Last year, Michigan International Speedway was one of the biggest wild card races with four of the top five finishers showing odds of 10/1 or greater on the PointsBet Sportsbook. Ryan Blaney's win with +1800 odds and William Byron's runner-up with a +1500 were high enough to give them a plus number for top-threes and -fives as well. Kurt Busch finished fourth with a +2800, which also made him attractive.
In 2022, bettors will need to decide if that was an anomaly or a change in direction.
Typically, Michigan is a relatively easy track to handicap. With two races per year until 2021 and a very close comparative course of Auto Club Speedway that hosted another race, the two-mile courses were prone to streaks.
Auto Club's 2-mile configuration rejoins the calendar this year and that will help with the handicapping of Michigan. But that race is scheduled to be the swan song for the larger version of the course. International Speedway Corporation has plans to bulldoze the 2-mile track and replace it with a high-banked, .5-mile oval in 2023.
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Last year, the only 2-mile race was the FireKeepers Casino 400 and since some longshots made their way to the front, it interrupted some streaks several drivers amassed. Kevin Harvick's 14th-place finish snapped an eight-race streak of top-10s on this course type that included a pair of wins at Michigan in 2020. Joey Logano saw a sweep of the top-15 the previous season evaporate when he was forced to retire 12 laps from the end because of NASCAR's damaged vehicle policy.
There are several other drivers who kept their streaks alive, however.
Most notable among these is Kyle Busch, who enters this year's Michigan race with 13 consecutive top-10s that includes a victory in 2018 at Auto Club and several top-three results on the combined 2-milers. Denny Hamlin has five straight top-10s with a pair of runner-up finishes at Michigan. Chase Elliott has five consecutive top-10s on the course type.
Bettors who are taking a wider view would not have been surprised by Ku. Busch's fourth-place finish. Not only is he one of the most consistent drivers in the field, he also swept the top 10 on this course type in 2020 and entered that race with seven top-10s in the last eight races.
Byron's second-place finish was a little more surprising because it was his first top-five and only second top-10 in 10 races on the 2-milers.
For bettors who place all their attention on the given track and not the course type, there is still a lot of positive data to parse. Five of the top-10 finishers swept that mark in 2020 when Michigan hosted a double-header. The most productive of these was Ky. Busch with his fourth-place finish, while teammate Denny Hamlin earned back-to-back top-10s.
Just because he let the streak go, gamblers will not want to sleep on Harvick. His 14th-place finish snapped a three-race winning streak, (and four of the last five), on this course. If the Stewart-Haas Racing team enters the August race with any momentum at all, a top-five finish should be well-indicated.
Another driver that deserves attention is Chase Elliott. He has slipped in recent seasons, but one should note that his first three efforts ended in runner-up finishes. Since then, he has not cracked the top five, but has been in the mix with top-10s in six of the last seven races. If Elliott runs well at Auto Club and the odds are not completely unattractive, he is worthy of a modest wager.
August 7, FireKeepers Casino 400
Power Rankings After Week 22
5: Kevin Harvick
3: Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson
2: Denny Hamlin
1: Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney
15: Kevin Harvick
10: Martin Truex Jr. Denny Hamlin
9: Kyle Busch
8: Kurt Busch
7: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano
6: Kyle Larson
4: Ryan Blaney
3: Chase Elliott
2: Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon
1: William Byron, Erik Jones
Kyle Busch: 9 top-10s; 9 lead lap finishes
Martin Truex Jr.: 5 top-10s; 9 lead lap finishes
Chase Elliott: 4 top-10s; 11 lead lap finishes (all); running at end of all 11 races
Denny Hamlin: 4 top-10s; 10 lead lap finishes
Kurt Busch: 3 top-10s; 11 lead lap finishes
Kyle Larson: 2 top-fives; 11 lead lap finishes
Kevin Harvick: 12 lead lap finishes and 31 of last 32
Chris Buescher: 8 lead lap finishes; running at end of all 11 races
Daniel Suarez: 6 lead lap finishes
Erik Jones: 4 lead lap finishes (and 8 of all 9); running at end of all 9 races
Ty Dillon: 4 lead lap finishes (and 9 of all 10)
Corey LaJoie: 4 lead lap finishes
Michael McDowell: 4 lead lap finishes
Aric Almirola: 3 lead lap finishes; running at end of all 18 races
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 3 lead lap finishes; running at end of all 17 races
Christopher Bell: 3 lead lap finishes; running at end of all 3 races
Bubba Wallace: 3 lead lap finishes
William Byron: running at end of all 7 races
Quin Houff: running at end of all 5 races
BJ McLeod: running at end of all 4 races
Tyler Reddick: running at end of all 3 races
Cole Custer: running at end of all 3 races
Josh Bilicki: running at end of all 3 races
1991 Champion Spark Plug 400: Dale Jarrett
2016: Pure Michigan 400: Kyle Larson
June 6, Save Mart 350k
1. Ryan Blaney (1800), 2. William Byron (1500), 3. Kyle Larson (290), 4. Kurt Busch (2800), 5. Denny Hamlin (1000)
Two-mile courses: Michigan, Auto Club
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