Michigan & Road America Weekend Preview: Youth movement crystal clear

Joey Logano celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 12, 2016 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Getty Images)

Joey Logano celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 12, 2016 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Getty Images)

Youth movement crystal clear at Michigan

This past June, fans peeked into NASCAR’s future.

The winner, a fresh-faced kid from Connecticut who nonetheless seemingly has been in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series forever. The runner-up, a 20-year-old with a NASCAR Hall of Fame pedigree. Third place, a prodigy with the California cool persona that should one day win him titles.

Joey Logano (26), Chase Elliott (20) and Kyle Larson (24) finished 1-2-3 in this season’s first Michigan race, forming the youngest top three in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history.

In Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), the same aero package will be in play as the June race. That could bode well for the crop of talented youngsters, which also includes 26-year-old Austin Dillon who finished eighth in June and 22-year-old Ryan Blaney who finished 17th.

Though there are few guarantees in NASCAR, a strong run by the driver of the No. 22 Ford feels like the closest to a sure thing at Michigan.

Logano owns seven straight top-10 finishes at MIS, including two wins. During that streak, Logano has led the most laps in three races.

For his career, Logano claims two wins, four top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 12.8 in the Great Lakes State.

Look for first-time winner in final road course race of XFINITY Series season

On Monday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Brennan Poole helped unveil a new ticket program that offered free tickets for any kids under the age of 12.

Brennan Poole (Getty Images)

Brennan Poole (Getty Images)

It was an exciting start to the week for Poole, who explained the new program to a throng of children who assembled for the ‘kids-only’ press conference.

Now, he looks for an exciting end to the week, this time in Road America’s victory lane with a trophy – and Chase berth – in hand.

And statistically speaking, it just might happen following Saturday’s Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Poole looks to become the latest first-time winner at Road America. Over the last six and half seasons (2010-2016) the NASCAR XFINITY Series has seen 20 first-time series winners, and over that time, six (30%) have come from two tracks: Road America and Texas Motor Speedway.

Road America’s series first-time winners are Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), AJ Allmendinger (2013) and Brendan Gaughan (2014). This season, the NASCAR XFINITY Series has seen two new first-time winners – Daniel Suárez at Michigan and Justin Marks at Mid-Ohio.

Brennan Poole joins Brandon Jones, Darrell Wallace Jr., Blake Koch and Ryan Sieg as drivers inside the top-12 in points who are still looking for their first NASCAR XFINITY Series career win.

With Chase spots dwindling, Hemric may need a win

Daniel Hemric has enjoyed a strong sophomore season, scoring top 10s in all but three races this season. The success has launched him to second in the points standings.

But if he doesn’t win a race – which he has yet to do – all that success might mean nothing.

With three races remaining prior to the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, chances to lock up a spot are dwindling.

Daniel Hemric (Getty Images)

Daniel Hemric (Getty Images)

There have been six winners, who would each take one of the eight Chase spots. If there are two new winners, that would leave Hemric on the outside looking in, regardless of a potential second-place points finish.

So, Saturday’s Career for Veterans 200 (1 p.m. ET on FS1) holds even more importance to Hemric, who drives for Michigan native Brad Keselowski.

“Michigan is a very important race for our entire company,” Hemric said. “Going off of how I ran at Michigan last year and knowing how the truck needs to feel will play big into how we approach practice. The most important thing is making sure the truck is exactly where it needs to be in the race. You have to get your truck to where it’s not only fast, but it also drives good; that’s the key at Michigan. The guy who can stay in the gas the longest is probably going to be the best.”

Hemric will go for his first career win at Michigan where he finished seventh last year in his first-ever start there.

Race Weekend Guide

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Pure Michigan 400

Place: Michigan International Speedway

Date and Time: Sunday, Aug. 28 at 2 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (200 laps)

What to Watch For: Three races remain until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, leaving winless drivers just three more chances to secure an automatic berth to the playoffs with a victory. … Michigan native Brad Keselowski looks for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at his home track. … Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who recovers from concussion-like symptoms.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Race: Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville

Place: Road America

Date and Time: Saturday, Aug. 27 at 3 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 182.16 miles (45 laps)

What to Watch: Only four races are left before the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. … Road America marks the third and final road course of the season. Joey Logano won the first at Watkins Glen; Justin Marks won the second at Mid-Ohio. … Richard Childress Racing has won the last two races at Road America, with Brendan Gaughan and Paul Menard.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Race: Careers for Veterans 200

Place: Michigan International Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, Aug. 27 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200 miles (100 laps)

What to Watch: Ben Kennedy is coming off his first victory, one that locked him into the Chase. … Series wins leader William Byron looks for his sixth win, a week after announcing that he has signed with Hendrick Motorsports to run in the NASCAR XFINITY Series fulltime in 2017. … Last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Brett Moffitt, is coming off finishes of third (Pocono) and second (Bristol).

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