Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Roush All The Way

 I was hoping this weekend would be smooth sailing after all of the hiccups in Pocono, but that’s just not the case. Many teams had problems during the practice sessions on Friday with their tires blistering, and because of this Goodyear is giving them a new left-side tire. NASCAR is actually allowing the teams another session of practice on Saturday night after the Nationwide race. I don’t expect the fast cars to change, though, and I’m not sure how many teams are actually going to fully participate (that’d put even more miles on the engines). These rankings below won’t be taking the extra practice into consideration. If there’s anything major that happens or that changes my mind, I’ll come back and make some edits to this post.

I find average speeds very important on tracks like this because very few teams run ten consecutive laps, so really the only numbers we have to go off of are one-lap statistics in practice and the average speed of a driver over all of the laps they ran. You can find the average practice speeds from the first two practice sessions here. Marcos Ambrose grabbed his first career pole in the Sprint Cup series on Saturday and will lead the field to the green for the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday. The full starting lineup can be found by clicking here.

My Probable Yahoo! Roster: Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne
My Probable Yahoo! Bench: Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mark Martin, Austin Dillon

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Final Top Fifteen Ranking For The Quicken Loans 400:

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11. Marcos Ambrose – Starts 1st – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk FactorHigh Risk**

I don’t know if you noticed this, because I didn’t, but Marcos Ambrose has finished 16th or better in five of the last seven Sprint Cup races, including 13th and 10th-place efforts over the last two weeks at Pocono and Dover, respectively. The #9 turned some heads in Happy Hour when he posted the 2nd-fastest lap, and Ambrose usually pops into people’s heads as a sort of sleeper on these intermediate tracks because he’s progressing at them. At Michigan specifically, Marcos has a couple of 15th-place efforts to his name in seven career starts, and I think he should be able to finish around there on Sunday as well. However, with him winning the pole, that bumps Marcos up a little bit in my mind. He showed up somewhat high on the average speed chart, but that’s not real surprising once you look at the limited number of laps the #9 ran on Friday. Ambrose has been a solid choice for at least a top 20 on most of the intermediate tracks this season (chart here) and should be once again in Michigan tomorrow.

12. Ryan Newman – Starts 5th – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

The Rocketman has finished between 12th and 15th in each of the last three Sprint Cup races, and I don’t expect that to change in Michigan on Sunday. He qualified top 5, which was actually kind of surprising considering Newman has just three top 10 starts in the last ten races at MIS. His finishes are even worse. Newman has a grand total of four top 20 finishes in the last five years at Michigan, and his average career finish here of 18.2 leaves a lot to be desired. As I said in my Preview on Wednesday, though, it looks like Stewart-Haas is turning things around and getting back into early season form. While Stewart was winning on the intermediates at that time, the #39 was churning out top 10s, which is possible to happen this weekend. Newman didn’t look good on the average speed chart but he rarely does on the big tracks like this. He did have the 10th-best ten-lap average during Happy Hour, though. I think there are better picks on Sunday but Newman should be top 15.

13. Joey Logano – Starts 9th – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

If you read any of my articles on a consistent basis, you know that I never like going against the most recent winner. Case in point: Joey Logano. He qualified top 10 but I don’t think he’ll end up there. Joey sounded confident in his car and said it was fast, but that’s what most drivers say every single week whether they have a winning car or a 20th-place car. When he qualifies well here, though, Logano generally finished good as well: in 2009 and 2010 he qualified 8th and 12th and finished 7th and 10th, respectively. He wasn’t terrible on the overall average speed chart and the #20 was second on the ten-lap average chart in first practice. They didn’t make  run like that in Happy Hour. On the intermediate tracks this season, Sliced Bread hasn’t been great, but not terrible either, with two top 15 finishes in the last three events (chart here). He has recorded three top 10s in the four Sprint Cup races over the last month, and could easily add another this weekend. A word of caution: Logano qualified 8th at Fontana but fell back pretty quick and ended up finishing 24th. I hope that doesn’t happen again in Michigan on Sunday.

14. Clint Bowyer – Starts 13th – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Clint Bowyer is having a typical Clint Bowyer weekend. He’s not super fast, he’s not super slow, he’s just kind of…there. When being interviewed during qualifying, Clint said that the team fixed a lot on the car in Happy Hour on Friday but were still searching for a little more speed. That’s probably the reason that they ran the number of laps that they did. The #15 was middle-of-the-road on the average speed chart and I’m expecting something of the same out this team on Sunday as well. He finished 8th in both races here last season and has four finishes of 13th or better in the last five Michigan events. I think we’re looking at a run closer to 13th out of Bowyer compared to 8th, but you never know. He has finished 13th or better in four of the six intermediate races this season (chart here).

15. Trevor Bayne – Starts 7th – Yahoo! C Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Bayne qualified a solid 7th in this #21 Ford on Saturday, and I’m expecting a solid top 20 out of him on Sunday in the Quicken Loans 400. He raced in both events here last season and finished 16th and 24th after starting 17th and 20th, respectively. The most concerning thing to me with Trevor Bayne this weekend is the fact that they really didn’t work on race trim that much in practice. With the additional practice on Saturday night, though, that should benefit this team. We know that this is a Ford race track and the Wood Bros always have strong engines. This is the same chassis that Bayne finished 9th with back at Las Vegas after starting 25th.

Those To Avoid For The Quicken Loans 400:

Kyle Busch – This car has looked a little off all weekend to me, and Kyle did nothing to change my mind with his qualifying effort on Saturday (34th). He’s really hit or miss at Michigan, and with the engine problems lately I just think that there are way too many other picks to take instead of taking the risk with the #18. Busch finished 3rd and 1st here last season but I’m expecting nothing similar to that at all out of the #18 team on Sunday. If you take him, good luck!

Brad Keselowski – It’s always concerning when the crew chief says “I have no idea where to go with the car” for the race, and that’s exactly what Paul Wolfe said on Friday. Brad and the Blue Deuce were real good here last fall, starting 6th and finishing 3rd, but other than that his history at this track isn’t so great (to say the least); before that 3rd-place effort, Keselowski’s best finish in four career starts here was 24th. This team has a way of sneaking up on you during the weekends when they are expected to do terrible, but you won’t find me taking the risk on Keselowski on Sunday at his home track–there are just way too many other options.

Martin Truex, Jr. – I think Truex has a real good chance at finishing Sunday’s race in the place that he ranked on the average speed chart, but I’m not looking for that out of him–I want top 5s or top 10s. This team has been great on the intermediate tracks this year (chart here) but really the only time to take Truex is when he qualifies near the front. He’ll roll off the grid in PLACE on Sunday. Oh, one more thing, Truex’s crew chief, Chad Johnston, is away from the track yet again this weekend, so there’s the third strike for the #56 in my mind.