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Pure Michigan 400 Projections

8/16/2014

Here are the projections for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Michigan. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, pre-race on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a 2-mile d-oval superspeedway) and time of year.

• Brad Keselowski (third-place finish in the spring race, top-five in happy hour practice and qualifying this week), Kevin Harvick (finished second in each of the last three Michigan races) and Greg Biffle (won two of the last four Michigan races) should each be strong on Sunday. Our point-projection model favors Keselowski by a hair over Harvick (by just 0.005%), but with Harvick leading the most laps.

• Jimmie Johnson, who won the spring race at Michigan this season, has led just seven laps in seven starts with an average finish of 26th. Johnson’s scored the 28th-most points in the Cup Series during that stretch - while teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon rank first, second and third in points.

• Dale Earnhardt Jr. is once again atop the standings, the fifth time he’s paced the field in the standings this season. By comparison, in over 300 starts between 2005 and 2013, Junior had the points lead just three times. That seems like a distant memory as Earnhardt Jr.’s three wins this season are tied for the lead, while his 10 top-five finishes are the most in the series. In his career, he’s a two-time winner at Michigan, and each of his past five Cup wins have come at tracks at least two miles in length.

• Seven drivers have already clinched a Chase spot (Johnson, Keselowski, Gordon, Earnhardt Jr., Edwards, Logano, Harvick) but there are many more who have a lot of work ahead. Greg Biffle is one of those drivers. He’s outside the Chase but has been very successful at Michigan; since 2005, he leads all drivers at Michigan in average running position, percent of laps running in the top 15 and driver rating.

• Since 2008, seven Michigan winners have taken the lead within 10 laps of the finish, including Jimmie Johnson in his victory earlier this season. Those seven winners have been seven different drivers: Johnson, Logano, Biffle, Hamlin, Vickers, Martin and Earnhardt Jr.