The Irish Hills welcome back NASCAR, and another round of writers' picks.
There's something about going to a track where auto makers want to win. There's bragging rights involved because the manufacturers produce the vehicles each one of us drive on a daily basis.
With two races happening just outside of the Motor City, the second one almost has more meaning since it will be nearly a year before NASCAR returns.
So, when teams come to Michigan, they aren't just winning for themselves or their team, but for the brand they represent each week.
NASCAR is in the Irish Hills of Michigan for the second time this season, and coming of a weekend that saw heartbreak, anguish, and triumph, things are quite different. There's no right turns at this track, but each driver will be using their right foot quite a bit. Speeds over 200 MPH into the corners, very little brake, and many passing lanes make this track a favorite among drivers.
It also gives the writers a chance to redeem themselves.
Last week was a tough race for a majority of the pool participants, and with the Chase just three weeks away, wins and positioning are becoming extremely critical. Heading into Michigan, all but five writers have a win, and only two have multiple wins on the year.
Already the Pool Chase is going to be tight, but that is not the thought on these writers' minds. It's winning this week, and picks are officially locked in.
Here's who they chose for victory in the Pure Michigan 400:
Misan Akuya: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
His last two wins came here.
Rob Blount: Kurt Busch
I know the troubles he had last time the series went to Michigan, but he’s going to win before the chase starts. He has to. He was fast all weekend in Michigan in June before crashing.
I say it happens here on Sunday.
James Broomhead: Matt Kenseth
Kelly Crandall: Kasey Kahne
Billy Fellin: Greg Biffle
I took a ride around RIR on Thursday morning with Greg Biffle and asked him he felt going into a place where he has been so successful. He said confidence was very high going into the Irish Hills.
That's good enough for me. I'll take the 16.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Greg Biffle
Kara Martin: Kasey Kahne
Ryan O'Hara: Greg Biffle
Dustin Parks: Greg Biffle
One thing I like about Michigan is it's not very hard to know what brand you are behind. It's easy to see who supports Toyota, who wears the bowtie of Chevrolet, and who runs a blue Oval of Ford. Me, I'm the latter and I'm going with a guy I know can get the job done.
Won here in the spring, giving Ford it's 1000th win in Cup competition. That's more than enough. I'm sticking with the Biff.
Patti Rodisch: Kasey Kahne
Sal Sigala Jr: Kyle Busch
Rob Tiongson: Greg Biffle
Why not? Seems like Ford enjoys this oval at Michigan. It's like Hendrick's kryptonite. Oh wait, I was a race behind on this joke.
Standings following Watkins Glen:
Rob Tiongson (759) Jeff Gordon finished 36th (2)
Kelly Crandall (730) Kurt Busch finished 9th (1)
Patti Rodisch (730) Jeff Gordon finished 36th (0)
Sal Sigala Jr. (724) Jimmie Johnson finished 8th (1)
Billy Fellin (701) Marcos Ambrose finished 31st (1)
Rob Blount (695) Brad Keselowski finished 2nd (1)
Michael Hirshbein (688) Marcos Ambrose finished 31st (2)
Dustin Parks (645) Jeff Gordon finished 36th (0)
Ryan O'Hara (612) Marcos Ambrose finished 31st (0)
Kara Martin (611) Jeff Gordon finished 36th (0)
James Broomhead (594) Marcos Ambrose finished 31st (1)
Misan Akuya (591) Max Papis finished 15th (1)
Christopher Leone (492) Max Papis finished 15th (0)
Final Thoughts: It's already known that this track has gone through track records like Kleenex. Since the track got repaved, this place has seen two new track records, including one set earlier today.
In the end, whomever takes the checkered flag will hold true to brand loyalty in the shadow of Detroit, something that can be used for bragging rights until the 2014 season.
ESPN has coverage beginning at 12 Noon ET.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-1