Wednesday, 21 February 2024

Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott among drivers to watch at Michigan Speedway

Posted On Sunday, 06 August 2023 08:46 Written by
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RFK Racing co-owner Brad Keselowski (left) is pictured in Victory Lane at Richmond with his teammate Chris Buescher last week. Keselowski hopes to be the victorious drive this week at his home track in Michigan, and lock himself into the playoffs. RFK Racing co-owner Brad Keselowski (left) is pictured in Victory Lane at Richmond with his teammate Chris Buescher last week. Keselowski hopes to be the victorious drive this week at his home track in Michigan, and lock himself into the playoffs. Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

BROOKLYN, Mich. — When this week’s race at MIS is run (could be Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, depending on how the weather cooperates), several drivers jump to the top of the list when we think about possible winners.

The Closer

First and foremost is Kevin Harvick, who has taken home 5 of the last 7 race wins at Michigan Speedway, a difficult feat to accomplish. He also has a 6th Michigan win earlier in his career, and has taken home one Xfinity Series checkered flag and a Truck Series win on top of the 6 Cup wins.

With this being Harvick’s final season before heading into the broadcast booth, it would be fitting it he continued to add to those records with a final win at Michigan. He’ll have to work for the win, as he’s starting from the 11th row, but if you’ve watched Harvick compete for the past 25 years or so, you know that showing up to take the glory at the end of a race is one of his specialties, so I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see him fighting for the checkered flag.

Harvick talked a bit about his secrets for success at Michigan.

“I think Michigan is one of those places where car placement and just putting yourself in the right position lap after lap after lap, and not making the mistakes that cost you a half-a-second a lap, and just making a half-a-tenth-of-a-second mistake instead of making those big mistakes and losing track position, and just doing all the little things right, is what you need to do at Michigan,” he said.


Root for the home team

Another name that comes to mind when we return to Brooklyn each year is the hometown hero, 2012 Cup Champion Brad Keselowski, from Rochester Hills, Michigan, who is also co-owner of the hometown RFK Racing team.

Since his first Michigan run in 2009, Brad has come close with three second-place finishes, and a pair of third-place runs. But he’s never been able to claim the checkered flag in Cup (though he does have two Xfinity Series wins at the track). 

With the momentum of Chris Buescher’s win last week at Richmond at their back, the RFK Racing team hopes to parlay that into another victorious weekend, and Brad is aiming to lock himself into the playoffs with a victory like his teammate did last week.

We aren’t in a bad spot. We have four races left until the playoffs start and it would take three new winners for us to be knocked out. That is certainly possible but probably not likely. Ultimately we need to go out and perform and we can’t take anything for granted,” Keselowski said. “We have a good race track for us here in Michigan. This is a track I have had a number of really good runs and second place finishes and most laps led and stage points. I know all the Ford’s are loaded for bear and have worked really hard to make sure we have a strong showing here with our car prep for all of our cars.

Regarding the RFK Racing team progress since he became a co-owner last year, Keselowski said it’s been a process but the results are nice to see.

“You make a lot of investments in people and equipment and none of them are light switches. I feel like about this time last year we really started to hit and some of our investments started to mature and then there were more during the off-season. Things really started to come together,” said Keselowski, who will start this week’s race in 12th position. “I am super proud of the progress we have made the last 12 months but we need to make another leap to be a playoff-winning kind of cars. That is the next level for us that we are committed to. I am certainly proud of the progress we have made and being able to win races and compete for a lot more top fives and top-10’s and laps led. That is good to see and we are super proud of that. “I feel like if we can lock both cars in we will make some noise in the playoffs. FIrst things first though, we have to get both cars in.”

Toyota contenders

And let’s not forget the Toyota contingent, who will have something to say about getting their automaker’s name on the Heritage trophy for the first time since 2015, when Matt Kenseth won for Joe Gibbs Racing. Among those to watch from the Toyota camp are Christopher Bell, who took pole in Saturday’s Cup qualify; Ty Gibbs, who is battling to gain much-needed playoff points; Martin Truex Jr, who just announced he is returning for 2024 to Joe Gibbs Racing and is having an excellent season overall; and Bubba Wallace, who is looking to further solidify his playoff standing and perhaps lock it in with a win.

Chase Elliott: Must-win situation?

Another driver in an interesting points situation is Chase Elliott, who must make up 40 points to get into the Playoffs without a win. Or, in a much more simple scenario, he could win one of the next four races to qualify.

Those races are the Michigan race, road courses at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen, and finally Daytona. Michigan is a decent track for Elliott, where he has 10 top-10 finishes and an average finish of 8.0. And of course Chase has tremendous road course success in his career, so the opportunities are there.

Elliott said he is not thinking about points, and is in a must-win mindset.

“My stance has been the same since I got back. I think we need to win. So, and like I have said a thousand times since I have been back, I think gaining a lot of points and contending for wins is very much one in the same.  It’s not coincidence that the guys that are high up in points have race wins, but they are also leading the regular season thing,” Elliott said. “Those things go hand in hand. If you are gaining a lot of points, you are probably going to have a shot to win. And if you are not, then you are probably not going to have a shot to win.”

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Follow AutoTechReviews on Instagram at @autotechreviews, and on Twitter @AutoTechReview. Follow Matt Myftiu on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

 

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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