The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for Sunday. The order is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.
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1. Kyle Larson ($11,500) — Instead of explaining that Larson is great at every track in every racing package, let’s try to plant a seed of doubt. Larson is the favorite this weekend, and he’ll probably dominate the race, but in the last high downforce race, Larson was a no-show at Atlanta. His car had too much drag on restarts and could never dig out of the hole.
2. Ryan Blaney ($9,000) — No one could hang with Kevin Harvick at Michigan last season, but Blaney was the closest. He finished fourth in the first Michigan race and was leading the second race until his teammate accidently wrecked him.
3. Kevin Harvick ($10,000) — No other driver’s Michigan stats compare to Harvick’s stats — four wins and a second place finish in the last six Michigan races. This is a track where Rodney Childers can trim out the car, and Harvick likes a loose, trimmed-out car. Will this be the week that Harvick breaks through or will his 2021 struggles continue?
4. Chase Elliott ($9,200) — Road courses and short tracks have been great tracks for Elliott over the last two seasons, but the high downforce intermediate tracks have not been his strong suit. He’s had top-5 cars, but he has not been a dominant driver at these tracks.
5. Brad Keselowski ($9,800) — Michigan is Keselowski’s home track and he’s been outspoken about how important winning this race is to him. Last season, he came up one spot short in the first Michigan race. In the second Michigan race, Keselowski was unwilling to settle for second again, and wrecked trying to pass the leader at the beginning of stage 3.
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6. Joey Logano ($9,600) — In this racing package, Logano’s highest driver rating this season is ninth (Las Vegas). The No. 22 team is struggling at the high downforce intermediate tracks. Last season, Logano earned two top 10s at Michigan, but he was never in contention for the win.
7. Denny Hamlin ($10,400) — “I hate to say it, but we need more speed,” Hamlin lamented on his radio. Crew chief Chris Gabehart responded, “I know how to get it, but that car isn’t here this weekend.” Hopefully, they bring the right car this time — the one with less downforce.
8. Martin Truex Jr ($9,400) — In the first Michigan race, Truex blew a tire and had to pit under green. He battled and got back onto the lead lap and finished third. The next day, he again finished third. The concern with Truex is that he hasn’t been great on restarts in this package and Michigan is all about restarts.
9. Kyle Busch ($10,800) — Michigan has always been one of Kyle Busch’s worst tracks. Ironically, the one time that Busch didn’t get to practice at Michigan and in a season where he struggled everywhere, Michigan was one of his best tracks. He loved his car at Michigan last season.
10. Christopher Bell ($8,100) — A JGR car at $8,100 is appealing, but at this price and starting 28th, it’s alluring. Bell’s 2021 crew chief Adam Stevens nailed the no-practice setup at Michigan last season with Kyle Busch.
11. William Byron ($10,200) — A trimmed-out race car works well at the high speed oval in Michigan, but if the car is too loose, then it will struggle on restarts. Exceptional long run speed and the ability to pass in traffic is negated by the spots lost on restarts. If any crew chief can find the proper balance in a high downforce race car, then it’s the guy that’s been doing it for years in a truck — Rudy Fugle.
12. Alex Bowman ($8,800) — For whatever reason, Michigan has not been a good track for Bowman. On Saturday, he had a top-10 car until a vibration late in stage 2 derailed his race. He battled during the first two stages of the Sunday race, but suffered significant damage avoiding the Keselowski wreck.
13. Kurt Busch ($8,500) — In both races, Kurt said the same thing on the radio and his analysis was echoed by other drivers. His car was great up front, but in traffic at Michigan, he couldn’t go anywhere.
14. Aric Almirola ($8,300) — His car was terrible on Saturday, so the team made wholesale changes. On Sunday, Almirola magically had a top-10 car. Was it the changes or was it the clean air that Almirola inherited due to the invert?
15. Cole Custer ($7,000) — He doesn’t have to race well to work in DFS. Custer is starting 27th and if he can make his way to 15th, then he’ll likely be in the winning lineup. He won’t race his way to 15th, but if this race ends with several restarts and Custer nails them, like he did in his win at Kentucky last season, then he should be able to climb into the top 15.
16. Tyler Reddick ($7,400) — Crew chief Randall Burnett told reporters that Michigan was one of Reddick’s best tracks and that Reddick runs well at the flat-out full throttle speedways; that didn’t happen. In the first race, Reddick wrecked into Truex and in the second race his car was too tight.
17. Michael McDowell ($6,000) — Front Row Motorsports has been a solid team in the high downforce package. McDowell routinely earned top 20 finishes in these races last season. This season, his average finish is 17th in the high downforce package.
18. Anthony Alfredo ($5,800) — The No. 38 Front Row Motorsports car should have enough speed to hang onto the lead lap. It was a top 15 car in the first Michigan race until Chris Buescher wrecked John Hunter Nemechek. If Alfredo hangs onto the lead lap, and there is restart madness at the end, then Alfredo should easily earn a top 25 finish as long as he avoids the carnage.
19. Chase Briscoe ($6,700) — In the last high downforce race, Briscoe’s 15th place finish — a couple spots better than his average running position of 17th — suggests that this team might be turning the corner. Briscoe should have enough speed this weekend to benefit from multiple hairy restarts at the end of the race.
20. Ross Chastain ($7,700) — The second CGR car might go overlooked because of its poor performances in the high downforce races. Also, there are cheaper and better alternatives starting further back. Chastain is a GPP differentiation play.
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