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What to Watch for: Michigan

Larson Looks to Make It Three Straight at Michigan

- Kyle Larson returns to Michigan, winner of the previous two races there. There's been only two drivers to win three straight races at Michigan since the series started racing there and both are Hall of Famers.

- Kyle Larson has three career wins, and they've all come on the last three races on two-mile tracks (Michigan and California). In the two races on two-mile tracks this season, Larson has led more than half of the laps.

Dale Jr. Looks to Break Streak at Michigan... Again

- Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be making his final trip to Michigan International Speedway as a full-time Cup Series driver. He's had several key memories at the track in his career:

August 20, 2000: Junior sat on pole for the only race where he, his father Dale & half-brother Kerry all raced in. Junior led 13 laps but finished 31st.

June 15, 2008: Junior used fuel strategy to get the lead late and was able to stretch his fuel over a green-white-checkered finish for the win. It was his first win with Hendrick Motorsports and snapped a 76-race winless streak.

June 17, 2012: Having not been to victory lane since Michigan in 2008, Junior dominated, leading 95 laps and snapped a 143-race winless streak. He sported probably his coolest car to date as well, themed after The Dark Knight Rises.

- There is good news for Junior, who will need a win to make the playoffs. He enters Michigan on a 41-race winless streak, the fourth-longest drought of his career, but two of his three longer streaks were snapped at Michigan.

Can Chase Elliott Break Through?

- If it wasn't for Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott would have a win on the MENCS. He has finished second in all three of his career starts at Michigan. They remain the three best finishes of his Cup Series career.

- Elliott's father, Bill, won seven times at Michigan, third most all-time.

- Kyle Larson got his first career Cup win at Michigan last season, just the second driver in 96 all-time Cup races at the track to pick up their first win. The other is NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, in 1991.

Kenseth Closing in as Playoffs Near

- There are just four races to go before the playoffs begin. The 16 drivers with the most wins followed by championship points will qualify for the championship.

- Three drivers among the top 16 are yet to secure a win, including Matt Kenseth. The playoff system began in 2004 a year after Kenseth won the Cup Series title despite winning just one race.

- This year, Kenseth currently sits 16th in the standings. He's safe for now but a win would lock things up. Kenseth is certainly trending in the right direction. He's finished in the top 10 each of the last four races, including a second at Watkins Glen last week.

- More good news for Kenseth is that he's won three times at Michigan, tied with Kurt Busch for the most among active drivers.

Changes at Hendrick as the Champ is Struggling

- It was announced this week that Kasey Kahne will not return to Hendrick Motorsports next season. Kahne won at Indianapolis a few weeks ago, but his performance has fallen off with Hendrick over the years.

- He'll be replaced by William Byron, a 19-year old from Charlotte, NC who has three wins on the Xfinity Series this season. He'll join a new-look Hendrick team.

- Two years ago, Hendrick's team featured Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. That group to date has combined for 220 wins and 11 Cup Series titles. The new team has combined for 83 Cup wins, all by Johnson

- Speaking of Johnson, he's gone nine straight races without a top-5 finish. That is tied for the third-longest such streak of his career. Another finish outside the top 5 and it'll tie the longest streak of his career.

- Johnson has three wins this season and sits second in the playoff standings, but those are his only three top-5 finishes of the season. Michigan is not a great track for Johnson, either. He has one win and five top-5s in 31 career races at the track.

Who's Hot and Who's Not - Michigan Edition

HOT
• Kyle Larson: won last 2 Michigan races (2 of his 3 career Cup Series wins); last driver to win 3 straight at Michigan was Bill Elliott (4 straight from 1985-86)
• Dale Earnhardt Jr.: snapped winless streaks of 76 and 143 races at Michigan (currently on winless streak of 41 races)
• Chase Elliott: finished 2nd in all 3 career Michigan starts (winless in 63 career Cup Series races)
• Kevin Harvick: 5 2nd-place finishes, 7 top-5 finishes in last 9 Michigan races
• Joey Logano: 9 straight top-10 finishes at Michigan (3rd earlier this year)

NOT
• Jimmie Johnson: 9 straight races without a top-5 finish overall (1 off longest streak of his Cup Series career); best finish in span is 10th
• Kyle Busch: 0 top-5 finishes, 28.9 Avg finish in last 8 Michigan races
• Clint Bowyer: 1 top-5 finish in 23 career Michigan races (5th in August 2013); 23rd or worse in last 4 Michigan races

--- ESPN Stats & Info ---