starting falling. His career-best MIS finish is 4th, back in August of 2016. Speed-wise, the #12 Ford was 6th-fastest in both practice sessions on Saturday, and Blaney ranked 2nd in ten-lap average during Happy Hour. He’s definitely one of my favorite GPP plays at Michigan this weekend.
Erik Jones ($8,000) – A lot of people overlook momentum when it comes to Fantasy NASCAR, but I’m a big proponent of its importance. And right now, Erik Jones is on fire. He finished 5th at Watkins Glen last weekend, making it six finishes of 7th or better in the last seven races for this #20 team, which includes Jones’ win at Daytona. Looking specifically at Michigan, Erik has actually ran pretty well at his home track in the Cup Series, especially in this race last year, when he came home with a 3rd-place finish after leading five laps. This weekend, the #20 Toyota was probably the fastest in terms of consistency on Saturday, ranking P1 on both ten-lap average charts while posting the fastest lap in Practice #2 and the 9th-fastest lap in Happy Hour. Jones starts 4th on Sunday, which will keep his ownership percentage down, and then there was also this tweet in which Erik said “something broke” during Happy Hour, but unless we hear different, I’m going to assume the #20 Toyota will be fine on Sunday. I don’t like going “all in” on Jones this week, but for a GPP play, I think he’s a great option to steal some dominator points and get a top 5 finish.
Paul Menard ($7,200) – Michigan and Paul Menard have been a great match over the years, and now that he’s in a Ford, I like it even more. This weekend, Paul hasn’t shown blazing speed, but he was 8th-fastest in Practice #2 and then 11th-fastest in Happy Hour. Not too shabby. Now, the #21 Ford is going to roll off the grid from 14th when the Consumers Energy 400 goes green, which is a little higher than I’d like. However, when you pair that with his $7,200 price tag, I’m not expecting Menard to be very high owned. Advantage us. Paul led three laps and finished 5th in the rain-shortened race here back in June and has also ended up 12th or better in six of the last ten races at MIS. My only concern is that this #21 team hasn’t been finishing well as of late, with a best finish of 11th since the first Michigan race in June and only one top 15 in the last five.
Alex Bowman ($6,600) – When Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was in this #88 Chevrolet, there were a few tracks that were pretty much a guaranteed good finish for him. One of those was Michigan International Speedway. Well, the speed seems to have followed the #88 Chevrolet here this weekend, because Alex Bowman has had a rocketship since the team unloaded it on Friday. He qualified 10th for Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400–which should scare off plenty of DraftKings players–but at $6,600, it’s a lot easier to assume that negative place differential risk. Also, there’s no guarantee that Bowman falls in the running order. Th #88 Chevrolet was 7th-fastest in Practice #2 on Saturday before posting the 3rd-fastest lap time in Happy Hour along with the 9th-best ten-lap average. Bowman has finished 11th or better in five of the last seven Cup Series races overall, including that 3rd-place finish at Pocono–another high horsepower track.
Kevin Harvick ($12,200) should be the car to beat on Sunday with Kyle Busch ($11,900) a close second. Now the question is, which one do you build around with your DraftKings lineup (along with Daniel Suarez ($7,800), of course, who starts dead last)? Looking at it strictly from a head-to-head analysis, I’d go with Harvick, but from a strategy perspective, I like Rowdy. He should be lower-owned than Harvick by quite a bit on Sunday, and he also comes with a $300 salary savings. I also don’t like the fact that the #4 team picked the second pit stall for the Consumers Energy 400, as we all know Denny Hamlin (who is in pit stall #1) likes to play games on pit road. I could definitely see the #11 Toyota blocking in the #4 Ford during the race on Sunday.
The real question is whether you need Harvick or Busch, and while I’ll have plenty of lineups with one of those two guys on them, it won’t be the majority of my rosters. Not only are there other drivers starting up front that could steal dominator points from Harvick/Busch, but the practice sessions didn’t make me think that either the #4 Ford or the #18 Toyota could go out and dominate this race on Sunday. And while Michigan is a track known for the high qualifiers finishing up front, there are some great place differential options starting outside of the top 15, including Kyle Larson ($10,600), who loves the 2-mile venues.
In terms of the “bottom feeder” drivers, my favorite is Ross Chastain ($5,500) to give you some breathing room with the cap space. Chastain is one of those drivers that simply knows how to stay out of trouble and get a good finish. He ended up 26th in the first Michigan race this season, and at Fontana (the sister track of MIS), the #15 Chevrolet ended up 29th after starting 36th. Chastain didn’t qualify the car this weekend so he’ll have to start from the back on Sunday, but he’ll be scored from the 35th starting position in Fantasy NASCAR.
Drivers to Fade at Michigan 2
Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,700) is my Driver to Fade for Michigan 2. Although I do think that the #78 Toyota is good enough to come home inside the top 5 on Sunday, I don’t see Truex putting up many dominator points, and the fact of the matter is that you need him to put up a huge score to justify the $11,700 price tag. As far as speed goes this weekend, Truex hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been great. And one thing I’ve learned about this #78 team is that they rarely make major adjustments on their initial setup for a weekend, so if Martin isn’t in the top 2 or 3 on the speed chart from the start, he’s probably not going to contend for the win. Add in the fact that the #78 Toyota was awful here back in June and I have no problem staying away from Truex in Fantasy NASCAR this weekend as a whole, but especially in DraftKings. He’s not rolling with the Auto Owners paint scheme this week anyway.
Others that will be extremely low-owned by me (or, even more likely, completely faded) are Ryan Newman ($7,000), Austin Dillon ($7,400), and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($6,700), simply because they all qualified too high and will more than likely fall back significantly. I also don’t like Joey Logano ($9,900) this weekend, simply because of his price tag. Michigan is a great track for Penske but they’re all kind of struggling right now, and Logano rarely puts up dominator points even when he has a great car.
Driver Point Projections for the Consumers Energy 400
The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Starting Position||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$11,700||44.9||7||05.6||4||7||$261|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$6,700||11.4||13||22.8||0||0||$588|