By Cole Cusumano
NASCAR returns to the Great Lake State for a visit before kicking off the regular-season finale in Daytona Beach. This is the first time in the track’s 52-year history that Michigan International Speedway will only be hosting one race weekend — a stark contrast to the doubleheader completed in 2020 to account for COVID-19 scheduling.
NASCAR Cup Series
Kevin Harvick had a stronghold on the two-mile oval last year, tacking on back-to-back victories en route to his series-leading nine win total. Still winless in 2021, the former champion is clinging onto the 15-seed in the standings by a cushy 95 points with two races remaining in the regular-season.
Having won four of the last five Cup Series events at Michigan, will a place of familiarity and success lead to more for Harvick?
The battle for the regular-season championship took a hit for Denny Hamlin at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as he was one lap away from potentially securing his first victory of the year when Chase Briscoe dumped him into the infield grass. Luckily for the driver of the No. 11, he locked into the postseason following the madness at the Brickyard.
All roads will go through Kyle Larson, who holds a 22-point lead over Hamlin and will be starting from the pole alongside Chase Elliott in the FireKeepers Casino 400. Tyler Reddick maintains in possession of the final playoff transfer spot by 28 markers over his teammate Austin Dillon.
There’s movement atop the spotter stand beginning this week at Michigan. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski will be swapping eyes in the sky with T.J. Majors moving to the No. 2 team and Coleman Pressley to the No. 22. Jason Hedlesky will spot for Kyle Busch with Tony Hirschman out for undisclosed reasons.
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NASCAR Xfinity Series
The Xfinity Series makes its long awaited return to Michigan, after skipping over the two-mile tri-oval last year due to COVID-19. Dating as far back as the first race in 1992 for the developmental division, this has been a place where solely Cup veterans have found victory lane. Most recently was Reddick in 2019 and he’ll be in the field on Saturday, along with Bubba Wallace driving for Hattori Racing Enterprises.
Michael Annett, who suffered a stress fracture in his leg, is finding his path back to the track increasingly difficult. After attempting to get things going at Watkins Glen International, he re-aggravated his injury and sat out the following week at Indy. Although granted a playoff waiver, he’s since slipped out of a postseason spot by 10 points.
The opportunities keep coming for Berry, as he will take over driving duties for the No. 1 team at Michigan. The fan favorite also made headlines earlier this week, when it was revealed he would return to JR Motorsports full-time in 2022. Riley Herbst currency holds the final transfer spot over Annett with five regular-season races remaining.
NASCAR suspended Ryan Sieg’s crew chief, Shane Wilson, for four races for compromising the safety of competitors during the event at the Brickyard. Following the penalty, Ryan Sieg Racing decided to part ways with Wilson and named Kevin Starland the new crew chief beginning at Michigan.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be competing at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in the first Round of 10 playoff event.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series gets things started in Michigan on August 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the New Holland 250. The NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 will serve as the semi-final race of the regular-season the following day at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs begin at Gateway on August 20 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.