GFT Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway

Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle
12 min readAug 4, 2023

4 August 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

BROOKLYN, MI — The competition has been fierce with thirteen different NASCAR Cup Series winners through 22 races, and excluding Shane Van Gisbergen, who ineligible for the postseason, 12 of the winners have secured their spot in the Playoffs heading into this Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

With four races left in the regular season, each of these final starts are imperative for contenders to position themselves in a good place as the postseason approaches.

Challenging the competitors this week will be the massive Michigan International Speedway, which sits on more than 1,400 acres in the “Irish Hills” of southeastern Michigan. Ground-breaking for the facility took place on September 28, 1967 and the two-mile asphalt paved track with 18 degrees of banking in the turns was created — the only track with those dimensions on the schedule.

(Image Credit: Go Full Throttle Digital)

The Purse: $7,544,696

TV: USA, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)

Distance: 400 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

MIS TRACK FACTS:
Track Length: 2-Miles
Grandstand Seating Capacity: 72,000
First Race: June 15, 1969 — Motor State 500
Banking in Corners: 18 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 12 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
Frontstretch: 3,600 feet
Backstretch: 2,242 feet

Michigan International Speedway (Image Credit: mispeedway.com)

Qualifying & Race Records

Qualifying: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 206.558 mph (34.857 sec.); Aug. 15, 2014
Race: Dale Jarrett, Ford, 173.997 mph (2:17:56); June 13, 1999

Track Records

Most Wins: 9 — David Pearson
Most Poles: 10 — David Pearson
Most Top Fives: 21 — Cale Yarborough
Most Top 10s: 31 — Mark Martin

Most Wins by a Manufacturer: 43 — Ford

MIS HISTORY:
The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway was held on June 15, 1969, and the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough in the Wood Brothers’ №21 Mercury at an average speed of 139.254 mph.

The NASCAR Cup Series events at Michigan International Speedway have been run at multiple different lengths. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan was 500 miles in length; the second was scheduled for 600 — but was shortened due to weather and only ran 330 miles. Michigan was re-measured to 2.04 miles for the last race in 1970 and both races in 1971 — with the race distance being 402 miles. All other races have been scheduled for 400 miles, except for the two 2020 races during the pandemic that were 312 miles each and run on consecutive days.

Michigan International Speedway has hosted a total of 105 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 51 different pole winners and 39 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in wins at Michigan with nine victories (1969, 1972 sweep, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 sweep, 1978). Kevin Harvick (2010, 2018, 2019, 2020–1, 2020–2, 2022) leads all active series drivers in wins at Michigan with six victories. Six of the 39 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Michigan are active this weekend.

A total of 51 different drivers have qualified on the pole at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson with 10 poles (1969, 1974 sweep, 1975, 1976, 1977 sweep, 1978 sweep and 1979). Joey Logano leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in poles at Michigan with four (2013, 2016 sweep, 2019). And seven of the 51 NASCAR Cup Series Michigan pole winners are active this weekend.

The NASCAR Cup Series on-track activity kicks off with practice on Saturday, August 5 at 12:35 p.m. ET directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 1:20 p.m. ET at Michigan International Speedway — both events can be viewed on the NBC Sports App at 12:30 p.m. ET.

The first starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more NASCAR Cup Series winners (22) than any other starting position at Michigan International Speedway: 21 winners from the pole and one from the first starting position due to qualifying being cancelled — 1985 (Bill Elliott). The most recent driver to win from the pole at Michigan was Joey Logano in 2019. The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Michigan is 32nd, by NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin in the spring of 2009.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has one last shot at going back-to-back at Michigan

Needing a win to secure his spot in the Playoffs this season, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick revisits Michigan International Speedway with hopes of returning to Victory Lane this weekend and making it back-to-back victories at the two-mile facility. Harvick is one of 11 different drivers to win consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway, and this weekend looks to get his second set of back-to-back wins, he earned his first in the consecutive Michigan races during the pandemic in 2020. With Harvick announcing his retirement at the end of the season, this will be his last run at the 2-mile track.

Drivers with consecutive wins at Michigan:

· Bobby Allison (1971 sweep),
· David Pearson (1972 sweep — 1973), (1974–1975),
· Cale Yarborough (1983 sweep),
· Bill Elliott (1985 sweep — 1986 sweep),
· Bobby Labonte (1995 sweep),
· Mark Martin (1997–1998),
· Ryan Newman (2003–2004),
· Greg Biffle (2004–2005), (2012–2013)
· Kyle Larson won three-straight at Michigan (2016–2017).
· Kevin Harvick (2019, 2020–1, 2020–2) — only driver to win in consecutive days at a single track.

The 47-year-old from Bakersfield, California, Harvick, is currently ranked 13th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff outlook, 182 points ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs in 17th — the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. In 22 starts this season, Harvick has put up one stage win, six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.

Last season, Harvick only led the final 38 laps of the race after taking the lead coming off pit road during the final caution’s pitstops. He would hold on to win his sixth race at the track — most among active drivers. In total, Harvick has made 42 starts at the two-mile track, posting six wins (2010, 2018, 2019, 2020–1, 2020–2, 2022), including four of the last five races, 16 top fives and 22 top 10s. His average finish at Michigan is 10.952 — second best among active drivers.

Race To The Playoffs: Four races to go, four open postseason spots

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 13 different Cup winners, which is tied with the 1988, ’00, ’01, and ’21 seasons for the third-most winners through the first 22 races of a season in the Modern Era (1972-Present). With Shane Van Gisbergen not eligible for the postseason, 12 drivers have earned a spot in the Playoffs leaving just four positions still up for grabs as the series heads to Michigan International Speedway for race №23 of the year.

Just four races remain in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season and tensions are running high in the garage for the competitors that haven’t secured their spot in the postseason. Currently, the final four remaining transfer Playoff spots on points are occupied by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (13th, +182 points above the cutline), RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski (14th, +151 points above the cutline), 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace (15th, +54 points above the cutline), and Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell (16th, +18 points above cutline).

Heading into Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, several former winners at the track will be looking to return to Victory Lane this weekend, especially those that are winless this season. Of that group, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick bolsters the most success at the two-mile track with wins in all three of NASCAR’s national series; including the series-most among active drivers (six) in the NASCAR Cup Series. He also has a victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2003) and the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series (2011). Harvick and Kyle Busch are the only two active drivers with wins in all three NASCAR national series at Michigan.

RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski (two wins), Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon (one win), Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger (one win) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs (one win) each have NASCAR Xfinity Series victories at Michigan International Speedway, and all four need a win this season to get into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. In last season’s Cup race, Keselowski finished 15th, Dillon finished 13th, Ty Gibbs finished 10th and Allmendinger did not compete in the event.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola each have NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series wins at Michigan and are looking for their first wins of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. In last year’s Cup race, Almirola finished 34th due to an incident and Wallace finished runner-up to Kevin Harvick.

Keselowski & Jones chasing home track success this weekend at Michigan

RFK Racing driver Brad Keselowski from Rochester Hills and Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones from Byron are returning to the great state of Michigan this weekend to compete at their home track — Michigan International Speedway.

A total of 101 different drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Michigan, and 10 of the 101 (9.9%) have won at least one race in a NASCAR national series.

Michigan drivers have combined to win 162 NASCAR national series races, led by RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski, who has won a combined 75 NASCAR national series races — nearly half of the state’s total.

Next to Martin Truex Jr.’s 32 winless starts at Michigan, Brad Keselowski has made the second-most starts among active drivers at Michigan without a trip to Victory Lane at 25. But in his 25 previous starts, he has put up seven top fives and 13 top 10s; including three runner-up finishes (2012, 2018, 2020). His average finish is 12.640 — sixth-best among active drivers.

Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones has the third-most combined NASCAR national series wins by a driver from Michigan with 19 victories, behind only Keselowski with 75 and Jack Sprague (Spring Lake) with 29. Jones has made 10 Cup Series starts at Michigan posting one top five (third in 2017) and two top 10s. He finished eighth in this event last season. His average finish is at the 2-mile speedway is 15.7–11th best among active drivers.

Outside Looking In: JGR rookie Ty Gibbs is so close to a Playoff berth

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs has made the most of his rookie season through the first 22 races of the year, and now sits in contention to become just the fourth driver in series history to make the Playoffs in their rookie NASCAR Cup Series season; joining Denny Hamlin (2006), Chase Elliott (2016) and Austin Cindric (2022).

Gibbs is currently 17th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff outlook, just 18 points behind Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell in the 16th and final postseason transfer position on points.

This season Gibbs has made 22 starts putting up one top-five and six top-10 finishes. Michigan is probably a track Gibbs has had circled this season, not only has he won their in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021, but in his Cup Series debut at the 2-mile track he finished inside the top-10 (10th).

NASCAR Notes:

Ford Motor Company goes for eighth straight win at Michigan — This weekend at Michigan International Speedway, Ford will be looking to visit Victory Lane for the ninth consecutive time in the NASCAR Cup Series at the engine manufacturers’ home track.

Ford enters this weekend having won the last eight consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway (2018–2022) and this weekend will look to keep the streak alive — the longest consecutive streak of wins by a manufacturer at the two-mile facility.

Eight different manufacturers have won in the NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan; led by Ford with 43 victories; followed by Chevrolet with 26, Mercury (12), Dodge (nine), Toyota (five), Buick (four) Pontiac (four) and Oldsmobile (two).

Truex Jr. one race closer to second Regular Season Championship — Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. put up his 12th top-10 finish of the season last weekend at Richmond Raceway to open-up his NASCAR Cup Series driver point standings lead to 39 points over Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron in second. With only four races left in the regular season, anything can happen but as they sit right now Martin Truex Jr. (2017) looks like he is on the verge of becoming just the second driver all-time to win multiple NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championships; joining Kyle Busch (2015, 2019). Plus, along with the prestige, Truex would score the additional 15 Playoff bonus points that come with the title.

Truex is one of seven different drivers to occupy the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead this season. In 22 starts this year, Truex has accumulated three wins, three stage wins, eight top fives and 12 top 10s.

Regular Season Championship Clinch Scenarios:

Martin Truex Jr. (or whoever’s first in points) needs to be up by the corresponding number after the race to clinch:

Michigan — 180 or 181 points, depending on tie-break

Indianapolis — 120 or 121 points, depending on tie-break

Watkins Glen — 60 or 61 points, depending on tie-break

Daytona — 0 or 1 point, depending on tie-break

The inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championship into the series was in 2017, and since then five different drivers have won the title.

Three of the five drivers that have won the Regular Season Championship went on to win the overall NASCAR Cup Series Championship the same season — Martin Truex Jr. (2017), Kyle Busch (2019) and Kyle Larson (2021).

Milestone Watch: Ty Dillon to make 225th NASCAR Cup Series career start — Spire Motorsport’s Ty Dillon will attempt to make his 225th NASCAR Cup Series career start this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

Over the course of his 224 previous starts, Dillon has competed for eight different organizations in the NASCAR Cup Series — Richard Childress Racing, Leavine Family Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing, Germain Racing, Gaunt Brother Racing, Petty GMS Racing and Spire Motorsports.

In his 224 starts, he has put up two top fives and seven top 10s. His average start is 26.8 and his average finish is 22.8.

Dillon has made 11 career starts at Michigan posting a best finish of 11th in 2019.

Spire Motorsports and Corey LaJoie agree on multi-year extension — Spire Motorsports has reached a multi-year extension with Corey LaJoie to remain the driver of the team’s №7 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“Corey LaJoie took a chance on Spire Motorsports before we had any tools, any cars, or even a race shop,” said Spire Motorsports co-owner Jeff Dickerson. “He is part of the fabric of this race team so it’s hard to put into words what his commitment means to T.J. (co-owner T.J. Puchyr) and I. He made a very thoughtful and deliberate decision to return to Spire Motorsports. He had plenty of other opportunities and chose to stay the course. We’re excited that Corey will continue to anchor this team and we’re ready to keep making meaningful progress every time we unload.”

LaJoie has been with the team since 2021 and in 222 starts his career best finishes include a fourth- and a fifth-place showing, both coming at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In 22 NCS races this year, LaJoie has scored one top-five and 11 top-20 finishes.

The Concord, N.C., native is a staple on social media platforms and hosts the podcast ‘Stacking Pennies.’

“When Jeff, TJ and I sat at the conference table three years ago, with a whiteboard and vision to build a competitive race team, I was excited for the challenge,” explained LaJoie. “Since that meeting, I’ve grown, matured and developed my skills and will continue to improve myself and my extended family at Spire Motorsports for years to come. We will continue stacking pennies and deliver for our great partners on and off the track. We’re even more eager to bring our loyal fans on the journey with us.”

LaJoie has made nine NASCAR Cup Series starts at Michigan posting a best finish of 19th last season.

GFT Facts & Stats Friday — Getting you ready for NASCAR Cup Series racing this weekend:

FireKeepers Casino 400
Michigan International Speedway
Sunday, August 6
2:30 p.m. ET
TV: USA, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)

--

--

Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association