© 2017 ipub.us
Coming off a close affair won by Ryan Blaney in Pocono, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series turns its attention to one of the season's more entertaining events in recent years, the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Two years ago, this race saw a jaw-dropping four red flags thanks to rain, making for repeated entertaining sprints for first place before an early ending.
Now pair the recent history with the most recent race, where notables such as Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski, among others, all led laps. That means Sunday's event, the first under the new stage-based format, could be one of the most competitive races of the summer.
Here's everything to know.
Where: Michigan International Speedway
When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Sports 1
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
FireKeepers Casino 400
1. Kyle Larson (42)
2. Martin Truex Jr. (78)
3. Clint Bowyer (14)
4. Kyle Busch (18)
5. Denny Hamlin (11)
6. Ryan Blaney (21)
7. Joey Logano (22)
8. Jamie McMurray (1)
9. Matt Kenseth (20)
10. Chase Elliott (24)
11. Kevin Harvick (4)
12. Brad Keselowski (2)
13. Jimmie Johnson (48)
14. Erik Jones (77)
15. Kurt Busch (41)
16. Kasey Kahne (5)
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88)
18. Austin Dillon (3)
19. Ryan Newman (31)
20. Daniel Suarez (19)
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17)
22. Michael McDowell (95)
23. Danica Patrick (10)
24. Ty Dillon (13)
25. Chris Buescher (37)
26. A.J. Allmendinger (47)
27. Darrell Wallace Jr. (43)
28. Trevor Bayne (6)
29. Matt DiBenedetto (32)
30. David Ragan (38)
31. Paul Menard (27)
32. Ryan Sieg (23)
33. Corey LaJoie (83)
34. Cole Whitt (72)
35. Reed Sorenson (15)
36. Jeffrey Earnhardt (33)
37. Landon Cassill (34)
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings
Drivers to Watch
On its own, it's odd to hear Blaney took a checkered flag. It's even more strange to think the Wood Brothers driver got his first career win while taking down some of the aforementioned names.
Alas, Blaney led all of 10 laps in Pocono before making his first trip to Victory Lane. Fox: Nascar caught some of the celebration:
New sponsor and paint job in hand for Sunday, NASCAR's latest first-time winner is simply happy to get back on the track.
"Honestly, it is nice to be back at the race track after this week of doing all the media things, and it kind of distracts you from the task at hand," Blaney said, according to Fox Sports' Chase Wilhelm. "It is nice to be here back with the team and have a new little look with the Wood Brothers car."
Blaney sounds like a veteran in his approach here. It's a good sign, as his ability to roll the momentum into more strong finishes will be a key part of his positioning as the season winds down.
For now, he is another shocking winner of a successful new format. Now the task is proving he isn't a one-hit wonder.
Now would be a good time for Joey Logano to pick up a win.
Logano has a win on the season thanks to a checkered flag in Richmond back in April, but he's barely hanging on to a spot in the top 16 on the leaderboard above.
It's been an odd time for Logano as of late. He's finished 21st or worse in three consecutive events. It's that mark in five consecutive, including finishes of 32nd and 37th, if we take out an eighth-place showing at the All-Star race.
What's plaguing Logano isn't so easy to nail down. What is? The fact he can lean on a win at this event a year ago to hopefully establish some momentum, which seems to be his line of thinking, based on a recent Twitter post:
Even a simple top-10 finish would be nice for Logano. He had one finish outside of the top 10 from February events right on through the win in Richmond before this miserable streak.
Remember: A violation during the Richmond win means it doesn't count toward playoff eligibility. Logano is still on the hunt to get a bid, meaning he's counting on his performance one year ago in a big way this weekend.
Those paying attention know it's nothing close to a shock to see Larson on the pole.
One of Larson's wins last year came at Michigan International Speedway. His coming out and posting another fast time is business as usual and could bleed right into another strong performance, boosting his leaderboard standing and maybe giving him a third consecutive top-10 finish.
Ask Larson, though, and he's focused on getting son Owen involved this holiday weekend.
"Hopefully we can get him back up here again for Father's Day," Larson said, according to USA Today's George Sipple. "That would be a special thing for me. Yeah, we've got a fast car. We've just got to take control of the race and be mistake free."
Larson clearly has the speed to dominate an event at MIS. The stage-based format isn't exactly a problem for him, either—he's posted one win and five runner-up finishes dating back to March, and that's not counting a second-place spot at the All-Star race.
A strong performer in the new format from the start of the season, Larson's underrated elite form and history at MIS could mean he has quite the Father's Day weekend.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.